Earthling

Posted: June 3rd, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , | No Comments »

 ★★★½☆ 

Director: Clay Liford

A title like Earthling makes me think of  little people running around earth while they’re observed by matriarchal aliens from afar. We know that eventually the little earthlings will get themselves into trouble and need the wise aliens to come down and show them the way. Not so Earthling, which is actually about aliens who inhabit the earth — much in the spirit of John Sayles’ “Brother from Another Planet”.

I missed Earthling at SXSW this year since it conflicted with a film that I didn’t want to miss. I have to say that I was intrigued by the photo that they used as a teaser in the program guide. So I was excited to see it as a selection for the Santa Cruz Film Festival this year.

The film opens with a meteorite hurling through space towards an international spaceship just outside the earth’s atmosphere. The astronaut’s frantic warnings to earth go unheeded, and we soon discover that the atmospheric disturbance has effected those on earth as well as the astronauts trapped inside the spaceship. The initial scenes on the spaceship have a grainy, cramped feel that contrast nicely with the more cinematic scenes that take place on earth.

This is not a typical science fiction movie as focuses heavily on the relationships of the characters as well as the more traditional science fiction plot twists. We’re not dealing with aliens who want to eat us or kill us, nor aliens that just want to be friends. Here we have aliens who live among us and are struggling with complex relationship issues and the desire to return to their original state.

The plot is complicated and a little frightening. There is plenty of gore and there are weird space slugs and vague monologues that are hard to decipher. Sections of the film made me squirm — not because they were terribly gruesome, but because I was afraid that I had unwittingly brought my companion to a sci-fi horror film.

Blood and guts aside, the film vacillated from campy to serious and I spent most of the film rather confused. I think that I figured out the gist of the plot, but left the film wondering if I had not paid close enough attention to the first part of the story or if the gaps in the story were intentional.

I would classify this film as a thinking person’s sci-fi thriller. If you are willing to figure out the complex relationships between the aliens and between the aliens and the earthlings, then this film’s for you. If you like your sci-fi more traditional — the space slugs and alien appendages are still pretty fun.


Santa Cruz Film Festival 2010

Posted: May 25th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: | No Comments »

The Santa Cruz Film Festival closing ceremony happened a little over a week ago. The awards were announced and flowers passed to the winners and everyone went home happy.

This was the ninth annual SCFF and the first without founder Jane Sullivan. As the film festival has grown, so has the quality of film and the organization of the festival itself. This year, under the new director of development, Jess Damsen, there wasn’t the begging for money that we’ve listened to in past years. Sponsorship was up and attendance was up as well.

Although I wasn’t able to attend as many films as I wanted to (a Laurie Anderson show precluded an entire Saturday’s films), I was able to attend quite a few. I was lucky enough to see many of the shorts programs and most of the narrative feature films. The shorts programs were very good, but I get tired of having the “sci-fi and experimental” films during late-night showings — I have a tendency to fall asleep on work-nights if I get bored.

In the next couple of days, I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts on the festival films. I didn’t write about all of them, but hopefully enough to give a fair representation.