Photo By Jennifer Gaylor @jgaylorstudio
"Prepare the gong!" shouts Andy Gyurisin during his introduction to the seventh sold out Lost Weekend, a biannual film festival held at the Alamo Drafthouse in Winchester, Virginia. Dressed in a Godzilla costume and referring to himself as Sterling T. Monster, our ringleader explains that over the next four days the gong will be our cue that the next film—in a marathon of twenty-three—is about to begin. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Monster, the Winchester film community, and Lost Weekend you can read more about them in my previous article here. This was my second time attending this festival and I'm excited to share some highlights from the insane quantity and quality of films I enjoyed at Film Club 3.0's Lost Weekend VII.
WARNING: There are sure to be some spoilers ahead since a number of films were advance screenings.
Lost Weekend VII kicked things off on Thursday, March 16th with Nacho Vigalondo's monster movie Colossal. Since this was my second viewing I was more aware and affected by the metaphor for the social dynamics of online communication and the male entitlement being portrayed. I appreciate the fact that Gloria (Anne Hathaway), despite her many flaws, is still allowed to be the hero of the story. Ultimately, she takes responsibility for her actions and attempts to change, while Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), on the other hand, abuses his power and appears oblivious and uncaring about the harm he causes others. Choosing this genre to explore these dynamics results in a unique and highly entertaining night at the theater. Beyond the great performances, scale, and flat out fun, there's a relevant message about the consequences and responsibilities involved when people use power and anonymity to intentionally harm others. Although this was only the first feature, Colossal was an instant hit with Lost Weekenders and would remain a favorite throughout the festival.
Day two started early Friday morning with the energy still high as we waited to enter the theater. People were dancing and conversations were buzzing in excitement for the seven films ahead of us that day. I recall lots of coffee and our first documentary Alive and Kicking, which included the first of many special video introductions, this one from writer/director Susan Glatzer. The doc is a joyous look at the rising popularity of swing dance over the years, back to its roots in Harlem and the healing nature of its community—a concept I think most in attendance could relate to—that quickly became a personal favorite. Next, we were treated to lots of laughs with the crowd pleaser The Young Offenders, which came as a complete surprise for me having seen a trailer that I think misrepresents the tone of the film. Another personal highlight from day two was The Commune. Set during the ‘70s in a Danish commune, I found myself gradually swept up in the life of Anna (Trine Dyrholm in a captivating performance) and her struggle to accept her husband’s love for another woman with some semblance of grace. While that grace inevitably escapes her, the story maintains it beautifully with its depiction of the devastation of love whether it, or we, be young or old.
Saturday marked the longest day with a total of eight films. Beginning with a Lost Weekend tradition of a Saturday morning cartoon, we were treated to Academy Award nominee My Life as a Zucchini, and I loved everything about it. From the animation style to the melancholy depiction of the lives of orphaned and unwanted children in foster care, I don't think this one left a dry eye or a heart untouched in the theater. Come midday the festival fatigue was setting in as the gong sounded for Toni Erdmann. Another second viewing for me, and still some of the best laughs I've had all year. I enjoy the contrast between Ines (Sandra Hüller) and Winfried (Peter Simonischek) and their performances are so genuine it feels they were born to play these roles. The intimate look at the strained father/daughter relationship is profoundly moving and as the screen fades to black and "Plainsong" by The Cure begins to play, I have no doubt daughters everywhere will sit there, as I did, wondering if they should give their dear old dad a call. And, yes, of course you should, because I'm sure he's worried about you and would love to hear your voice. Exhaustion be damned, other standouts included I, Daniel Blake continuing to pull at our heartstrings and Women Who Kill changing it up with a little mystery and wry humor.
The last day is always a little sad as we face the realization that we won't return to the Alamo tomorrow for another day filled with friends and films. But with six features left to watch on Sunday there was little time to dwell on thoughts of goodbyes. The highlight for me was Like Crazy from director Paolo Virzì (Human Capital). It follows the developing friendship between two women (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Micaela Ramazzotti) living in a psychiatric facility in Tuscany, a location so inviting I can't say I'd mind if I were declared crazy right now and shipped off to Italy. Films that delve deep into women's relationships with one another always strike a chord with me and this one delivers on levels akin to Thelma and Louise and Girl, Interrupted. Another I won't soon forget was the restoration of 1985 Japanese noodle western Tampopo. An odd, yet hilarious ode to the joys of food, this is one of those films heightened by the shared experience of watching it in a theater, so I'm thrilled I got to see it at this festival. I’ve lost count of the number of times it’s come up in conversation, let alone how many times I’ve uttered, “I want ramen” since watching it. It’s also forever altered my preference for how I take my eggs, but I don’t want to say too much.
Sunday did eventually come to an end after a surprise screening of Personal Shopper, which I enjoyed for many reasons, including Kristen Stewart's performance, the modern take on a ghost story, and an ambiguity I think will spark many interesting conversations in the months ahead. The Girl with all the Gifts was the final feature of Lost Weekend VII and another to rise quickly as one of the best of the festival. After twenty-three films (you can view the full list here) those who made it through them all were awarded a Golden Trucker Hat with the slogan "I survived Lost Weekend VII" to wear with pride. While there were a few polarizing films that inspired some debate, the majority were well received making this the biggest and most successful Lost Weekend to date.
The weekend proved to be a success in more than just the quantity and quality of films we were able to enjoy with the silent auction raising over $6500 for this year's recipient, the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS). Many Lost Weekenders are already counting the days to the eighth festival to be announced later this fall. Knowing Andy Gyurisin (AKA Sterling T. Monster) and that irresistible charm of his, I'm certain it will be even bigger and better than the last. Until then, keep your eyes on Film Club 3.0 as they continue to bring a diversity of film to their hardcore community in the city of Winchester.