Worldfest low-budget review: Blaze (USA)

Note: our friends Chen Zhongshi and Li “Esther” Guang, producer and director of the Remi-prize-winning documentary Home of Mephibosheth, have asked Helen and me to stand in for them at the Worldfest International Film Festival here in Houston. Helen has suggested that I make notes on the movies I watch, for Zhongshi and Esther’s benefit; so here we go.

I’ll be honest: I only went to this movie because it was the opening day of the Worldfest International Film Festival here in Houston and I was going with friends. Plus I was curious to see what the opening ceremonies of a film festival looked like. (Oddly enough, when I walked the red carpet — there really was a red carpet — nobody screamed or tried to take my picture, though a couple of nice Chinese girls tried to rectify the situation once we reached the lobby.)

A movie about a talented but self-destructively tortured artist is not something I would spend money on as a general rule. But I wound up thoroughly enjoying Blaze. It was well-casted and well-acted and well-written and well-directed (by Ethan Hawke); but to my surprise it was also, quite frequently, laugh-out-loud hilarious. (Sadly, some of the funniest jokes were jokes that I won’t be able to repeat unless I stop going to our Baptist church and turn Catholic.) There were a couple of places where the technique became too cutely obtrusive and pulled me out of the movie; had Hawke been sitting there I would have said, “I see what you did there…now stop doing it so I can settle back into your world and can go back to being unaware that I’m watching a movie.” But there were no other missteps. It’s rather hard to imagine that story’s being told (in film at least) better than Hawke tells it. Quite to my surprise, I find myself recommending it. I wouldn’t even mind watching it again — and I’ve never seen a Self-Destructively Tortured Artistic Genius movie in my life that I was interested in seeing twice.

Prior Worldfest 2018 posts:

I mislead some nice Chinese girls

Later Worldfest 2018 posts:

Worldfest low-budget review: Nine to Nirvana (China, Best Foreign Film co-winner and I will tell you in advance that this means the jury and I are very far from being on the same page about what makes a movie good or bad)

Congratulations to 陈忠师 and 黎光…

General observation on the Chinese movies at Worldfest

Worldfest low-budget review: Ayla, the Daughter of War (Turkey, screened but not eligible for an award)

Again, congratulations to 陈忠师 and 黎光… Platinum Remi!

Worldfest low-budget review: Fiddlin’ (USA, Grand Remi winner I think)

Worldfest low-budget review: Hidden Summer (Houston/China, Silver Remi winner)

Worldfest low-budget review: Grass Ring (China, Gold Remi winner, featuring Ma Liang, winner of the festival’s Best Supporting Actor award)

Worldfest low-budget review: Teacher in the Deep Mountains (China, Platinum Remi winner I think)

Worldfest low-budget review: A Pretty Little Fishing Village (China, Gold Remi winner)

Worldfest low-budget review: Santa Stole Our Dog (USA…where else?)

Worldfest low-budget review: Home of Mephibosheth (China, Platinum Remi winner)

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