As "The Hunger Games" kept packing theaters and setting box-office records with its wonderfully unique blend of action, emotion, disturbing social implications and wry social satire, I headed in the other direction for my movie-going pleasure last weekend.
I fashioned an impromptu Saturday afternoon double-feature of two offbeat offerings at Kaahumanu 6. Regrettably, there were only handfuls of other folks joining me for the quirky delights of "Jeff, Who Lives Alone" and "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."
Obviously, with titles like that, you know these films - the first a wiggy comedy, the second a Japanese-language documentary - aren't targeting mainstream audiences. For openers, they're going for people who can read more than two words in a row, without any numbers or Roman numerals. This obviously limits the field.
It also makes you long wistfully for the past when Wednesdays belonged to Maui Film Festival in Castle Theater. Either of these films would have been a great choice - together, they're dynamite.
Jeff, played by Jason Segel, is the underachieving 30-something son of Susan Sarandon, who spends his days in her basement smoking dope and looking for signs. Jeff is the latest creation of Louisiana filmmaking brothers Jay and Marc Duplass, and you go into the theater expecting another funny but slightly disturbing weirdo like the one played by Jonah Hill in "Cyrus."
But Jeff is too good-natured - if not too well equipped to live in the real world - to be scary. He's got a trusting nature, a gentle naivete and a ridiculous goateed, Porsche-driving brother (Ed Helms) to balance out the scales for all his good points.
What happens to the brothers and their mom in one very eventful day makes for a surprisingly satisfying walk on the eccentric side of comedy. Buoyed by fine performances - Sarandon is especially appealing acting her age, and Judy Greer makes it a foursome as Helms' frustrated wife - the Duplass brothers let their sentimental side peek through their hipness.
Unlike the Coen brothers, whose favorite color is dark and who never blink in the face of cynicism, the guys behind Jeff aren't embarrassed by more tender feelings.
They may pretend to snicker at Jeff's slacker spiritual quest to find order in his world, but they find their own signs of hope as they take us along for the ride.
The protagonist of "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" - 85-year-old Tokyo restaurateur Jiro Ono is at the other end of the scale from Jeff when it comes to ambition, achievement, responsibility or just plain hard work.
Despite his humble, tiny establishment adjacent to a subway station, he is recognized as very probably the greatest sushi chef in the world. Like a Yoda of the culinary world, filmmaker David Gelb regards Jiro's mastery with the awe of the scores of apprentices Jiro has mentored, including his two sons.
This is definitely one of those movies you don't want to go into feeling hungry. Each sushi creation is treated like a visual as well as a culinary work of art, and the entire film is a sensual immersion.
It's also a meditation, delving so deeply into Jiro's single-minded obsession with what he does to make all the normal barriers disappear. His work is his art is his passion is his life. He never misses a day of work, not because he is a workaholic, but because it gives structure to his very being.
Ironically, Jeff and Jiro feel related -opposite poles, but turning the mundane realities of their lives into unassuming spiritual quests.
And, too, for all the artifice of the cinematic devices around them, both films resonate with the bonds of family that enable these unlikely figures to become eccentric inspirations.
Speaking of family, Maui Scene is losing a a key member of our ohana with the departure of Kehau Cerizo from our staff. Since joining the Scene-Currents department in 2010, Kehau has been the go-to person for calendar information -and the lovely, poetic, insightful voice of Currents in one beautifully written and laid-out feature after another.
Kehau is moving on to run the Crossfit Upcountry Maui gym in Hailiimaile -being an awesome athlete as well as a talented artist and journalist.
She has been a wonderful, if largely invisible part of your weekly Scene experience, and we're looking forward to all the ways the exciting path she's on will continue to make the Scene.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at email@example.com