The August 5th Filmstock at the Tempe Pollack Theatre presented some long forgotten film challenge submissions as well as some brand new student films. The evening offered a mixed bag of visual art that yielded huge surprises and some personal epiphanies. The most important one being: why didn’t anyone tell me that every single thing I have ever put on film or video gets to go on my résumé? After a recent visit to L.A. I located all of my old films and videos and now my résumé has expanded from a paltry 2 completed projects to an instantly impressive 340. I also located the first review ever written about my filmmaking. It was penned by 6th grade bully Oscar Muñoz and appeared in the Elysian Heights Elementary school newspaper. The review is quite extensive and brutal, so I’ll just skim over the highlights:
“Kelsey’s birthday party” – Directed by Willy Pierce (1974). Willy looks beyond the crippling limitations of the Kodak M22 super-8 camera and attacks the subject with aggressive abandon. Anticipating either foolish fortitude or lazy luck, Willy forgoes inserting the mandatory ‘indoor filter key’ into the camera and utilizes the sultry glow of the birthday candles. Willy feebly compensates for the complete lack of a built-in zoom, by manually thrusting the camera into the faces of his subjects. In doing so, he captures more than just shock and surprise, as we seem to momentarily reach into their souls, then instantly withdraw before any bond or relationship can be established. The diminished amber lighting accentuates the heartache and anguish on Kelsey’s face as he realizes he got a Gnip Gnop for his birthday, when he truly wanted the Rock’Em-Sock’Em robots. When I see Willy in school on Monday, I will give him a lesson on mis en scène and then steal his lunch money.
Here are the films screened at Filmstock, August 5, 2010. The films are reviewed in the order they were presented.
Like Rabbits – Austin Nordell
Kimber Leigh, Aaron Burkle, Klor Rowland and Kevin Tye give their all in this 2007 film challenge submission for which Burkle deservedly earned recognition for ‘Outstanding Individual Performance’ in the Almost Famous Film Festival 72 hour “All-Star Challenge.” Mrs. Stearling (Kimber Leigh) and crew prepare to meet their new boss (Kevin Tye) from England and the incompetent associates Gilbert (Aaron Burkle) and Gil (Klor Rowland) feel threatened by the British invasion. Director Nordell oddly credits himself for the color of the film, when the dreary, turquoise hue throughout it looks more like it was simply white balanced improperly. Acting is excellent. Sound is awful. View a “Like Rabbits” trailer(?) here.
Final Take – Unlucky rabbit.
Mia’s Blues – Orchid Tao
Tao’s student film is a blessed return to the original artistry and imagination that made the SCC film school one of the most highly regarded film programs in the nation. Mia (Kim Hagey) wakes up jonesin’ for the medicinal, and her withdrawals draw her deeper into despair. Her visage jumps from the screen like Adrian Tomine characters as she struggles between self-loathing and seductive narcissism. Cruel winds howl throughout her surreal dwelling and nature invades her home and body. Human sounding, anatomically correct dolls fill Mia with love and revulsion, and are subsequently mutilated and dashed. As Mia succumbs to her addiction, she is reluctantly rescued by her super hero/drug dealer (played by Tao herself). Color, sound and music create a captivating, mellow buzz, as Tao directs her film with patience and originality. Credit must be given to Jeanette Rocha, Dave Dell’oso and Hagey for their exquisite set design. Don’t miss this superb creation, bursting with symbolism and swirling in the surreal.
Final Take – The Tao of Orchid.
Faded Flowers – Tony D’Alessio
Excellent titles and a haunting soundtrack are instantly enticing, followed by a brief statistic about Alzheimer’s disease. From there, all hell breaks loose as we are smacked in the face with a steaming pan of film plot-pie. What follows is 14 muddled minutes of (not necessarily in this order) suicide, bondage, extortion, incest, murder, drug addiction, violence, parental dysfunction, conspiracy, bonding, rejection, escapism, misogyny and something or other about Alzheimer’s disease. Conniving daughter Susan Flowers (Tracy Timm) is presented so outrageously over-the-top, that she becomes a cartoonish distraction to the film, most notably when she accompanies her mother Virginia (Razel Wolf) to see the neurologist looking like she’s late for a ‘My Chemical Romance’ concert. Trailer here.
Final Take – I had something else to say about this film…but I forgot what it was.
Sweet Connections – Diane Dresback
Ditzy housewife Victoria (Kimber Leigh) is desperate to make new friends. She decides to meet people through the “Sweet Connections” mixer sponsored by a church. With bundt cake in hand and reluctant hubby Carl (Dion Wade) in tow, the pair meet up with Mel (Danae McKillop) and Lennie (Gino Calabro) who are cooking up something other than dessert in the dingy church basement. Shot in her trademark vignette style, Dresback proudly demonstrates what she can accomplish without the confines of a 48 hour film challenge dictating direction. When you mix Gino Calabro with food, and stir in a clever script, the combination becomes a recipe for hilarity.
Final Take – Connections is sweeet!
Running Dragon – Kim Noonan and Neil Sickles
Sickles took home the award for “Best of Fest” but Noonan deserves most of the credit for this massive undertaking that combines archival footage, heavy drama and cultural identity. Most contributions of this nature wind up in a twisted heap, but Noonan is able to pull it off with positive results. Noonan stars as long-assimilated Vietnamese adoptee Lyn Phi Long who goes by his adopted name Joe Christmas. Joe must suddenly and violently confront whom, exactly, he is trying to be. Acting is superb throughout and production is first rate. Not quite sure how a ‘made in L.A’. film, by L.A. filmmakers snuck into Filmstock. Further proof that we need to secure the Arizona/California border. Either that or it’s time to submit “Kelsey’s birthday party” (1974) to the next Filmstock!
Final Take – Kind of a dragon.
App of Time – John D’Agostino
Claustrophobic snore about an iPhone app that allows time travel. ‘App’ literally goes nowhere but the driveway and the computer room. ADR is awful and unnecessary. FX are kinda cool.
Final Take – DTY (Direct To Youtube).
Evelyn – Brian Willbanks
Willbanks presents a modern twist to the tale of ‘Rappaccinis Daughter’ as geneticist Richard Ross (Rory Pierce) keeps his genetically engineered daughter Evelyn (Bri Acsani) locked away from the world. Evelyn finds God, but Dad will have none of it, considering he made her, not God! (Christians worry about this kind of stuff every day). Pierce leads us to the emotional roller coaster, only to discover we have to ride the junior version instead. He does some bible ka-thumpin’ of his own, buts winds up being menacing to clones the way the Grimace is menacing to shakes. The sterile, quasi-futuristic theme of the film seems poorly juxtaposed and humorously anachronistic as the film is shot entirely in the rustic confines of the Sedona Briar Patch Inn. Solid camera work.
Final Take – All clones go to heaven…or Mesa.
Virtual Intervention – J. Allen Clayton
An ensemble cast of rebel filmmakers gather in old town Scottsdale to participate in an intervention with compulsive sign flipper Miles (Adam Pierson). Led by desperate girlfriend Kate (Annie Boon), friends and family tearfully plead for Miles to say NO to flipping. A well assembled mockumentary, deftly incorporating a multitude of film techniques. Cast and crew are in this one for the fun, as Friars Lantern Entertainment creates a giant ‘Thank You’ to the indie actors and filmmakers that have helped make FLE and Filmstock what it is today.
Final Take – The Mothers of Intervention.
Filmstock is held every first Thursday of the month at the Tempe Pollack Cinema. There is no entry fee for submissions.