Thursday, August 18, 2005

MCF Updates #3

Today I'm going to take a quick look at the projects we screened on Friday at Microcinema Fest 2005.

First was Counseling Day, a mild comedy about a flustered minister who spends a long day giving advice to a parade of misfit parishioners. Sort of executed like a modest sitcom, with flat lighting and journeyman shooting, so I was duly surprised to note that it was actually shot on 16mm. There are some good laughs, especially from the pastor (who looks like Gene Hackman to me) and his thick-headed assistant; but I felt a little uneasy when they preach that "God loves everyone" on the one hand while making fun of "retards" on the other.

Gemini is a dark, and darkly shot, martial arts action piece in the vein of The Crow, with a woman returning from the dead with a spooky mask and a can of ass-whip to administer revenge to a bevy of the usual suspects. B-sized but watchable.

Halfway Point is a comedy/drama about a young Nebraskan who decides to move from a rural area to see the city lights of Omaha, at the expense of his hometown sweetheart and friends. The usual story beats ensue. I think the director's heart was in the right place, but poor shooting (too many master shots), spotty lighting, a shaky sound mix, and lukewarm acting sinks it. It hurts my heart to say that it laid a huge egg at the festival, and many people left for dinner early.

After the dinner break we got back on track with A Wind to Shake the Stars, a brief absurd comedy that sets an average family's mundane conflicts against the tapestry of world events. This wholly unique comedy short, from a pair of wonder twins known as the Dastoli Brothers (why are there so many twins in microcinema?), was my favorite comedy in the entire fest. Great FX, acting, execution.

Then we screened Memories of Tomorrow, one of two features I have given five stars to at Microcinema Scene (read it here), and probably raved plenty about. This feature and the Canadian drama Streets of Wonderland took up most of the conversation at the festival judge's meeting late into the night after the screenings were finished. First-time director Amit Tripuraneni brought home Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Editing, second in the fest only to Streets. Memories is a ruminative espionage thriller with flawless acting, crackling shooting, and polished production values. However, I was surprised that it didn't play as well as I thought it would. I think the audience generally acknowledged its high level of accomplishment in microcinema, but I overheard some in the audience dismissing its more "European" feel and cryptic storytelling. I think the audiences generally skewed younger at this year's fest than in past years, and perhaps that played a part.

Next was The Hook, a clever retelling of the urban legend about the hook killer at Lover's Lane, presenting the hook-bearer in a sympathetic light. The short's nice shooting and good attention to period detail (it takes place during the 70s, natch) landed The Hook the best horror short of the fest.

87 Topaz is another emotionally resonant short from filmmaker Bill Kersey, done in his usual style of mixing photos and archive footage, this time dealing with the death of his grandfather. I really like his work.

Broken is a very stylishly done, but ultimately hollow, horror short where a young woman is kidnapped from her room by a scar-faced creep and destined to provide some slimy "entertainment" for a handful of fetishistic sleazeballs, until a masked man enters to even the odds. Great set pieces and visual interest, but the story feels familiar at the end.

Javelin, from the London Film School, pits a Eastern European sports star against the political machine in a very sophisticated and well-directed short. Thoughtfully done, and a notch above for looking at bigger issues.

Ghost Lake, from director Jay Woelfel, finished out Friday's screenings. Ghost Lake has the trappings of b-horror, but Woelfel tries for more by focusing on dreamlike elements, including surreal shooting and highly stylized dialogue and acting. A thematic sequel of a kind to Woelfel's cult fave Beyond Dream's Door, the feature hits the right genre beats but tries to offer more to discerning viewers.

Next time, Saturday's screenings. Until then, give me a shout at

1 comment:

Pete Bauer said...

More good feedback, John. I continue to be amazed at how much this fest has grown. How many fests before there's some sort of microcinema convention wrapped around it :)