Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Microcinema Fest 2006: Thursday Screenings

Here are my from-the-hip reviews of the Opening Night of Microcinema Fest 2006. Some of these will probably turn into full-length reviews on Microcinema Scene at some point.

The Fest kicked off with Matt Meindl's GO BAREFOOT. I think last year everybody realized that this University of Toledo filmmaker was a unique talent, so it was good to see him in the pole position at this screening. This one is another story that embraces childhood indulgences and pairs it with sophisticated storytelling. I hope he sold every DVD he had with him, his stuff needs to get out there.

Next was the rawboned comedy THE B-TEAM from the usual gang of suspects at the University of Illinois Carbondale, which seems to have a good thing going there in the media department. Like some past work from this school, it was a "throw every joke out there and see what sticks" parody, this time of "The A-Team." Some hits and misses, and loses points for naming the villian "Dalton" instead of the hero, but really nice production values and superior FX with enough laughs to carry the day.

Kaleo Quenzer's AD MAN was essentially a goofy monologue about a hapless soul who wants to go into advertising but really has no concept of how to do it. Essentially a one-joke premise, and your enjoyment of the performance and the story's central conceit will determine your mileage on this one. I enjoyed it.

Fest coordinator Steve Coulter screened FATE TWISTED SIMPLY, which I saw a preview of last year. Considering that Steve is (I believe) just a senior at the University of Iowa this is a surprisingly resonant tale of father/son relationships, with a nicely understated performance by Steve's own dad in the lead. Some of the production values were a bit more raggedy than much of the other work from this group of Palatine filmmakers, but FATE features one of my favorite scenes in all of microcinema: a crisply-edited, joyously-performed dance sequence that springs up out of a chatty party scene.

After intermission we came back to Shogo's EXILE, his third short in as many years at MCF. Shogo DP'd a project I worked on screening later in the fest, SEX MACHINE, so I'm a little biased here, but even before "SM" was a reality I admired his deadeye shooting. Although the storytelling wasn't as strong as in last year's CLOUD SYMPHONY, his videography is as good as it gets, in my opinion.

People were rolling on the floor during DOUBLE DIP: OR HOW FOUR DISCS OF PEARL HARBOR RUINED MY LIFE, a raw, raunchy short about a dude whose life falls apart when he gets hooked on the Special Edition of "Pearl Harbor." Great ideas and performances made this one of my favorite comedies in the Fest.

The night ended with the crime drama JIGSAW by Scott Staven, a thematically complex, nonlinear story with some strong performances. The story seems to be going every which way until the end, when it ties up more tightly than you might have imagined. It is a moody thriller that demands your attention, and a lot of its details were discussed (or explained) after its screening. This is one I would like to watch again to see how it all hangs together.

And that was Thursday. Next time, more micro.

Until then, give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

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