Saturday, September 15, 2007

Microcinema Fest 2007: Friday Highlights

I MC'd the Friday afternoon session and had a solid line-up.

First was the action short CYN from director Alex Ferrari. Ferrari played in the Fest before with BROKEN, a sharp, FX-laden short which garnered some notoriety when the DVD came out with tons of "how-to" extras. CYN is more of the same, a technical exercise that could have used a bit more heft in the storytelling department. But if Ferrari puts out another DVD loaded with peripheral material again this one could also catch the rocket.

Next was YELLOW FELLAS from Canadian director Tetsuro Shigematsu, a comedy-drama about racial identity that has some laugh-out-loud comedy as well as some surprisingly sharp political statements. Hammers its points a few too many times and is a bit uneven in spots, but a worthy feature from a new voice.

Fellow Hoosier Peter O'Keefe and I have been circling a lot of the same places, including teaching a screenwriting workshop together in Palatine two summers ago. As long as we never circle the drain together we'll be okay. I liked seeing his strong short LULU TAKES A LOVER with fresh eyes. To see what I thought about it the first time, go here.

I have said for a while there should be more connectivity between aspects of the DIY culture, and Joe Biel's zine documentary A HUNDRED DOLLARS AND A T-SHIRT shows one way how that can happen. Although technically wanting, I think the audience had their eyes opened a bit by the doc's content. I gave Biel's work a look before, here.

After a really good Chinese dinner during the break, we came back to some old school ReWinders from the early days of the Fest bringing the game with GRIM CIRCUMSTANCE. Erin Arbogast's tense, sidewinding short thriller has a RASHOMON by way of PULP FICTION feel.

The gut-busting comedy short SIMPLE TASKS from Tim Wilkerson was next, an absurdist parody of "how-to" videos of days gone by. Biggest laughs of the Fest.

Australian filmmaker Austin Andrews was next with KITE CIRCUIT, a visually arresting but thematically curious short about intertwining lives on a mild afternoon. Great shooting and editing, but eclipsed by a project Andrews screened later in the Fest that I felt was my favorite of the year.

THE CHEMISTRY OF DATING was a genial comedy feature from director Matt Olson which gets an uptick from a strong performance from Brandon Rowray, a lonely collegiate who tries to apply scientific principles to finding the perfect mate. Although the character is a bit pickier than I might have been during my bloom of youth, I found myself rooting for him throughout. Rowray is complemented by a well-rounded supporting cast, with John Snipes as a professor just phoning it in especially memorable.

CLEAN BREAK, a hip comedy short about trying to break off with an unflappable girlfriend, had a funny little riff throughout.

Next came the coming-of-age drama COOP'S NIGHT IN from director Joe Burke, which many people named as their Best of Fest. It was telling to me that despite being acknowledged as strong in many categories, the short was shut out of the awards (as one of my other favorites, screened Saturday, AESOP'S DINER). It just shows the strength of this year's festival. Good performances carry the day for Burke's work, and you can read the rest of what I thought here.

Next was the edgy, hardboiled INTOXICATED DEMONS, whose content sent a few ripples through the audience. See what I first thought here.

Next came a dramatic short from Canadian director Carey Lewis, ROSE, an interesting character sketch of a disturbed young man. His STREETS OF WONDERLAND remains one of my favorite microcinema features, and blew the lid off the Fest two summers ago.

Finishing out the night was Scott Beck and Bryan Woods with the faux-spaghetti western THE BRIDE WORE BLOOD. This directing pair from Iowa have screened at the last few Fests, and I think this was one of their best works. They have been able to surround themselves with many talented actors--Travis Shepherd, Justin Marxen, Jim Siokos and Sabien Minteer among them--but I would like to see them tighten up their storytelling, both on the page and through their shooting and editing.

A long day with a lot of good screenings, but there's one more day to go--and my two favorites of the Fest. And that's next time, with more reviews from the gut.

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