Thursday, December 10, 2009

November First Friday Shorts Review

by Shipherd Reed, via

Shout it from the rooftops, sing it in the streets, Max is back with a sly wise-crack and his hosting can’t be beat! At least that was my opinion, and many seemed to share it at intermission. Great appreciation to Mike Sterner for keeping the ship on course while Max was AWOL for two months. He’s just so good at this job. The theater was packed, the joint humming with conversation, the faces lit by smartphones texting. Max stepped to the stage, took the mic, and warmed up the crowd like he never left us. But that’s enough gushing. It was a very entertaining night, the films rocked, and it was a happy reminder that this event has a rare ability to surprise and delight.

Max kicked it off with a ringer, a mock preview titled “Poltergeist Activity” that shows a guy attempting to have sex with his girlfriend in the visual style of the indie horror hit “Paranormal Activity.” Way funny. Then Sarah Haber and Katie Gault kicked off the films in competition with “We Own The Sky” about a daughter who covers for her dad when he blasts off into space in a homemade rocket and the media hounds her for answers. Impressively well made with some strong acting.

Joshua Lamb’s “Snack Attack” followed, a man versus vending machine tale about a guy who takes a really long time to chose which candy bar he wants, and the other dude waiting for him to make a damn choice. It seemed promising, but had no twist or payoff in the end. After that Don Smith’s film, “Whatareyougonnado?,” featured a guy walking around the Princeton campus and musing on life. Rambling yet amusing, but the crowd needed to vent and GONG! no more to do.

An incomprehensible zombie movie came next, followed by another ringer, this one called “We Are Douchebags,” a hilarious mockumentary in which crass dudes stand up for their rights and dignity as douchebags. Catch it on the web. Next in competition came Zach Bloom’s “Mammal Mama,” a marvelously trippy strange primordial kaleidoscopic music video with chant music that I loved. So delightfully different. Mark Hanson’s “Shoes” about a bad date was apparently ingenious but I missed the visual punch line. Lots of other people laughed, however, so I’m getting slow.

Mike Williamson’s music video “Mindtrap” had some cool sfx (again with the kaleidoscopic) and it was followed by Eli Roth’s fabulous faux trailer for the grindhouse horror flick “Thanksgiving” (a ringer, if you’re familiar). See it on the web. As Max quipped “That puts the grim back in pilgrim.”

To keep the slasher vibe going, Josh Zientarski then screened his comic horror flick “The Cutting,” in which four happy campers trash-talk a machete wielding killer even as he chops them up. And to keep the blood flowing, Amber Welsh gave us “I spit your heart out” about two young women who kill a rapist, tear out his heart, and eat it. For a bit more levity, Buck & Steve brought us “A Bit of BS” in which one of three friends thinks that he has turned into a velociraptor, and it was funny. But not as funny as the ringer that followed, “One Dead Mule,” which is an art film version of a mega-store phone order for supplies to survive the apocalypse. Yes, hard to explain and it is ingenious. On the web, check it out.

That was followed by two teenage girls, one in drag, dancing to a “Nasty Bitch” rap song in their video “The Nasty Bitch” and it was weird and entertaining and I’m not sure what it says about the female libido. Stalwart experimentalilst Joe Carmonica and his trusty muse Diana Stapleton screened “Mischief Night at the Central Arts Collective,” which was hard to watch and mercifully roused the GONG! and we moved on. On to Tullar brother John whose James Bond spoof “Last Chance To Kill” featured cool opening titles, a full narrative with story arc, costumes, funny lines, the whole enchilada. The tale followed a pompous secret agent who has his license to kill revoked and trouble ensues. It killed. The crowd loved it. Robert Noble’s music video for the rap song “Hell House” closed the evening, and it worked okay.

So after a night with so many strong films in competition, plus an abundance of exceptional ringers, who took home the prize? John Tullar of course! “Last Chance to Kill” spun the applause meter and the Tullar brothers continue their dominance of 2009. Will they take December’s contest? I’ll see you at the Loft on Friday to find out and Happy Holidays to all!

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