Tonight, at “First Friday Shorts”, there was something for everyone: animation, gross-out humor, art films. campy mini-dramas, gratuitous sex, gratuitous violence, and music videos. The previews alone constituted their own mini film festival: they were raunchy, hilarious, gross, and full of cool style. For example, there were ads for a Joan Rivers “tell all” documentary, a children’s film festival (e.g. the Muppets), a movie called “Trash Humpers” about people humping bags of trash, a slasher flick (“Boarding House”), a documentary about the artist “Banksy”, and “Team America World Police” Curse-A-Thon (in honor of the upcoming Fourth of July holiday).
When the event started, we learned that Max Cannon wasn’t able to attend tonight. so local comedian Mike Sterner & his sidekick Bridgitte would takeover the hosting honors. Mike had an interesting way of hitting the gong: instead of bashing it, like in one of those old Kung Fu movies (to announce the entrance of the Emperor), Mike would gently tap it and then hold a microphone up to it. The resulting gong noise ended up sounding like weak amp feedback.
The first movie, “Tapeworm 2”, I found to be amazing. I was very impressed by it, for reasons I’ll describe in a moment; it ended up being the crowd favorite, with it’s creator, Brian McAdams, taking home a $200 prize check for his entry at the end of the night. “Tapeworm 2” was an incredible mix of three types of animation: largely made with old fashioned stop-motion animation (using Lego toys), with added Flash animation and what looked like CGI effects (e.g. waving computerized flames). The “sets” were just whatever furniture happened to be in the way, with the entire movie having been shot in and around someone’s house. The soundtrack was some old fashioned heroic classical music, connecting it yet again to the traditions of an earlier era. The “plot” involved the adventures of pieces of blue masking tape who inch around like microscopic organisms. Very creative, industrious, and humourous. What a great way to start out the film fest!
What followed after that never rose to the level of “Tapeworm 2”, but was still a lot of fun. “Taking Advantage” was a campy drama that looked technically professional, but lacked direction. It got gonged, and I found Bridgitte’s confrontational stance towards the filmmaker a bit rude (“Your movie has no passion! Oh, now are you going to tell us we suck??” she taunted the filmmaker after it got gonged). “Nerds Gone Camping” was a low-budget ridiculous story that felt totally amateurish, except that it had an excellent sense of comedic timing (GONGED!) “Baked Alaska” was a story about the filmmaker mixing roadkill into cake batter, and cooking it for his mother, who lives out of a trailer in Yellowstone National park. There were many shouts to gong this sucker…but Mike let it play out. (We all got to watch the filmmaker’s mother eat roadkill cake)
Of course at any “First Friday Shorts”, there are those who give up even trying to please the crowd, and instead make films that are shorter then three minutes. There were a handful of those, and one of them was actually pretty good. It was comprised of several quick cuts of close-ups of various tools at a construction site. The fast pace kept it interesting, even though it really wasn’t about anything. When it was over, Mike Sterner pointed out a lesson we could all take home with us: if your movie is cut extremely tight, it will be interesting.
Another art film that impressed me was “Movement Andante”. This entire black-and-white silent film consisted of a closeup of a fleshy hairy crack. I couldn’t tell if it was a closeup of someone folding their arm, or if it was a piece of carpet. It was also undulating in a repetitive way, giving the illusion that something sexual was happening on the screen, but it was actually a very abstract closeup of something flexing and contracting over and over again. The audience watched it for the entire length of the film, obviously seduced. But there’s no way that a minimalist art film is going to win the $200 prize! But it was a memorable part of the lineup.
There were also some creepy horror type flicks, which felt like a tip of the hat to David Lynch, and at the end, there was a funny and erotic gameshow spoof called “Hookup”, which was very titillating, on at least two levels.
Tucson’s got talent! Tune in next month for another review of the Loft Theater’s “First Friday Shorts”