Monday, July 09, 2007

When Worlds Collide on the Lot

When Worlds Collide. Such was the theme of tonight’s viewing On the Lot, with Luke Greenfield as guest critic. Shira was sent home from last week. The filmmakers got to use a major lot at Universal Studios.

All of the films tonight were sort of fairy tale-Twilight Zone like. Once when I was substitute teaching, high school students had to write a fairy tale in class. One of them started “Once upon a time there lived a banana.” I hope I haven’t given away kid’s logline (or tagline) today (studios return loglines unopened unless they come from an agent), but that story would have made a great animated short. Who knows, maybe it will show up “On the Lot” at Dreamworks Animation some day.

Time Upon a Once, by Zach Lipovsky. This film made me think of the honors English kid’s punch line, and the mood was rather similar. Here Zach creates humor and irony with time as a dimension, wound up as in string theory. A couple moves into a new network neighborhood (Oh, this could be Tron, the 1979 Disney film), and during the move-in, time plays some tricks. Some things happen in reverse. Zach had to get the actors to act the scenes in reverse. It’s a good way to accept the neighbors, even in a creepy place like The Colony (a mid 1990s horror film about a gated neighborhood). This film is all sweetness (Camille Saint-Saens ‘s “Carnival of the Animals” plays in the background -- remember that the last movement of Paul Hindemith's Horn Concerto, played by Dennis Brain, is a palindrome, the same played forward or backward), yet it has that touch of Stephen King in it. I remember walking home from middle school with friends one time as we joked about what it would be like to live backwards.

The Legend of Donkey-Tail Willie, by Hilary Graham. A guy is born with a tail, and that cuts down his romantic prospects. Maybe there’s somebody for everybody. It’s like saying somebody won’t get married because he has too much body hair, or no hair. There are some weird ideas off the sidelines, like a woman who just morphs into someone else because she doesn’t accept herself as she is. The edges of the film were cropped or blurred for effect, and that didn’t work for me.

Spaghetti, by Will Bigham. A couple gets lost off Interstate 5 (I think) and winds up on a Hollywood set, and the guy has a face-off with a High Noon like character from the Dollars movies. The movie was shot full 2.35 to 1, but didn’t make good use of the extra space.

First Sight, by Shalini Kantayya. A girl is moseying through a set, fending off aggressive panhandlers. A stranger gives her a pair of glasses that makes her see herself and others in a new light. When she sees a reflection of herself, there is a hint of the Picture of Dorian Gray. Carrie Fisher said afterward she didn’t like being hit with a moral lesson, but this film hits on the basic moral questions about sharing in all three monotheistic faiths. For me it worked, and in these days we need this.

Worldly Possessions, by Adam Stein. A couple in a southern town gets a mysterious package from the government (as in one of the loglines in the pitching session in the first show), from Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George, MD (actually the real place is Prince Georges County, MD). They open it and find a topographical globe, just like one that I have. They take a viewer and look at it closely, and it becomes a Google Earth map. They try experiments, and pennies from heaven fall out of the sky. Their greed will destroy them. Curiously, this film complements the previous in terms of morality, even though the directors worked and thought independently.

Picture: This topographical globe, similar to that in Stein's film, came from a junkyard in Coney Island (Brooklyn) in 1995, not too far from the Seaside Courts on the Boardwalk, where people play paddleball. Maybe that's a good area for filmmaking.

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