Sunday, September 12, 2010

DC Shorts: "Gayby"; "Sunday Punch"; "Quartering Act"; "Just About Famous"; "Prayers for Peace"; :Somewhere Never Traveled"; Bonus: Mark Zuckerberg on display

On September 11, 2010, I watched Showcase 1 of the DC Shorts Film Festival, again at the Navy Memorial. One film stood out, but here they were, in order:

Banana Bread” (9 min, Barton Landsman) is a treat baked by Mom, wrapped in aluminum foil for her venturous adult son. It is not “crusty” and photogenic for Twitter or blog pictures, but it’s probably sweet, like Mom. But then the son goes out into the world, parks on an LA warehouse lot, and takes out a magnum from his trunk and assembles it. He proceeds to execute a major hit, blowing everyone away, while Mom keeps talking to him on his cell phone. Little does Mom know.

The Cortege” (“El Cortejo”, 14 min, Martin Seresesky, Spain) does not include Marcel Dupre’s “Cortege and Litany” organ piece. Instead, it shows life of people who dig graves for a living, and a widow who wants special favors, reserved only for blood family. Cinemascope

Gayby”, (9 min, Jonathan Lisecki). Matt and Jenn (Matthew Wilkas and Jenn Harris) had been college “sweethearts” of sort, but a decade later Matt, slightly ripened with a widow’s peak hairline and real hairy chest, has been living in the Village as openly gay. But Jenn (who may be a lesbian herself) has a problem. Her grandmother has left her a trust and she can only get her hands on the money when she has a child, the old fashioned (heterosexual) way, biologically. So they set up an event to “do it”. (She says she has even shaved her legs, although she thinks Matt won’t care. She also asks him not to "impale" her.) After the screenings, the filmmaker said that “gay people have kids for the same bad reasons straight people have kids” and noted that it is hard to shoot rooftop scenes in New York City (unless you’re making “Vanilla Sky”)– too many post-9/11 helicopters. But the idea that someone has to get (legally) married or have kids (that is, experience heterosexual sexual intercourse) to get an inheritance is a repeated theme in the movies (“The Bachelor”). Would gay marriage and surrogate parenthood, or just plain adoption, qualify?

Just About Famous” (14 min, Matt Matuma and Jason Kovacsev) explores entertainers who impersonate celebrities for a living. Among those targeted are Bill Clinton, “W.”, Sarah Palin, and Oprah Winfrey, and Elvis. And there is a drag queen who displays and talks about the results of “all that body shaving.” I wondered something here: tort law recognizes a “right of publicity”; does impersonation for profit infringe on “right of publicity”? Could somebody out there start mass litigation against impersonators?

The Quartering Act” (17 min, Stephen Theodore Bell) The title seems to refer to the Third Amendment of the US Constitution, about actually there was a law in occupied France about quartering Nazi soldiers. While waiting for D-Day liberation, a woman, living alone on a farm in Normandy, grieves the loss of her son in the French Air Force under De Gaulle (whose radio voice appears). She seems to have her own secrets. Three German deserters hoarding Nazi gold appear and she has to dispatch them. Made at Florida State, it sounds like a film that wanted to be a feature. With Alexandra Kamp-Groeneveld as the woman. The film reminds me of “The Retreat” (30 min) in 2002 by Minnesotan Darin Heinis, about Allied soldiers who find supernatural remnants of the Germans after the Battle of the Bulge; I tried out for a part in that film (maybe almost got it).

Hipster Job” (5 min, Thomas de Napoli and Jack Tomas). Some New Yorkers face peril at the wrath of Jehovah, including bedbugs.

Somewhere Never Traveled” (6 min, Ben Garchar). Two lovers carry on a relationship from real life into a film they make, on a deserted factory lot near Dayton, Ohio, in winter. It looks like Ohio. Stars Alexander Michael Goodman, whom I met the night before. The film shifts from 1:85:1 to 2:35:1 to show the embedded fiction, but that is done by cropping (in a big theater the film would not widen out). This is a midwestern, rust belt film from “the heartland”.

Prayers for Peace” (7 min, Dustin Grella). With chalkboard animation, some of it in black and white with splotches of color, Grella remembers a younger brother killed in action in Iraq.

Shovel Ready” (5 min, Austin Bragg). In the woods near Fredericksburg, VA, two men, each with corpses to bury, encounter one another. Definitely black comedy, a kind of takeoff on “The Trouble With Harry”. From the 48 Hour Film Project.

Sunday Punch” (19 min, dir. Dennis Hauck, Cinemascope). In a neo-noir style combining Quentin Tarrantino and Clint Eastwood, Hauck examines the exploits of a ring girl (Dichen Lachman as Jill), who burns all bridges to get out from under a local gangster. She’s more like a creation from the world of “Kill Bill” than a Million Dollar Baby. This is the most ambitious film of the set and begs to become a “big indie” feature for the Landmark world.

After the show, we had a Q&A with the filmmakers.

Many of these films were SAG certified and some had significant funding.

As a bonus, you may enjoy this five minute “reel short” from YouTube”, titled simply “Mark Zuckerberg.” I hope the gams aren’t too ladylike. But the short shows that it’s much better to use the real thing than an actor (even a look-a-like like Jesse Eisenberg) when making a movie about Facebook (as “The Social Network” from Columbia approaches). I guess if Mark plays himself in a real (not reel) movie, he would have to join SAG.

Here’s another good one (3 min) where Zuckerberg gets “Hot under the Collar”, link. Consider these two films as "comedy".

By the way, here's a sobering piece in the New York Times Sept. 12 by A.O. Scott, "Are films bad, or is TV just better?", link. The major studios have left a lot of original filmmaking to the small newbies, and the suburban multiplexes seem to go for the lowest common denominator. (I thinkk that AMC's premier showcase Tysons Corner Cinema in northern VA could show more "AMC Independent" offerings.)

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