Category Archives: Drama
I grew up in a Southern evangelical household which means I’m not religious at all as an adult (trust me, if you’d had an attempted exorcism performed on you as a teen, you’d be wary of religion too). I DO love reading & learning about religions though; probably because I’ve always had a fascination with mythology and to me these are just more mythical tales. I’m quite familiar with the story of the angels’ Fall from heaven (am actually studying the Book of Enoch at the moment for something that I’m writing) and all that came after. There are different versions of the tale but John Milton’s Paradise Lost might be one of the more popular ones.
LOST + FOUND, directed by Jeremiah Kipp, is a short shot entirely in black & white that retells Paradise Lost in a modern, elegant way. Jenn Plotzke is a delight as Satan – all holy fire (or unholy as the case may be) and sensuality, ready to destroy God’s favored creatures in revenge. Ari Rossen as Beelzebub makes a good sideman, silent but ready to do whatever his master asks of him (and looking oddly like the angel from SUPERNATURAL…). I felt like Carl Hendrick Louis as Adam wasn’t in this enough at all. There was only a glimpse or two of him; he was an afterthought. (Sorry, Adam. Not your story.) And our Eve, Pia Haddad, seemed less innocent and surer of herself than one might perhaps consider her as and very, very willing to go chill in the garden with a lovely lady. (Sorry again, Adam!)
The costumes were simple (angels as accountants – why is that the universal standard? Who started this thing? I demand to know.) and the dialogue is sparing (the first couple of minutes consist of Satan explaining her whole “let’s corrupt the world’ idea, then the rest is a voice over from Ari – also, excellent job, Ari). The acting and direction are really what made this film; and the use of black & white instead of color. You’d think that with the Garden of Eden, you’d need lots of bright colors to portray the “magicalness” of it all. Instead, Adam & Eve each have a shimmer of glitter over one of their cheekbones – between that and the b&w you get a dream-like quality that draws you in more than any vivid colors or magical realism could. It was an excellent choice to make.
Essentially, this is a cool retelling of Paradise Lost. Dreamy, sensual, and elegant, it’s a sight to behold. 10/10, would recommend. (I don’t really have a rating system. Just go watch it.)
Shady’s back – tell a friend! *dance break* Oops, sorry, got a little excited there for a minute…Anyway, I’m back (for today at least. and later this week. then hopefully forever and ever and ever like that creepy clowndoll you can’t get rid of but being ill makes life rarely go as planned, so we’ll see. right? 😉 ) WHY am I here? To let y’all know that the Portland Film Fest is back!!
Remember AIMY IN A CAGE from last year? The mind-blowingly, amazingly, freakishly, insanely beautiful love child of John Waters and Marc Caro/Jean-Pierre Jeunet (that is currently on Amazon Prime – hint, hint, nudge, nudge)? It was one of the AMAZING pieces from last year’s festival and this year’s line-up promises to be just as interesting! I’ll be covering the festival and reviewing films from it for the next couple of weeks, and there’s just so much diversity going on here – there are films on pinball wizards; accountants dying to be stand-up comedians; Ovarian Psycos; pot growers; guys with allergies to the sun; haunted Mediterranean islands; politically-conscious indie musicals (YES!!!); family dramas; goat farming; gang life vs. street fashion; superstar role models; and MORE…*deep breath* Whew, that’s a lot of film! Obviously, I can’t get to them all, but I’ll be getting to as many films as I can. If you’re IN Portland, however, I HIGHLY suggest you go watch these beauts for yourself!
The fourth annual Portland Film Festival will take place August 29 – September 5, 2016, at Portland’s iconic Laurelhurst Theater, and will include over 20 educational panels & forums, 12 archival presentations, and many parties, events, and industry networking opportunities throughout the week. Established in 2013, the Portland Film Festival is one of Oregon’s largest film festivals, and was named “one of the coolest film festivals in the world,” by MovieMaker Magazine. This year, the festival has programmed a near equal balance of films from men and women, furthering the festival’s commitment to supporting diverse voices and visions.
“This year’s screenings, panels, and programs are an exciting cross-section of icons of classic cinema, engaging new filmmakers, and the best of modern indie film. We’re truly proud to bring this year’s eclectic program to local audiences. We’re also thrilled that, for the first time, all of our films will screen at Portland’s historic Laurelhurst Theatre. This year’s festival will be a not-to- be-missed event,” said Josh Leake, Portland Film Festival Founder and Executive Director.
The festival will present two opening and closing night films (a documentary and a narrative film on each night) and feature films in the following sections: Narrative Competition Feature, Documentary Competition Feature, Narrative Spotlight, Stranger Than Fiction, Tribute: Visionaries, and Milestones. New this year, the festival has created a section to screen classic films from the 70’s and 80’s, and will also be honoring two iconic writers, Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Choke) and William F. Nolan (Logan’s Run).
Visit their site for full deets and list of films!
Ahhh, now THIS was a film I enjoyed! Total Performance was the total package, y’all. It had the right amount of comedy and drama; the acting was fab and I REALLY dug some of the camerawork, yo. So what’s it about? Well, that’s part of what makes it so fun…
The film is about Cori, an actress, but her main gig is a little bit different. She works for a company that employs actors to play opposite real people who want to rehearse a difficult conversation. A breakup, a firing, or even an embarrassing confession: the company that she works for provides a living, breathing ‘sparring dummy’ for their clients. Essentially, she gets paid to go around fighting with people. It’s awesome. There are some obvious pitfalls, of course, like with ANY job, but for reals, how easy is this gig?? We see Cori on a few jobs…we see her on a date…we see her on an actual audition…we see hope in the comedic yet oddly touching and sad ending. The film is under 20 minutes but as time flew by, it felt as if it was only 5 minutes.
I found Tory Berner (Cori) utterly fantastic. Her face is SO expressive and she has this almost wide-eyed naivete about her that’s completely charming. I would watch her in just about anything. My favorite shots were done during the date scene. They weren’t anything fancy but something in them resonated. In fact, I think you’ll find that the whole film resonates as it’s so easily relatable to all.
That said, you should head over to Facebook and give ’em some love, and to find out where you too can watch this stellar TOTAL PERFORMANCE!
WOW. Yeah. Okay. So. Um…AIMY IN A CAGE is basically the love child of John Waters and Marc Caro/Jean-Pierre Jeunet (DELICATESSEN, THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN). That is the best way I know to describe this film. As the credits rolled, I just sat there, staring into space, asking myself, “What the f*ck did I just watch?” – but asking myself in the best way possible. Because this movie is mind-blowingly, amazingly, freakishly, insanely beautiful. In a really, really, really twisted way (and is there any better way?).
Summary – “A creative teenage girl is placed into a mind-altering procedure to civilise her, while news of a virus epidemic spreads throughout the world.” We might be in the future; we might be in the past – who the hell knows? Wherever we are, we have Aimy – a whimsical wisp of a girl who doesn’t exactly fit in with her family. Or society. Or anywhere. She likes to dance and they like money. She likes art and they like boring conversation. Honestly, it’s a bit more f*cked up than that but I just do NOT know how to describe it…Aimy is that one rare soul who isn’t a carbon copy of the materialistic, dull as dishwater, ORDINARY people around her. However, Aimy also isn’t necessarily likable. Not hateable but not entirely likable. But then NO ONE in this film is necessarily likable so perhaps that’s the one way Aimy IS similar to her surroundings?
Anyway, apparently there are (or were?) a few other people like Aimy (or EVERYONE used to be like Aimy) because there’s a procedure you can have done so that you too can be a mindless, materialistic robot! Yay! Aimy is forced into this procedure, which looks a little like this:
Aimy is all kinds of hardcore though so the procedure doesn’t exactly take the first time and is done again – this time with some…modifications in the form of psychological torture. Oh, and while this is all going on, there’s a virus making it’s way through the country that nobody seems particularly worried about (until they ARE worried about it). If this all sounds confusing, well, that’s because it is. But when you actually SEE it, it will all make sense. Plus you’ll get the many layers of the film (obvis it’s not REALLY about some chick in a head cage).
The only thing that bothered me about this film was all the SCREAMING. Holy wow, no one in this film can communicate in any other way except screaming. And it didn’t bother me in the way you might think – it bothered me because with the force/intensity/volume these actors were screaming, I just kept wondering how many times they lost their voices and had to halt filming. Did they have an every other day schedule? Realistically, how long can one scream like that without going hoarse? Do you see what I mean? I kept wandering away from the movie to wonder about the consequences of long-term screaming, lol. So be forewarned – do NOT have your volume turned up for this one or your eardrums will be BLOWN.
So yeah. Kinda (totally) dug this film. Wickedly brilliant, beautiful in a most f*cked up way and right up there with some of my favorite filmmakers (mentioned wayyyy up there in the first paragraph), AIMY IN A CAGE is a wild ride you should DEFINITELY take.
“Set in a troubled town in the center of England, life is tough for Toby, a local fighter down on his luck. His mother is an invalid; the town hates him and a particularly nasty businessman has plans for him that will tear his life apart. One day, after losing a crucial fight, a stranger only known as ‘The Collector’ arrives to take him away and drop him in the middle of an unforgiving landscape, where he will either sink or swim. Toby realizes that he has died and landed in a cruel holding pattern between heaven and hell, where he must find his own way, or be forever stuck going in circles.”
Directed by John Wheeler and starring Aaron Long, Simon Sokowlowski, Laura Marklew, Sarah Jane Whittaker and MacKenzie Arnold Williams, The Last Road is an unfortunately messy film that has a solid premise but poor execution. It’s wonderful that the scenery is dark and moody and gorgeous to look at, because trying to follow the story line proves difficult at times. The movie seems to be trying its damnedest to be abstract but it never quite succeeds. Instead we get a loose plot line of a man-child stuck in a type of purgatory, walking aimlessly and suffering different encounters that are supposed to have deeper meanings than what they appear as. Some of these meetings do just that while others…not so much…And after Toby’s first 30 or so minutes in this purgatory, one’s patience starts to wear thin as the journey grows ever the more tedious.
Then there’s the matter of the acting. It’s interesting – the women all did a fine job. They weren’t outstanding but neither were they terrible. They did what they were supposed to and played their parts well. It was only some of the men actors that I took issue with – for example, there was a character that was a former military officer of some kind who died of a dug overdose who seemed to have trouble expressing emotion. And then there was Toby (Aaron Long) himself. When he was playing just straight forward, little to no emotion, a chill kind of boxer/fighter/wrestling guy, he did a not bad job. But in any scene where emotion was required (particularly a negative emotion like anger or sadness) the poor guy couldn’t emote to save his life. It almost seemed as if it was just that melodrama wasn’t his thing so, “okay but whatever”. Regardless of motive or inspiration behind it, it was distracting. His death scene was one of the more horrible I’ve witnessed (just as an fyi, I feel bad saying that because I myself SUCK at death scenes. I am SO bad, lol) but at the same time, it wasn’t him alone. It was the entire scene. Every person in the frame was doing poorly and the way the shots were handled could have been better (too much cutting to the guy sitting in the corner of the ring, too much on the face of Toby and it was just TOO long). *sighs* Look, nobody here was Paris Hilton, okay? People just seemed to have trouble expressing passionate emotions is all.
Moving on…Fight choreography. This one was interesting. The fights in the ring – the wrestling – I thought were rather well done. I used to be a huge wrestling fan and not just of pro but I’d sometimes help a friend run sound for local amateur matches too. I was REALLY into it. So I was impressed with what happened inside the ring. But outside? I…I just…I have no idea what happened there…Fights were slow and sloppy and the moves were so very obvious. I absolutely understand the importance of safety first but comparing the fights inside the ring to outside is like comparing apples to oranges – entirely different creatures. I’m quite curious as to why that was.
Independent films are always fun beasts. Often they’re lo-budget and people are working 8 different jobs and it’s a helluva lot of fun. So sometimes things can get overlooked. It happens. But the continuity here in this film was horrible enough that SOMEBODY should have noticed. Having a cigarette be different lengths in a scene is one thing. Having someone lose his teeth, then turn around immediately after and still have them is something altogether different. I saw makeup errors, errors on marks and the such. Some of it is unavoidable if you’re working with a lo-budget true. But others, like the teeth thing, can easily be avoided. (And I realize there’s a chance the teeth thing might have been on purpose but it still doesn’t make sense if something from earlier is taken into account so…). If you can’t figure out how to make it work, don’t do it. You’ll be better off for it.
“Okay”, you’re saying to yourself, “she obviously hated The Last Road.” Well, no. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t entirely like it but neither did I hate it. There was some cool stuff thrown in there too. There’s a part where, after Toby’s death, he goes back home to see his mum. Except he can’t actually SEE her. He can, however, see the sheets of the bed bunched up around her (she’s an invalid) and see her shadow. Then there’s Toby’s dog, Prince. Prince is Toby’s absolute best mate. He’d do anything for that dog and the relationship there is touching to watch. As I said previously, the wrestling bits were fun to watch and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous to behold. And the concept behind the piece is a good one, a fascinating one – it just needs some work…