Monday, April 10, 2006

Gen Art concluded


Directed by
Steve Anderson

After the success of “The Aristocrats” it was inevitable that someone would do a documentary detailing the fascinating history of everyone’s favorite expletive. [I remember a poll from somewhere and shit is a distant second]. A linguistic romp, if ever there was one! So what do we know about the history and uses of that ever popular word? Why do some people fear it’s very use even as an adjective?

Anderson interviews many people from both sides of the controversy, and there actually is one, after all, Howard Stern didn’t even use it, and he got his company fined by the FCC for millions!

We’ve got the likes of Bill Maher, Kevin Smith, Alanis Morissette, Drew Carey, Ice-T, Janeane Garofalo, Ron Jeremy, Sam Donaldson and Pat Boone (!) discussing why fuck is either such a wonderful word or why it should be completely banned from all discourse.

In addition to the interviews, which are skillfully edited in order to simulate conversations between people who showed up on different days, we’ve got clips from a bunch of various films and cable TV shows, which date back all the way to Lenny Bruce’s penultimate performance in 1965 and George Carlin’s legendary 1978 first HBO special to puppets simulating fucking in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s “Team America: World Police” from a couple of years ago.

The FCC takes a beating, as everybody, including President Bush himself uses the term [we’ve got the video tape] and the word is so ubiquitous in American, if not ALL English-speaking societies, that it shouldn’t have any shock value anymore.

Also, Bill Plympton animates some demonstrations of how the word is used, as well as chapter headings, all of which are really cute. Obviously this film is going to be rated NC-17, to protect children who have already used the term hundreds of times a month, from hurting their dear little ears with the horrid profanity.

It’s definitely worth the bucks.

At the Beach

Written and Directed
by Andrew Lloyd

Horror has been a major staple of the cinema like forever. The depiction of fear has been varied, and what works best in the genre has been debated endlessly. One way to depict it is by misdirection, in which almost nothing is actually shown and everything is showed askance. It’s more creepy that way.

Little Max (Raum-Aron) and his parents(Marlene O'Haire and Joel Nagle) are driving to the beach house on Long Island for a summer vacation when their car accidentally runs over a poor schnook(Ethan Baum) walking in the middle of the road. There’s blood on the car, but the victim is nowhere to be seen.

They leave the scene of the accident, call the police anonymously, and then when Max goes to bed, his imagination goes wild, imagining that the victim has turned into Freddy Kruger or Jason Voorhees, thirsting for revenge. This is reminiscent of “The Blair Witch Project” and the kid is really good. Lloyd has a future in the horror game for sure.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Written and directed
by Scott Glosserman

One thing that I would never think of describing a slasher film as is “cute.” Yet that is exactly what describes this one. This is very cute indeed. It’s nice to see something actually new under the sun.

This valentine and parody of the genre begins in the usual way, a comely young waitress named Krissy (Carlson Lauren) taking out the garbage, when the door mysteriously shuts and we see a mysterious figure in the distance. She then runs away….

Cut to an old house in the villiage of Glen Echo, where college journalism student Taylor Gentry(Angela Goethals) and her camera crew(Ben Pace and Britain Spellings) are going to do a documentary about a deranged supernatural psycho killer named Leslie Vernon, who had been killed years before by an angry mob after he killed his parents. So out comes Leslie(Nathan Baesel), looking not like an evil zombie, but a pixieish, happy fellow, who wants to be just like his heroes Freddy, Jason and Mike, who are real people in this alternate reality.

What follows is a giddy deconstruction of the slasher/horror genre, with Vernan taking Taylor and her crew to the home of his mentor (Scott Wilson), who’s wife(Bridgett Newton) makes them all a lovely dinner and we get to hear them talk shop. Being a supernatural psycho is hard work!!!! Lots of preparation has to be done on the house where the dirty deed will be done, and we have to make sure that Kelly is going to be made properly paranoid. So we go on a stalking, where Vernan’s going to make his first real appearance, and suddenly, the graininess of the filmstock changes turning from faux video to 35MM glory as Kelly is told about the legend by a librarian played by Zelda Rubinstein and all of a sudden
Doc Halloran(Robert Englund), the Ahab [the shrinks who’s been following the psycho, a stock figure in slasher flicks]. Vernan tells his mentor about it and everybody does a happy dance.

Before it turns into a real slasher flick about three quarters the way through, this film is one of the most joyous parodies that I’ve ever seen. Then it turns out that all this preparation is for a reason, and the film stock changes. This is actually a cue to start the blood and gore, and the transition works. It’s not as absolutely brilliant as the mockumentery part, but it’s actually rather good in and of itself.

This is going to be considered a classic and the filmmakers have a long and successful career ahead of them.

She She She She's A Bombshell

An animated short
by Ben Levin

There’s at least one stinker in every film festival. So, it’s best to get it over with with an animated short, and make it as painless as possible.

In this case we’ve got some people driving home from a rock concert. The two people in the front seat can’t stand the guy in the back who’s ranting and ranting about nothing much whatsoever.

The animation is mediocre, the design is as well, and the joke doesn’t work. This is entirely useless and I’m not sure how this managed to get so much play at so many festivals. Feh.

The Intervention

Directed by
Jay Duplass

Mark and Jay Duplass are going to have their first feature, which was nominated for two independent spirit awards, in theaters in the summer, but as with every other filmmaker, they’ve done a number of shorts prior to it.

Steve’s(Steve Zissis) friends “love” him, therefore they’re forcing him to admit that he’s gay. This is supposed to be a comedy, but it’s not at all funny. This is an uncomfortable mess, which is probably improv. I wouldn’t like a bunch of friends like this. Jeez….

Shut Up and Sing

Written and Directed
by Bruce Leddy

In hollywoodese, this would be described as “The Big Chill Musical.” A cute comedy, this is mostly about the midlife crisis we all go through sometime between 21 and 60.

When they were in college back in the early ‘90s, the group in question were an a cappella group and still sing on occasion. The person with the first midlife crisis we learn about is David(David Harbour), a computer techie, who doesn’t want fatherhood because he’s afraid that he’s getting old and hasn’t done all that he’s wanted to by this point in his life, a point of view his wife(Rosemarie DeWitt) isn’t too tolerant of. Meanwhile, we learn that the rest of the group isn’t doing much better, Will(Samrat Chakrabarti) is working as a gopher in the recording industry while he fails to get acting parts beyond “second terrorist on the right; Richard(Reg Rogers) is newly divorced and hasn’t gotten laid in almost five hundred days; Ted’s(Alexander Chaplin) marriage to Trish(Molly Shannon) isn’t going all that well either, and things are about to get worse when he’s fired after many years loyal service. Spooner(Chris Bowers), on the other hand, is doing really well doing whatever it is he does, and Steven(David Alan Basche) produces reality shows on the left coast.

The last member of the group, Greg(Mark Feuerstein), is going to get married in a couple of weeks and wants the gang to get back together and serenade his bride and him.

The film is a light comedy, which means nothing all that much happens. Sure there’s personal growth and everyone winds up living happily ever after, but then again, what else do we want from a trifle like this? Cute is as cute does. Not much more. Eh.

The Shirt

Written and Directed
by Drake Doremus

Made for the princely sum of five hundred bucks, this story of the quest for perfection is not one of the more brilliant efforts out there. It’s about a librarian(Tobias McKinney) who is under the delusion that by finding the perfect shirt he would have a life-changing experience. This doesn’t happen, but he does meat a clothing store clerk(Leslie Zang), with whom he begins to have a romance.

It’s kind of pointless, but the acting is okay, and at only eight minutes long you don’t have time to fall asleep, which is a good thing. This is a nice calling card, but not anything to write home about.

Live Free or Die

Written and Directed by
Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin

Nothing succeeds like success, and that helps when the inevitable crash landing takes place. Tin the case of “Seinfeld” writers Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin, that was when their “The Michael Richards Show” was cancelled after only eight episodes. So what to do?

Quite simple: do a cheap independent film, of course! So they got some money together, went up to New Hampshire, and filmed this minor crime comedy.

John "Rugged" Rudgate(Aaron Stanford) is a legend in his own mind. A small time crook in “the first-in-the-nation-primary state, he makes a living by selling stolen stereo speakers out if his van and getting refunds for stuff he never bought. He also likes to take credit for crimes he didn’t commit, that way it makes him look tougher.

While hanging out with his dimwitted friend Lagrand(Paul Schneider), he gets insulted by a local bully(R.E. Rodgers), and gets revenge by poisoning his well. Little does he know that the guy has already been poisoned, and thus, our antihero freaks out, thinking he’s actually killed the guy. Mayhem, as expected, ensues and the cops(Kevin Dunn and Michael Rapaport) are in not exactly hot pursuit and Rugged winds up a legend.

The film is kind of slow, and despite Schneider’s channeling Will Ferrell for a good performance, there’s nothing really to hold our interest. It’s not worth the cost of full price, but maybe cable.

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