Saturday, April 14, 2007

Gen Art films, part one

The Gen Art film festival, as I said below, has been going on for a few days, and here are the first batch of new reviews:

Gimme Green

Written and Directed by
Isaac Brown and Eric Flagg

This is propaganda, no doubt about it. Granted some propaganda docs have some genuine passion and are believable to some extent. Not this. What we have is a particularly nasty attack on suburbia in general and lawns in particular. Apparently, lawn grass is the biggest crop in America and those evil busybodies at neighborhood associations all over are forcing people, mostly against their will to keep their front lawns nice and neat in order to keep resale values up. The FIENDS!!!!

Not only that the filmmakers insinuate that lawncare products are the main cause of pollution and prove it by presenting two dead fish. Then comes the commercial by the artificial lawn manufacturers association, or it seems like it is. They lovingly interview a couple of people who are putting some in, and then go on ranting their hatred of grass and all it stands for. On the other hand, it’s almost entertaining.


A documentary
by Rob Stewart

Rob Stewart loves sharks. Not that way!…maybe it IS that way. One
of the first shots in this feature is of him in his scuba gear holding one and
petting it while it just sits there like a pussy cat on his lap. One wonders how
he managed to do that. This is a man obsessed, and he admits it. His mission
in life is to tell the world that all sharks, be they great whites or nurses are completely harmless and wouldn’t hurt anyone. While it’s true that more people are killed by elephants than sharks, it’s also true that elephants are considered giant rats in many parts of Africa.

Using old US government training films, he tries to prove that fear and hatred
of sharks is a form of bigotry akin to that against Jews and Blacks and then
goes on with footage he shot himself how beautiful the entire class
Chondrichthyes truly is. That part is really cool. Stewart is a gifted
cinematographer, and he manages to get some weird and interesting people
to interview, like a representative of the Shark fin soup industry and some
very loud Australians. They even make Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore
look positively sane. But pretty pictures and strident advocacy can only take one so far, so he joins up with eco-terrorist and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson, who, Stewart claims, has been invited by the President of Costa Rica himself to patrol the seas around Cocos Island in the Pacific and make sure those nasty long line fishermen [who, sadly, really are]
don’t poach the wildlife out of existence.

But while in Guatemalan waters, our merry band comes across a fishing boat pulling in the lines in question and with Stewart filming, Watson and company confront them, and the fishermen radio in a distress call, which gets Stewart, Watson and company in deep trouble when they get to Costa Rica, and Stewart, on the sly, manages to get footage of huge illegal sharkfin soup factories, which are the cause of the population of the entire biological class Chondrichthyes to be reduced to a mere ten percent of what it was a decade ago. This is exiting stuff, to be sure, but one wonders why Watson didn’t get official authorization to protect himself and his people legally before going on his mission south. It seems, if you’ll forgive the pun, rather fishy.

There is a happy denouement of sorts, but footage of de-finned sharks being thrown back still alive is pretty gross, but I guess that’s the point. The film does what it’s supposed to, inspire outrage. But still, Jaws will never have the appeal of those baby pandas.

The Angel

Directed by
Paul Hough

Shorts nowadays are for the most part samples. The director or writer wants to do major films in whatever genre they like the best. In this case Paul Hough wants to make zillion-dollar comic book movies, so he's made a seven minute long epic, which will show those producers looking for an eager beginner with talent to make “Aquaman III” or whatever, he or she has the right stuff.

Taking place in what's presumably the same universe as “The Matrix”, a little girl watches over her grandmother, as she lay sick in what must be one of the dingiest hospitals in the Western World. As the kid goes down the hall to get some candy, she comes across a mysterious one-legged hero, or so we think.

When she returns, she comes across a monster, and the one-legged hero does battle, in a way that reminds one of the famous trilogy, emerges victorious and then there's the nifty plot twist. Not bad at all. Ten years from now, this little gem's going to be an extra on a DVD for some popcorn flick.

The Signal

Written and Directed by
David Bruckner, Dan Bush,
and Jacob Gentry

David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry quite clearly want to do television, otherwise they wouldn't have done this as a miniseries. True, this is one SICK miniseries, but we have three half hours neatly divided into three episodes, each written and directed by a different one of the trio, and with mostly the same cast and crew.

The film begins, or we think it begins in the middle of a crappy horror film in which some actresses are handcuffed to trees or something, but that doesn't really matter, because the picture begins to disintegrate and nothing is left but a pulsating image, which may or may not be from another planet. This is annoying, especially to Ben (Justin Welborn) and Mya (Anessa Ramsey), who have just finished making love and were busy resting after the deed. She realizes that she has to leave, because as a cheating wife, she has to get back home before her husband Lewis(AJ Bowen) gets suspicious. But they mysterious snow on the TV is doing something to the public at large, and soon, as Mya drives home, people are suddenly killing each other with wild abandon.

When Mya gets back home, she finds Lewis with pals Rod (Sahr Ngaujah) and Jerry(Matt Stanton), who are arguing about what happened to the TV, Lewis seems unusually jealous, and doesn't seem to notice that the people in the apartment bloc have suddenly turned into homicidal maniacs, then he becomes one himself and Mya flees, and the next morning she finds Lewis tied to a chair and Rod hiding in a closet, where he explains clearly and succinctly how he's not crazy and everyone else is and thus had to die. Clearly, this is getting into some really strange territory.

The second act finds Mya having crashed into a dumpster and left the proceedings, leaving us with a new set of characters. This is played primarily for comedy as Anna (Cheri Christian), who is getting ready for a party, kills her husband (Christopher Thomas), who has just turned into a signal-induced zombie. In walks her landlord Clark(Scott Poythress), who had killed Rod at the end of the previous act. In comes Lewis, who thinks that Mya is in the house and a guy named Jim Parsons(Chandrian McKnight), who seems to be the only clueless person in the entire city.

Just when the comedy begins to flag, the gore returns, and boy is there gore. This film hasn't been rated yet, but I'd be surprised if it doesn't get an R.

The third act brings Clark and Ben, who has around all along, on a quest to find Mya and they discuss the apocalyptic nature of what's happening and what to do next. This is actually rather poignant.

This film has everything needed to become a cult classic. It's well written, original, funny and chock full of sex and violence. I never once looked at my watch. Just the thing for a summer afternoon, and you don't even need illegal intoxicants!