Finally, the trailers are finished, and we’re down to the main feature – that being the screening of the one-minute short films done by our 18 finalists, who are still in the running for that million-dollar deal with Dreamworks Studios. No details on what the “deal” is, but for our aspiring filmmakers’ sakes let’s hope it’s not a year of fetching lattes for Sir Spielberg. Another thing we don’t know is the fate of the six filmmakers who were part of the top 24 but didn’t make the final 18. Well, not entirely correct – we know that their efforts were not even worthy of a minute of airtime tonight. Oh, and we don’t know what happened to the films that comprised the third task last week. But there’s no time for losers – there’s 18 short films to get through this evening, and a whoppin’ two hours of show…so I would advise that you take a bathroom break before sitting down to read the rest of this recap. I’ll wait.
Oh, hold the phone, one more little unsolved mystery – premiere hostess Chelsea Handler is gone and in her place is Adrianna Costa, who is some sort of “entertainment correspondent”. I read that as “wants to be Ryan Seacrest when she grows up”. Adrianna is feverishly enthused onstage, and tells us that the viewers will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite films/filmmakers via text message, toll-free phone line, or online. Mark Burnett likes to cover all his bases, apparently. Adrianna then introduces the judges – the two constants are actress/screenwriter Carrie Fisher and director Garry Marshall, and they’ll be joined by a new guest judge each week. (American Idol, please take note – it’s not too late to put a weekly guest judge in Paula’s spot.) This week’s guest is DJ Caruso, who directed the recent box-office hit “Disturbia”. Onstage are 18 empty director’s chairs, and after a quick clipfest of last week’s hits and misses, the 18 finalists are unveiled. It’s somewhat anticlimactic, as we don’t know most of these people. But we’re about to meet them and view their films, so it’s lights, camera, action already!
Our first hopeful is 29-year-old Adam Stein, from Miami, Florida. Adam disappointed his parents by dropping out of Harvard Law School to follow his dream of becoming a filmmaker. Will his short film disappoint us as well? The title is “Dance Man”, and it’s about a guy who communicates only through interpretive dance. I have to admit, the premise is enough to make me start giggling. The voice-over narration tells us that although Andrew has chosen to only communicate via dance, he’s a lonely guy. Finally, though, Andrew meets his soul mate at a coffee bar – a girl who also breaks into dance instead of conversation. It’s pretty funny, and the judges agree – Carrie thinks it was charming, DJ calls it a “great comedy piece”, and Garry gives a rather odd Aristotle analogy but ends with calling it a great job. A good start to the evening, and if you tune out the requisite polite chatter between Adrianna and Adam, it’s easier to maintain your hopes for the future of this show.
Let’s just say I’m not impressed by the next filmmaker, because I just know I’ll have to look up her name AGAIN next week. Carolina Zorilla De San Martin hails from Spain, and her film is entitled “Deliver Me”, about modern-day birth. Not a particularly funny subject, but Carolina entertains with a story about a woman in labor who takes cell calls while she delivers her baby. There’s a quick fantasy sequence when the woman is presumably under the influence of pain meds and she thinks she’s getting a pedicure on a beach (now that’s truly a fantasy, because no labor nurse will give you drugs that good). Finally, the baby arrives, and the woman asks the sex of the child, then excuses herself to answer her phone yet again. The actress in the film does an inspired job, but she’s not in the competition now, is she? Carrie calls the film “terrific” and DJ is similarly impressed, while Garry says he loves women film directors. Yeah, they let us girls do all kinds of cool jobs now, Garry.
Andrew Hunt is forever distinguished by his great pitch job and knit cap, so let’s hope this 31-year-old Minneapolis native can distinguish himself with his films as well. His movie is “Spaced Out”, and involves a police officer pulling over a “suspicious vehicle”, which turns out to be an alien spacecraft. And then the weirdness begins, because a little round-headed alien muppet pops up guzzling beer. He’s joined by another Jim Henson-like creature, who’s stumbling around drunkenly. The climax of this feature is Alien No. 1 puking on the cop’s pants…then Alien No. 2 gets in the action and projectile vomits all over the hapless officer. Basically, if you liked John Belushi’s “I’m a zit!” bit in “Animal House”, you’ll find this film funny. Me, not so much – I have little kids and no sense of humor when it comes to vomit. The judges laugh, though some more reluctantly than others – Carrie cracks that she’d always wanted to see an alien barfing, and although she doesn’t normally like vomit jokes she thought the film was funny. DJ says Andrew accomplished his goal (which was? To prove aliens can’t hold their beer?), and Garry says that barfing is not his first choice (is it anyone’s?) but thought it was funny nonetheless, so it’s dry heaves all around.
You may recall Kenny Luby as the hyper odd-man-out in the team effort last week, and the guy who managed to survive even though he messed up filming his teammates’ shots. Kenny hails from Owego, New York, and says he was inspired to become a filmmaker after viewing skateboard videos. Yeah, who the hell needs Scorcese when you’ve got the Lords of Dogtown? Plus, he tells us once again that you don’t have to go to film school to be a filmmaker. But Kenny, film school might have taught you not to give your movies lame puns as titles, like “Wack Alley Cab”. It might also have taught you not to make unwatchable trash, like this farce about a maniacal cab driver, who’s apparently a long-lost brother of Bobcat Goldwaith. I would describe the film but frankly, it’s just a bunch of random images that will make you dislike Kenny even more. Carrie tells Kenny that she didn’t know what he was going for, but he didn’t succeed. DJ is also on the not-funny train, and Garry gives us the line of the evening, advising Kenny that “sometimes, you go far out and there’s no one out there with you”. And this time in particular, no one wants to be.
Hilary Graham hails from Francestown, New Hampshire, and she’s a stay-at-home mom with aspirations of directing Hollywood blockbusters. Wow…I’m impressed and slightly jealous that she’s not as distracted by her child’s vomit as I am by my own kids’. Her film is “Bus #1” and it’s about…having to pee. Maybe she IS as distracted as me after all. It’s about a woman on a bus, who complains to her elderly seatmate that she desperately needs to pee, but the ride isn’t over for another hour. She ends up peeing in an empty coffee cup (with the elderly lady blocking her from view) and tossing the cup out the bus window, where it lands at the feet of a jogger. The look on the jogger’s face pretty much sums up what I think of the film, and Carrie is also a little disappointed. DJ calls it a bad concept, and Garry reminds us that he’s all for women filmmakers, rambles a bit, then admits he didn’t like the peeing thing. Little do our judges know…this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bodily functions and one-minute shorts.
Trailer park boy(s)
Diminutive Marty Martin triumphed over the bully last week – this week, we see if the Seattle, Washington filmmaker has any real movie-making chops. Marty has one of the few – OK, the only – interesting backstory tonight, as he admits that after watching “Jurassic Park” at age 12, he submitted a script to Steven Spielberg. He says that it was his first rejection letter…will his one-minute film be another reject? His movie is “The Big Bad Heist” and it’s about four men, three million dollars, and twenty-four angry little ninjas. Except for the ninjas, it’s pretty much a trailer for “The Italian Job”. Carrie is nonplussed, saying that the assignment was to make a one-minute film, and Marty made a one-minute preview. DJ thinks the cinematography was great, and Garry is relieved that there’s no barfing or peeing – but advises Marty to make a movie next time. Or at least a good trailer.
Will Bigham is our latest reality show contestant to milk the “I’m a super-nice guy with a wife and adorable little kids at home, so you know you want to vote for me for those reasons alone”. Will’s from Canyon, Texas, and wants us to know that this is a make it or break it year for his filmmaking. Guess he could use a “Lucky Penny”, which coincidentally is the name of his short. A guy finds a penny, and after picking it up, immediately falls down a manhole, gets hit by a bus, is thrown down on the muddy pavement, and has a piano fall on him. The punchline is delivered by an elderly woman who picks up the dropped penny and exclaims, “Lucky penny!”. It’s very cute, and Carrie goes as far as to say it’s a “lovely little gem”. DJ says it’s very Buster Keaton-like, and I’m sure there’s some film buffs out there who knows what the hell that means. Garry is also pleased, calling it funny and charming, that rare combination. Will puts in a good word for himself, telling Adrianna that it’s his daughter’s first birthday today. Will, you already got great reviews…you want to save stuff like that for the week you’re in trouble.
Brooklyn, NY’s Jessica Brillhart is our resident know-it-all, because she just graduated film school. After viewing her short film, you might be moved to give Kenny Luby’s statement about not needing film school more credence. Jess’ movie is called “…To Screw In A Lightbulb”, and yup, it’s just as outré and pretentious as it sounds. Even MORE pretentious than my use of the word “outré”. A guy goes to change a lightbulb, and there’s suddenly a crowd of various movie and freakshow characters surrounding him. He scoots around them, wolfing down a bowl of cereal, and suddenly everyone is gone and his wife ends up changing the lightbulb. Life imitating art, you know. The judges are again confused in a not-so-good way – Carrie calls it “cute” but didn’t completely get it, DJ disliked the conception and feels it was poorly executed, and Garry sighs and says it’s hard to make a metaphor funny, and send Jess back to the drawing board. That’s fine with me…just keep her away from a movie camera.
Boyz in the hood
Mateen Kemet is the oldest male contestant at age 41, and hails from Oakland. Before he headed for the sunny climes of California, however, he lived in New York and had a successful Wall Street career. The proceeds of which presumably finance his new calling. Mateen’s film is called “Soft”, and I admit I had to check the urban dictionary to figure out that “soft” means weak, feeble, etc. So now that we’re all down with the talk, y’all, let’s get on to the movie. The hero in Mateen’s film is being harassed by his friends (for his “softness”), so he pulls a stocking over his face and mugs an old lady in the street – who turns out to be his grandmother. Grandma recognizes her dumb-as-a-bag-of-hammers grandson, kicks his ass and takes his wallet. It’s funny in a Mad TV skit kind of way, and the judges lap it up – Carrie and DJ both praise him for a job well done, and Garry thinks it’s very good, but adds that he’s from the Bronx and thought that the kids in Mateen’s movie looked like they belonged to the chess club. Friends, even if these movies are incredibly unfunny, at least we have Garry Marshall to count on for one-liners.
*Whew* We’re halfway through. Yes, only. Time for intermission. Go get yourself some popcorn, or just enjoy the dancing snacks.
Lock up your sons, because here comes Italy’s Claudia LaBianca, age 28. She’s going to make a great cougar one day. She tells a sympathy-garnering backstory about her deceased brother, and hey, it really may be the only thing that’ll get her any votes for her short film, “Blind Date”. It’s a love story (insert snorting noise here) that ends up in a bathroom. Don’t they all? Briefly – woman eats many, many olives while waiting for blind date to show up. Due to extreme olive consumption, woman has desperate need to use restroom – but the ladies’ room is full. Dashes into men’s room, lets out a series of noisy farts, and emerges from stall to come face-to-face with the man who’s her blind date. Carrie squirms and tells Claudia that farting makes her uncomfortable. Well geez Carrie, it’s not like Claudia was letting them rip onstage or anything. DJ admits it was shot well, but is disappointed that Claudia went for the fart joke. Garry says it made him want to wash his hands. I’ll go one further and say it made me want to scrub my eyeballs as well.
I am Sam
What could be worse than fart jokes? Here to show us is Jason Epperson of Winchester, Kentucky, who assures us there’s plenty of good films being made in the South. “Getta Rhoom” isn’t one of them. Jason says his short is about a nerd looking for acceptance, but it’s actually a mentally challenged version of Dwight Schrute who goes from telling a necking couple in a movie theatre to “get a room!” to being kicked out of heaven after he’s hit by a car. What, you’re not laughing yet? Neither is Carrie, who frankly tells Jason she’s offended. DJ hedges and admits that Jason’s hero was less a nerd and more of a special needs kind of guy, and that people might find it exploitative. Garry calls it “pitch-dark humor” and faults Jason for not directing the actor properly. Since directing skill is the whole point, things are looking bleak for Jason.
David May of Aurora, Colorado is probably a big fan of TV’s The Office. Awesome, so am I. So maybe his offering, “File-Size”, will have some funny stuff like Jim’s practical jokes on Dwight and Michael’s seminar on illegal drugs. Seriously, if you haven’t seen the show, you need to check out the reruns this summer. Anyway, there’s a guy photocopying, then another guy makes fun of him. Then, guy #1 can’t get his stapler to work. Then his email rejects his file. Then, um, he smashes his stapler in a door. Maybe it would have been funnier if David had more than a minute. The judges like it, though – Carrie thought it was well-made, and DJ simply tells David to challenge himself more next time. Garry loved the “inserts”. Great. It took me three or four seasons of American Idol to understand what "pitch” meant, now I need to take a Filmmaking 101 class.
I’ve got high hopes for Zach Lipovsky of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. You’ll remember him as the special effects guru who made time stand still last week. His latest effort is “Danger Zone” – the whole film is one 360-degree shot, and took 46 takes. It involves a doctor in a lab whose experiment is wrecked by a clumsy co-worker, which sets off an hazardous domino effect. I recommend you check it out here, because a description won’t do it justice. People, this kid is only 23 years old. This is the first film that made me laugh out loud, and more than once. Zach is in a league of his own and the judges give him top marks, with Carrie giving actual bow-down props. DJ says it’s brilliant, and Garry admits he couldn’t do that. If this is what Zach is capable of in one minute, I personally can’t wait until he’s given more time to showcase his talent.
Trever James is an actor-turned-director from Great Falls, Montana. I expect there isn’t a whole lot of acting jobs in those parts, so good career move, Trever. Trever’s film is “A Golf Story”, and it’s a broadcast of a mini-golf classic, complete with color commentators and a “quiet please” sign in the background. It’s down to the last stroke, and one competitor closes his eyes and putts – the ball falls into the hole and the crowd cheers…until they realize he hit the wrong ball. I don’t think even the late, great Rodney Dangerfield could have made this one funny. It didn’t work for Carrie, and DJ says that even though sports films are smart and timely, the execution wasn’t there. Garry thinks the satire was great, but Trever missed the “insert” shot. OK, I give up. I’ll go check Google on this insert stuff…later. There’s four more films to go.
Must love dogs
Shalini Kantaya of Brooklyn, NY doesn’t just have a cool name – she’s a serious-type filmmaker who wants to address “issues” in her films. So comedy might be a little rough for her…as rough as “Love In The Year 2007”. Shalini’s film is about a woman who is looking for a relationship – something more than she gets from her 2,000 myspace friends. She tries speed dating and…meh. I don’t like chick flicks in the first place, and this one felt a lot longer than one minute. Carrie says it’s a teeny bit derivative (though if you can actually point out exact similarities to another film, it’s more than a “teeny bit”). DJ says she’s got a nice eye, but the film lacked focus, while Garry kindly tells Shalini that while he admires her high aspirations, humor is perhaps not her strongest suit. Let’s hope the next task involves “issues”, then.
Are you in the house alone?
Oh my God! It’s Frodo! Oh…no…wait, it’s just Phil Hawkins, age 22, of Manchester, UK. Darn. Anyway, Phil’s movie is “Please Hold”, about a woman whose house is being burgled. I’ve never actually used the word “burgled” before, but according to Garry Marshall it’s a damn funny word. Phil’s heroine is awakened to the scary sound of someone breaking in, and she dials 911 only to be put on hold, then given a voice menu of various crimes and injuries. She files her nails while listening, but it’s all for naught – the burglar grabs her phone and when she turns on the lights, everything except a lone piggy bank has been stolen. It wasn’t the worst of the night, but it’s not anywhere near the best. Carrie thinks it’s cute, though not terribly funny. DJ likes the first couple of shots, but deplores what he calls an old joke. Garry’s sure that Phil can do better, and hopefully he won’t be shipped home to the Shire before he gets a second chance.
Shira-Lee Shalit is another actress-turned director, but she’s from the somewhat more exotic locale of South Africa. She’s also the oldest “girl director” at 42. Her film is called “Check Out”, and involves a woman going through airport security. How is this subject funny? Well, it’s funny when the woman in question walks through the metal detector and into a sexy fantasy about the guy behind her in line, who starts doffing his clothes and feeling her up. The fantasy dries up when the woman reaches behind to touch the guy’s…metal detector wand, wielded by an unsmiling customs officer. It’s original and funny, and gives Carrie reason to cheer and call it “inspired”. DJ says Shira-Lee brought joy and comedy to pain (though I never thought airport security was THAT painful...mind you I’ve never been strip-searched.), and Garry thanks her for doing something sexy. He’s so hard up for sexy (can I say that on a PG13 site?) that he’s just been waiting for Adrianna to read the phone numbers. I’m starting to think Garry is auditioning for a part in one of these films.
Not another teen movie
Sam Freidlander is the last would-be director to showcase his wares. Sam hails from Mount Vernon, NY, and I didn’t have the energy to pay attention to his backstory. Sorry guys. Sam’s film is called “Replication Theory” – and I bet you’d never guess from the title that this movie is about farting. Again. Sam’s hero is stowing a suitcase in the overhead bin in a plane, and he farts – except it wasn’t him. We get a rapid explanation of “replication theory”, which in essence are other things that make fart noises, like leather couches. You make the noise with the unoffending item to cover up the fact that you actually did fart. The hero reaches down to his running shoe – apparently to go with the squeaky-rubber-sole ruse – when someone screams that he’s “going for his shoe” and as security jumps him, a girl in a nearby seat turns and whispers to him, “It was me!”. As idiotic as this all sounds, it’s actually rather funny. Carrie thinks it’s great, and salutes Sam on raising simple farting to the more classy flatulence. DJ thinks it’s well-shot, and Garry thinks the “fancy farting” is quite original. It’s a notch above “Porky’s”, anyway.
And it’s a wrap! Man, I’m beat. Now I know how hard movie reviewers work. Not. Carrie’s top 3 faves are Zach, Will, and Sam, DJ liked Zach, Adam, and Andrew, while Garry goes with Adam, Zach, and girl-director Shira-Lee. On tomorrow’s results show, three are out, while 15 go on to…two-minute films? The snarktacular MsFroggy will be bringing you your final 15 and all accompanying filler – if you watch with a date, take it easy on those olives and avoid leather couches!
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