Amid Amor (Short Film) (2010)

18 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

(Originally reviewed in Spring 2011)

“Amid Amor” is a most pleasant surprise. It’s a seven-minute short film made by teen-cousin filmmaking prodigies Andrew and Matthew McMurry for the 48 Hour Film Project in Little Rock, Arkansas. And I must say, it’s very impressive and surprisingly treasurable for a film with such a short length. This short film won the Audience B Award at the 48 Hour festival—it’s easy to see why.

Andrew and Matthew McMurry take unusual measures for this new project, compared to their other projects. For one thing, they don’t star in it—they have a unique screen presence in their previous work. For another, they have story help from Michael Scott, the filmmaker behind the “Scot Murray” film series (my guilty-pleasure films) on Vimeo. But some of their trademarks are present—the comedic effect of special effects (forgive that pun), the whimsical directing style, and the odd-but-charming storyline.

Michael Scott stars as Ben, who is actually Cupid. Yes, the Cupid. We see in an opening scene that he can shoot balls of light from his hands that cause a man and woman to fall in love—kind of a cheat, but hey it’s Cupid. Ben leads kind of a superhero life in the way he can’t tell anyone who he is or show his abilities. He’s also the person you’d least expect to be Cupid. He has no tutu, wings, or bow-and-arrow and he’s not the best-looking guy in town. But Michael Scott is a nice choice for the role. His personality and tone of voice would remind people of Barry White crossed with Bill Murray. In that way, he’s a perfect casting choice for Cupid—just a smooth-talking average Joe…who is anything but smooth.

Austin Blunk, star of the “Scot Murray” series, plays Ben’s best friend Geoff Cooke, a camp counselor who tells Ben about Camp Kettle (one of the 48 Hour requirements was to mention a camp counselor named Geoff Cooke). Ben and Geoff are sitting on a bench in the local park when a girl named Gina catches Ben’s eye—they both are reading John Grisham novels; nice touch. Ben is nervous talking to her—hey, just because Cupid can make people fall in love, that doesn’t make him a ladies’ man. So just this once, he tries to use his powers to make her fall in love with him. But the plan backfires and Gina instead falls in love with Geoff, so they spend a wonderful afternoon together while Ben can only watch.

And that’s not the end of the movie. I don’t know if you can believe that. I shouldn’t spoil the ending for you, but I will say that it has a good message—you can’t force love. It’s subtle and very sweet.

Austin Blunk isn’t given a lot to do in the acting department because he’s given very little screen time—well, what’d you expect when Cupid is the lead character in a seven-minute film? But given the circumstances, that’s amazing. Let me explain—as Scot Murray, Austin Blunk was the irrepressible, ruthless loudmouth who wouldn’t shut up. But here, he’s calm and relaxed. This is not the Austin Blunk I recognize.

Anyway, why is Gina worth it for Cupid to break his own rules? Because she’s played by Enji Wagster (credited as Angie Wagster), that’s why! She made this film on her day off from performing for my romantic-comedy-drama-fantasy, “Interior/Exterior.” That was the movie in which Enji played my character’s romantic interest, who was mainly a voice in my head until we saw how beautiful she was in a mirror in one scene. In this film “Amid Amor,” she has the same acting treatment as Austin Blunk, but hey, she’s beautiful and fun.

“Amid Amor” is solid proof—Andrew and Matthew McMurry are filmmakers. They have the equipment, they have the special effects (the balls of light that Cupid shoots out of his hands), they have the stories, and they have the direction. These are the guys responsible for two of my favorite short films, “9/19/2055” and “Dad vs. Boy” (both of which can be found on www.youtube.com/user/pinnaclepointstudios along with this one). “Amid Amor” is their best film and I will make room for it on my Best Films of 2010 list. I mean it; it’s that good.

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