LRFF2015 Review: “Made In Arkansas” Shorts Block 5

22 May

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

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Not Interested

Smith’s Verdict: ****

The full review can be found here.

Southern Pride

Smith’s Verdict: ***

In Nick Lane’s 7-minute short film, “Southern Pride,” an Arkansas gay couple is walking around their suburban neighborhood while their son prepares for a proposal dinner at home. It seems their son is going to propose to his girlfriend. Their conversation soon grows from worrying about how the son will prepare the potato salad to the subject of marriage and whether or not their son is making the right choice. They discuss the pros and cons of marriage when it becomes clear that they’re not merely worried about their son’s proposal but the possibility of getting married themselves. The way it builds up to its surprisingly inevitable payoff is subtle and well-handled, and it digs through the surface of what’s truly bothering these characters. “Southern Pride” is as well-written as it is well-acted.

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The Making of “Sensitivity Training”

No Verdict rating

“The Making of ‘Sensitivity Training’” was a 25-minute documentary I made highlighting humorous moments from the making of a short film (called “Sensitivity Training”) made by the team Flokati Films (which includes Johnnie Brannon, Tony Taylor, and Jason Willey, among others) for the 2014 Little Rock 48-Hour Film Project. So, obviously, I can’t review it. But I did find a couple people who had some things to say about it. Here they are:

Paige Murphy (producer, Vampire-Killing Prostitute)—“It was interesting seeing the 48-Hour Film Project from someone else’s perspective (I did it with a group one year). I liked seeing how the group decided on the story that they did. It made me really want to see the film. I think some parts in the beginning were a little unnecessary and possibly could have been replaced with a couple title cards briefly explaining 48HrFP and what genre the group got. Having said that, I’m familiar with how it works, so maybe it felt natural to someone who isn’t.” Murphy goes on to say, as a note to me, that if I do the same thing for this year’s 48-Hr, I should capture how making a film in 48 hours takes a toll on a group of people. “Getting BTS on the movie itself is really good, but I would have liked to see people sleeping on chairs or rubbing their eyes or whatever they did to cope with the lack of sleep. That’s not a criticism so much as just a random thought on my part. Overall, a good job capturing funny and interesting moments on sets.”

Kristopher Pistole (audience member)—“[…] had great editing. I enjoyed it all the way through. Very tight. I didn’t think it needed the intro at the beginning. I thought the film could have been introduced with just a few lines of text—not bad, just not wholly necessary.”

Sarah Bailin (Wellesley student)—“’The Making of Sensitivity Training,’ is, shockingly, about the making of the 48-hour film festival entry, ‘Sensitivity Training’—or as I’d like to think of it, a weekend in the life of a surprisingly unstressed group of filmmakers considering they have 48 hours to make a masterpiece. It is clear throughout the film that these filmmakers truly love the work that they do, and this featurette is all the more enjoyable because of it. Personally it was an odd experience watching a film about the making of a film I haven’t seen, but it’s to Tanner Smith’s credit as a filmmaker that I never felt as though I were missing anything, and I encourage anyone in a similar situation to me not to let their lack of familiarity with ‘Sensitivity Training’ hold them back from seeing this film. In true Behind The Scenes fashion, Smith’s camera was both unobtrusive and omniscient, providing us with a thorough glimpse into the genesis of ‘Sensitivity Training.’ This is not to say the film was without its flaws, but if any genre can get away with a little self-aggrandizing and a certain amount of inside jokes, it’s a behind the scenes video like this one. Ultimately the goal of any featurette is to document and provide insight into the atmosphere in which a film was created, and to this end, Tanner Smith’s ‘The Making of Sensitivity Training’ was more than adequate.”

Here’s a trailer for the film:

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The PaperBoy

Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Thien Ngo’s 7-minute action-comedy “The PaperBoy” is a wild ride—a very funny, skillfully made romp that takes us to a strange universe in which newspaper deliverers engage in all-out war, with two different sides fighting for different meanings of “truth.” “The PaperBoy” is not exactly a satire on news or media or even how the public can interpret it in terms of their own politics; it’s just a brief action-adventure that thrusts two rookie paperboys (Keith Hudson and Tres Wilson) into a life-threatening situation with enemy paperboys who use attack dogs, newspaper cannons, and even newspaper-nunchucks. And that’s just some of this film’s original material, which is just full of original material. My favorite sequence is a half-a-minute montage of training at the Newspaper Academy, where the typical shouting drill instructor gives a speech about “how tough it is out there” and our trainees endure tests such as vicious dogs that will be a nuisance to them on their paper routes. (By the way, dog-lovers should probably not watch this scene.) There are other elements that make this a unique, stylish short, including a brief cameo by Johnnie Brannon as a newspaper-cannon-wielding maniac and a final sight gag that is as hilarious as it is grisly. “The PaperBoy” is tight, fast-paced, and over in just a few minutes. It’s just plain fun.

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‘Twas the Night of the Krampus

Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

The full review can be found here.

I Hate Alphaman

Smith’s Verdict: ***

Hunter West’s 8-minute action-comedy “I Hate Alphaman” is a cheesy, fun callback to old-school comic book adaptations. The characters and material are original, but the goofy tone and style are the same, if not totally exaggerated. You know those over-the-top scheming villains who always say they’re ultimately going to stop their adversaries but never do and constantly try again and fail? No one knows that feeling better than Alex Arthur, who doubles as a rather pathetic supervillain who wants to stop a superhero, named Alphaman, for no reason other than…he hates him. Intercut with news footage, we learn how many times Arthur has tried and failed to defeat Alphaman. Each encounter leads to one embarrassing disaster after another (he’s frozen, he’s burned, etc.; this Alphaman possesses so many abilities that I kind of hate him too). That’s pretty much what the film is about; there’s hardly even a story being told here, but rather, a series of events that include news anchor footage, encounter after encounter, and even chats with other pathetic villains, such as a rhymer and a fortuneteller. And that’s fine. It’s fun, amusing, and has a nice visual style that recall the ‘60s campy Batman TV series (though, to say these special effects are better is kind of a no-brainer). My only complaint about the film is that it sort of stops when it should keep going; it ends a little too quickly and I wanted it to continue. But for what it has rather than what it doesn’t, “I Hate Alphaman” is a lot of fun.

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Vampire-Killing Prostitute

No Verdict rating

BRIEF SUMMARY: “Raven is a vampire-slaying prostitute hell-bent on exacting revenge for the death of her father 18 years ago. One night, after killing a vampire, Raven gets a surprise visit from a group of vampire hunters who need her help.”

As I did with The Town Where Nobody Lives, I decided to collect other people’s opinions of Jordan Mears’ 15-minute grindhouse homage, “Vampire-Killing Prostitute.” Because I worked as BTS Videographer for the film, I cannot review it.

Kayla Esmond (actress, Spoonin’ the Devil)—“VKP was equal parts crazy, fun, and horrifying! Brittany Sparkles does just that in her performance as Raven, a, you guess it, Vampire Killing Prostitute. Jordan Mears’ directing was spot-on from beginning to end with an impressive balance of gore and true emotion. Basically, this movie rocked!”

Mathew Thomas Foss (director, Not Interested)—“It was a nonstop thrill ride. Good acting. Great nostalgic writing. More splatter than a slaughterhouse. A Sasquatch playing the piano. It had it all. And comedy for the whole family.”

Cody Harris (director, Rites)—“I think the thing the film had going for it was its use of color and lighting to emphasize the story. I also enjoyed the satirical type of acting that made the film have a comedic relief but not so over the top that it took us out of the story. I think Jordan Mears was pretty clear on what he wanted and it definitely showed.”

Kristopher Pistole (audience member)—“I liked it a lot! Loved the lighting and where Jordan put the camera. The idea of cutting the film off to not show the fight scene was hilarious.”

Donavon Thompson (director, ‘Twas the Night of the Krampus)—“’Vampire-Killing Prostitute’ feels like it was a missing piece of 2007’s ‘Grindhouse’ and Jordan Mears says, ‘Oh! I found it! Here it is!’ It’s a crazy concept involving: vampires, the end of the world, and a Sasquatch named Sassy. Yes, there is a Sasquatch. All these elements come together to deliver a fun film and work wonderfully. The film is full of gore and vulgar jokes, but it is exactly what the genre calls for. If you don’t like that sort of thing, you may be turned off to the film. In short, this film was made by a fan of the genre FOR fans of the genre.”

Al Topich (director, The Town Where Nobody Lives)—“’Vampire-Killing Prostitute’ knows what kind of movie it is. It’s not trying to change the world with any philosophical or symbolic undertones. VKP is Grindhouse. It’s a fun movie meant to entertain, just like other horror and exploitative movies of the genre from the 70s and 80s. It does a fantastic job at replicating the genre, from the blood splattering gore effects all the way down to the highly stylized lighting. Though, I would say that VKP is a notch or two better than the films it tries to emulate. It has an interesting and coherent plot, minus a certain Sasquatch. But its most endearing quality is the fact that it has a strong female lead, which is something that tends to get lost in modern films, especially in shorts. The character of Raven, played by the delightfully badass Brittany Sparkles, has a beautiful character arc that cumulates into a well choreographed final battle between her and her nemesis.”

For the record, my short documentary about the making of the film can be seen here:

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