Monday, January 27, 2014

Good Cupcakes & Good Movies

This week's screening started with maple syrup cupcakes topped with icing and sausage, bacon, or nothing for the veggies.  These were provided by Cuddle Cakes in Burbank, so please shoot Juanita an e-mail to thank her for supporting the festival, and order some of the little temptations for yourself.

From time-to-time on this blog, I just go straight through my notes for each movie as it happens.  This post is one of those times, with a few annotations where applicable.

Film #1 – Good sound.  Good cast (Spanish-speaking).  Filmmaker is in control.  Nice to see a film that's not set in the filmmaker's apartment.  MUST SEE.

ANNOTATION – The key note here is "Filmmaker is in control."  What I'm telling myself is that, from the combination of good dialogue, good cast, and good technical skills, I feel like I can trust this storyteller.  If I have a question about what's happening on the screen, I trust that I won't have a question by the end of the movie.  That's very important at this "raw art" level of screening.

The "filmmaker's apartment" comment is a little snide way of saying I liked the location.  In many ways it was just a family dwelling – at the same time, it felt like they were living in a cave.  It suited the story well, was completely dressed, and most important, it was interesting.  Nice job.

Film #2 – Bad Sound.  Bad Video.  Campy style.  Funny, but production quality is too low to put on a big screen.  Bad Ending.  PASS

ANNOTATION – Some people in the room liked this film, so it will get another look, but the audio is so bad I have deep reservations.  Most of the dialogue clips – meaning, in short, the volume was recorded in such a way that the sound waves were too big to fit in the machine.  Literally, the tops and bottoms of the sound waves are clipped off.  This makes for pops and clicks that, when played on speakers the size of a house like they have at the Chinese Theatre, are painful to hear.  Yes, we've screened movies with bad sound before, but those films have had exceptional stories.  This one – in my opinion, didn't have the story or filmmaking skills to overcome the bad audio. 

"Campy Style" by the way, is a compliment.

Film #3 – Bad acting.  Bad sound.  That over-used feedback sound effect.  On the nose dialogue.  PASS.

ANNOTATION – "On The Nose Dialogue" happens a lot.  Anytime you're writing a character telling us what they feel, then it can almost always be cut – unless they are wrong or lying.  Think about it.  How often in life has someone told you exactly what they are feeling, or doing, or explained to you for the benefit of anyone who might be listening exactly what the eavesdropper needs to know to follow the plot of your life?  Write dialogue like dialogue, not like a synopsis.

Film #4 – This filmmaker is in control.  Good characters.  Great Dialogue.  Brilliant movie.  Nice to see the snow in NYC put to good use.  MUST SEE.

Film #5 – Just really, really bad.  PASS.

Film #6 – Good cast.  Good dialogue.  Nice showcase for young talent.  Good, campy, horror.  Good ending.  MUST SEE


Film #6 – Good logo.  (FYI – the rule of thumb is, "Good Logo = Bad Movie").  Poetic dialogue.  Points for trying, but it becomes cliché.  Good filmmaking skills.  Uneven talent.  So-so script.  Big Logic hole.  SECOND LOOK.

ANNOTATION – I have a sensitive ear for cliché dialogue – and the "good filmmaking skills" is always worth a second look.  Often, in a discovery festival like ours, the talent of the production team might outshine the script or cast – and that can be worth a screening.  This film will be on the bubble.  Things like, the quality of all the other submissions, its world premiere status, is it local, etc. will help tip it in or out.

Film #7 – A recognizable character actor.  Textbook shots.  Good dialogue.  Good film.  MUST SEE.

ANNOTATION – I happen to love the actor who is in this movie.  If this film gets into competition, we'll get some flak from people outside of Hollywood about it having a "star," but DWF has never had a policy against working actors, or character actors.  Just because you recognize their face, doesn't mean they are a star.  If you have to say, "It's… you know, that guy, from that movie with the superhero…" then you're talking about a fine character actor – not someone that a banker will open their checkbook for.

"Textbook shots" is not necessarily a compliment.  It can also mean "well-done, but uninspired."  In this case, I think the filmmaker will soon throw the textbook away, and that will open his/her career to a new level.  There's two steps to any artistic training: First, learning the right way to do it - then forgetting everything and doing it your way.  Both steps are necessary for greatness.

We finished out the night with music videos, which are always hard to judge.  We end up with a few categories.  Good song?  Good singer?  Good band?  Good filmmaking skills?  The first one had it all.  The second was fun.  Good song.  Good singer for the genre.  Not the best filmmaking skills, but not bad.  I didn't bring home any notes on the third one, so I don't remember it.  That means, I'll probably have to watch it again when it comes time to decision-making.  After a decade-plus, you'd think I'd learn!

Thanks for reading.  Comments welcome.


MB said...

Very insightful. Thanks.

RSMellette said...

Glad you like it. Thanks for reading. :)