Extended Reviews 2020


Regular Reviews:

Duck Egg Blue by Margaret Kane-Rowe

The script is punchy, the photography is well designed and often slick, and the whole thing feels like a great device for a very skilled cast – the lead, played by Colin Walsh, is a complete scene-stealer. It’s mainly thanks to his emotional level of being both present and trauma filled. One should actually note Maureen O’Connell’s performance as well, something our fest judges failed to acknowledge. O’Connell is quite comical and sharp – she’d make a fantastic lead for a feature film, a sort of like Maggie Gyllenhaal character film (at least in my eyes).
Overall though, the film has a great tone. It’s consistent, engaging and emotionally divisive – characters (or the actors rather) live in their moments, all of which appear part of a ‘world’ rather than be an artifice where actors puppet their way through the script. All in all – it’s something which shorts often fail to pull off.

Prize Board by Chris Bowers

Prize Board has a certain ‘Welcome to Me’ vibe about it. Which is great really, as I think very few films have dealt with the nature of reality TV in a comical way… which is strange really, as reality TV is a genre that is ripe for parody, comedy and self-aware narratives.
My only gripe with this project? – it’s perhaps a bit fatty. The plot loses its punch with repetition and the boldness of the concept wears off with overly-detailed-steps… but, I should add, that is perhaps more of a comment than a complaint. As, the film could make quite a great shorter short, or perhaps a more robust film (ie feature)? – it sort of sits between the two right now and struggles to maintain itself as either.
The cast seems game for the laugh, and though some of the CGI is at times not convincing, its also part of its self-aware charm, like an SNL skit you can sit back and giggle at. All in all, Prize Board is winner of the post-reality or hyper-real world we now inhabit with game shows, reality TV and comedy skits all mixed together.

Beneath by JJ Perez

JJ Perez does a great job here at balancing the coming of age genre with the horror genre. It’s got a fantastic use of locations, its ensemble cast (which at times makes me feel like we’re watching one of those Stephen King adaptations) and also, perhaps most importantly, budget. Overall, the film could have done with more money – but that’s not a complaint, but just a plain compliment – there’s clearly talent on board here both in the cast, the crew and the general atmosphere to be had with this project. Like, imagine this as a Netflix teen film – it would be watched by the thousands and enjoyed appropriately.
Overall, my only complaint beyond the budgeting might be that the film could have turned up the creativity. Like, we could have less-generic plotting, and less generic camera angles… but, again, some of these things I acknowledge are budget-related, as locations are sparse and master & coverage means you’ve got what you need in the bag.
My biggest compliment I can make – I’d have been quite satisfied with myself if I’d made this film. So, bravo to all involved!
PS. actually, upon revisiting this film, I have to say – this is quite a great ensemble of actors, especially the youngsters, who seem really to put both feet in and do all they can to make it seem real.

Expedited Reviews:

The Confined by Christopher Picone
With a sort of American Horror Story – Season 2 vibe about it, this ‘return to the institution of horror’ horror contains the simple elements for a really solid basic premise. The performances featured, the lead three that is, do somewhat lean towards this… they clash, they bicker, but they are also bubbly and prone to being very entertaining. …but this short does also have its major flaw that trips up the entire confined plot – the projected image is not believable. All in all the short film’s tension gives way when the reality slips up and causes the film to trip over itself. For what it is worth, shy of the digital projection snafu, I’d rate this as quite a solid horror film. The opening titles are cheesy (in the best of ways) and the location is spot on.

The Magic Watch by Richard Schertzer
With The Magic Watch, Schertzer revives the black and white stills of La Jetée. Both are confined to their worlds – one a 1962 sci fi post-war mirror, the other a kind of urban hangout of concrete and social interactions. Whilst La Jetée speaks of time, space and the impact of mankind’s carnage, Schertzer’s film talks of civilisation, congregation and order. Both films thrive on the mechanisms of film as an artefact that can be manipulated through careful editing… though, The Magic Watch is more intriguing here, and less romantic that the older and more classical La Jetée.

Bubble by Richard Schertzer
Simple, and very reminiscent of The Red Baloon (1956), this film derives simple pleasure from the idea of sight, sound and movement. The flaw of course, and perhaps the only one that can really be felt is this – the bubble never looks real, and of course – The Red Baloon’s charm did include that one finite element of pre-CGI cinema: ‘how did they shoot this?’ Bubble is a fun one minute of joy, and reminds its viewers of the importance of observing simple and singular ‘events’ within the world we inhabit.