Well, hopefully most of you have guessed it, and for those of you who haven’t, maybe you should recheck the name of this blog before you read any more articles. The annual 48 Hour Film Project is a contest of filmmakers around the globe, all working their asses off for 48 hours to create a short film, for better or for worse. Since this blog is an ongoing review of Boston films, I will be covering only Boston’s 48 Hour Film Project. And since this blog addresses only independent film, those of you with even a vague background in sociology might have deduced that I am either a yuppie or I, myself, am poor enough to be involved with independent filmmaking, and therefore could only afford to attend ONE of Boston’s 48 Hour Film Project screening nights (it’s the latter, by the way). I chose Group D, whose films were projected on the silver screen in Kendall Square, Cambridge, from 9:30pm until 11pm on Wednesday, May 8th, 2013. Below are my reviews of a selection of the films. Enjoy!
Broken Compass Videos – “Past Imperfect”. Very typical 48 Hour Film Festival submission. Rather than take that as an insult, hopefully the producers at Broken Compass Videos will recognize that they did, in fact, turn it in to the 48 Hour Film Festival, so therefore being a “typical” submission isn’t the worst thing in the world. The short film follows an inventor named Brian Higgins (one of the required elements of the 48 Hour Film Festival submissions) after he invents an app for his cellphone, allowing him to travel back in time two minutes and relive those two minutes. The acting was decent, but not outstanding, the plot was generally acceptable, though at times the characters seemed to shift from idea to idea and attitude to attitude without cohesion, the cinematography was amateur at best, the editing had no glaring mistakes but there was no noticeable color-grading, leaving the imagery soft, flat, and dull, and there were no spectacular editing techniques or intriguing cuts and transitions. That all being said, the humor and the delivery of the comical elements were spot-on, leaving the audience and myself entertained. And, after all and at the end of the day, where a motion picture is an artform intended for entertainment, “Past Imperfect” was successful.
Admiration of Accomplishment Rating: C (turned in late)
“For What It Is” Rating: B
Finest Element: the humor
Worst Element: the cinematography
Bloody Hammer Films – “12 Rounds For The Loaded”. With another attempt to be banned from the 48 Hour Film Project, Bloody Hammer Films came full-throttle this year, juxtaposing a Norman Rockwell theme with a nihilistic bloodbath. Following in their own footsteps after last year’s “No Thanks”, the nutcases at Bloody Hammer Films released “12 Rounds For The Loaded” for the festival, a short film about a father taking his son on some ambiguous sort of rough and tumble business trip, only to find themselves in a saloon where the staff are bloodthirsty sadists and the patrons are their unsuspecting victims. Starring Bob Sergi and Lucas Fleming, Jr. as the father-son duo, Alex E Edwards as B-Truck, the flamboyant and deceptively charming bartender, Lucas Fleming, Sr. as the archetypal omen outside the saloon, and John Ewing as a gunslinger who tests his new revolver on all the living souls in the saloon indiscriminately, this raunchy bloodbath is seven minutes of tongue-in-cheek irony, manifested in Spaghetti Western cinematography, full frontal nudity, vomit, fatal bowel movements, fire, cannibalism, and gutting. The score, composed and recorded by Chris Hurley in just 12 hours, complements the gruesome imagery and theme spectacularly. Anything lacking was in the audio – some audio tracks had the unmistakable hiss of amateur filmmaking and could use a good mastering before Bloody Hammer releases the production outside the festival. Another shortfall was their inability to get the film turned in on time, disqualifying “12 Rounds For The Loaded” from winning the festival, but not from premiering at the Wednesday night screening.So, here are my final ratings.Overall Rating: B+
Admiration of Accomplishment Rating: B- (turned in late)
“For What It Is” Rating: A+
Finest Element: the Gore
Worst Element: Audio Mixing/Mastering, or lack thereofKeep a look out for the release of “12 Rounds For The Loaded: Director’s Cut”, where hopefully the audio will be adjusted and fixed and this will go down as a b-horror torture-western short film masterpiece!Donut Pirates – “Virtual Frenemies”. In what began as a sappy romantic comedy film and concluded as a sappy romantic comedy film, a distraught, self-conscious woman, her bitchy friend, and her more rational friend discussed ways of dealing with the news of the distraught character’s ex tying the knot with another woman. The humor was cliche and forced and the acting decent, though the cinematography and cohesiveness as a structured story (directing) was, remarkably, the saving grace of an otherwise poorly-written subpar short film. The content, in general, was unoriginal and overdone, especially in the wake of so many girls-rule-boys-drool type chick flicks like Bridesmaids and Sex In The City, but was saved by the main character’s more practical and less impassioned friend. We’re talking content here, by the way – the acting, as I mentioned before, was decent: at times better than decent and at other times less than decent; but as far as the storyline goes – the intrigue, the realism, and grit and the glory – the unoriginal, sappy, flat-humored storyline was, at times, saved by the “straight-man” archetype in the practical friend. Unfortunately they missed the opportunity to humanize the trio, which is the purpose of having a “straight man” and the most necessary ingredient in the comedy formula, by ignoring and neglecting the practical friend and focusing on the delusions of the bitchy friend and the main character. And sorry, Donut Pirates, but using the required line of dialogue twice only hurts the entertainment factor of any film, and since we’re in the entertainment industry here, it will also hurt a review. Not a flop, but definitely not a memorable seven minutes.
Admiration of Accomplishment Rating: A-
“For What It Is” Rating: B
Finest Element: cinematography
Worst Element: plot/contentDnD Filmmaking – “Repercussions”. I guess it’s only right that Boston’s 48 Hour Film Festival would see at least one undercover-cop-scandal-anti-hero-action-drama-thriller, following the incredible success of recent gritty crime thrillers such as The Departed, The Town, and Gone, Baby, Gone that inflated the Boston ego grossly and had drunken Red Sox fans bragging about how their city was unlike any other because, well… um… wait, Boston’s not that unique, I guess. But anyway, “Repercussions” took to the silver screen with all the do’s and not many of the do not’s of gritty crime thrillers, and was exciting, a little heartbreaking, and raw. While the backstory remained – perhaps intentionally – frustratingly ambiguous, the relationship between the protagonist and his significant other was touching and, inevitably, heartwrenching. Thanks to a morbid but tasteful torture scene and cameos from a number of up-and-coming Boston actors known all too well to the city’s independent film community (though, a few less faces in the torture scene would have made it more intimate, and therefore more intense), this short film was a crowd-pleaser to say the least.
Worst Element: torture scene lacked intimacy
Devils in the Details – “Cultivation”. Who doesn’t love implicit yet glaring Biblical references in contemporary settings? Despite the dialogue being rather dry and unintriguing, “Cultivation” was certainly not shallow. Cleverly using the genre assignment of “Superhero Film” to liken a cult-leader-esque psychotherapist character to a modern day Jesus Christ, nobody can say that the writing is uninspired. Still, the point of the film is a little ambiguous; it left me wondering if the message was that Jesus was a fraud who could trick his “patients” (a.k.a. disciples) into believing that he had supernatural powers? Or perhaps that Jesus’ incredible abilities shan’t be questioned, as one patient mistakenly did? Or was it just a seven minute film intended to make the audience smile, satisfied, when they understood the allusion? Either way, it was well-shot (the shots were rather soft in color, which can sometimes remind us of soap operas unfortunately, though in this case it actually worked with the theme and mood of the story), well-edited (not many noticeable snafoos), and very well-acted. While the story may have lacked a point or plot-driven conclusion, at least it didn’t lead us on for 90 minutes without a conclusion, and was just a quick seven minute pleaser.
Worst Element: ambiguity in the message/plot
DreamPicture – “The Blood”. I watch a LOT of horror movies, though usually the ones that sacrifice hair-raising thrills in favor of bizarre, low-budget production, like the classic Italian horror flicks of the 1970s and 1980s. Therefore, when I’m in the mood for a terrifying film, it’s hard for me to find one because all the newer horror pictures that are actually scary don’t satisfy my thirst for those exploitative themes present in the older stuff, and the older ones that are actually horrifying enough to keep me sleeping with the lights on for a week I’ve already seen. So it was a real pleasant surprise to be genuinely discomforted and scared by “The Blood”. Though I couldn’t tell you what the film was actually about, who the characters were supposed to be, and how it even ended, I could definitely say with all sincerity that it was scary. And believe it or not, that is harder to achieve than most people think, especially without the use of disappointing CGI.
Worst Element: confusing, hard-to-follow plot
Lyve Media – “Attack Of The Landfish”. Truly a masterpiece of low budget filmmaking. I say that with the utmost sincerity, and every frame of this picture was pure gold to watch. The shoddy makeup and costumes, the painfully obvious green screen key chrome effects, the shamelessly archetypal plot and cliche humor… this was possibly the only must-see film of the festival. There were plenty of other good ones, but this one takes the cake for one nobody should miss. Then again, not everybody has the same absurd appreciation for low budget, low production value cinema as I do. The way I see it, I’d rather watch a film produced by individuals who understood they were making a film and had fun with it, rather than by individuals who did everything they could to mask the fact that what is on the screen is fiction. The story begins with a naive young woman, happy-go-lucky to a fault, who has an idea to save the planet. It results in fish gaining the ability to walk and breathe on land, speak to one another, and increase in size to the point where humans are dwarfed by them. As if the mere production was not enough to have me falling head over heels in love with this film, the film’s overarching theme is environmental awareness and a ludicrously satirical plea for humans to put an end to their molestation of mother earth.
Worst Element: dialogue drags at times
Malarkey Films – “Love Hurts”. Since Fantasy is one of the possible genres a 48 Hour Film Festival team could be randomly assigned, I would have thought that “Love Hurts” had been the end product of a team that received that assignment. But no, it was the Romance genre that spawned this truly incredible seven minute picture. The entire film was shot in the woods, probably without any artificial lighting aside from, perhaps, reflectors, and luckily for Malarkey Films, little, if anything, needs to be done to prep a location in the woods for a realistic set. Therefore, the period piece theme of “Love Hurts”, set in medieval times, was believable and allowed for more flexibility with the story, the acting, the cinematography, etc. Of course, they were in a race against the sun, which only makes this film all the more impressive. “Love Hurts” follows a young, attractive witch, bitter at an enamored couple consisting of the two most skilled swordfighters in whatever kingdom the characters call home, who plays a song with her magic guitar to turn them against one another. Love perseveres over the evil magic of the guitar in the end, an ending that, though cliche, was perfected by the talented cast and therefore secured the plot arc and allowed the creativity to flourish. Complete with exciting swordfights, excellent costume design, and brilliant casting, “Love Hurts” nailed every element of the short film from top to bottom, beginning to end. Any chance of “Love Hurts” leaving the audience unimpressed was dashed by the actor playing the witch’s dimwitted and apathetically feminine sidekick, whose facial expressions and spoiled lethargy kept me laughing between each line of dialogue. Bravo, Malarkey Films, you stole the night.
Worst Element: unflattering look at production team in behind the scenes film, another Group D submission (Unrendered Films, see below)
1 AAA Actor Team – “Zuumba!?” Production value was less than mindblowing, but everything else in “Zuumba!?” was spot-on. The lead actors, playing two naive, overzealous wannabe-playboys suffering from midlife crises and succumbing to that popular idea that in certain mysterious covert social groups across the world, women are flawlessly gorgeous and want to fuck anything that moves yet aren’t slutty, were incredible, nailing the lovable idiot archetype splendidly. The writing was comical and fluid, and together with the unrelenting acting capabilities from the two leads made for a delightful story. The stinger after the credits, I must admit, was unnecessary and took away from the sincerity of the production, everything leading up to the end credits was more-or-less flawless, despite the relatively harmless hints of novice filmmaking in the production value. The only thing I would have changed, aside from leaving the stinger out, would have been to include nudity rather than suggested nudity in the final scene. But hey, my favorite films are usually NR and have been banned in many countries, so I guess I really can’t judge them there.
Worst Element: stinger scene took away from the film
Pica Films – “Les Féministes” This was a surprisingly entertaining bit of fun to watch, though a bit upsetting that it was so blatantly an ass-kissing 7 minutes to the 48 Hour Film Festival; hopefully the producers weren’t aiming for approval from the judges with this approach. It would be like a musical artist releasing a hit song about the Grammy Awards in hopes of getting noticed. Probably the only time anybody has done anything of the sort without obliterating their integrity would be “Cover of Rolling Stone” by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, though it was written as a satirical comedy song by the beloved Shel Silverstein, so I suppose Dr. Hook and his troupe’s progression to being caricatured on the cover of Rolling Stone was a natural one without any shameful self-propulsion toward stardom. Anyway, “Les Feministes” could be considered a satire as well, poking fun at the allegedly miserable pick of genre (though “Film de Femme” could also be considered one of the easiest genre picks), with the straight man in this film being a woman (the film’s necessary “strong female lead”) who pokes fun at the producer/screenwriters’ misogynistic approach to doing a Film de Femme submission. The self-mockery and emasculating nature of the writing is actually quite endearing, and the shattered 4th Wall isn’t as cliche as so many amateur filmmakers naively make it. The multiple sets and subplots, all done as visual examples of the many script ideas the producer/screenwriters suggest during their brainstorm, are well-done and believable; rendering the set design, costume design, acting, and direction quite good.
Worst Element: 48 Hour Film Festival Inside-Joke Element of Plot
Tooting in the Leaves – “The Inn” Throughout this film, I wasn’t really sure what was going on and wasn’t blown away by any of it, though the horny testosterone-crazed man in me thoroughly enjoyed the happy-go-lucky enamored couple banging furiously in every scene, or thinking of banging furiously at least. The acting was decent, the directing fair, the set design above par, the character development brilliant, though what was lacking the most was a solid and smooth story arc; it was one of those aspects of a film, play, tv show, book, what have you, that can’t really be put into words without tireless examination and analysis: the writing simply didn’t allow for a full seven minutes of attention-grabbing cinematic experience. There were brief dull moments, abstractions from the plot arc, gear-grinding pace changes, ill-sequenced humor, etc. Though, that could have been the editor’s fault too. That being said, the gore was impressive, the suspense fantastic, the twist pretty entertaining, and, again, that horny jackrabbit-fucking couple stole the show. Oh, and the male lead, the neurotic square fellow, was pretty funny too.
Worst Element: choppy plot
Other Group D films:
Thanks for reading!
Paul is an alumnus of the UMASS Amherst and Boston Sociology undergraduate program. While not writing local independent film reviews, Paul is a writer of novels, theater, and the screen, as well as a film director, podcast co-host, entrepreneur, and vacuum cleaner salesperson. Paul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.