Today I headed downtown to catch the Tacoma Film Festival’s Grit City Flicks – six Tacoma-made shorts at the Washington State History Museum – and the Comedy shorts at SOTA, most of which screen again tomorrow at 4:15 p.m. at the Grand. The verdict? Painful boredom for the local flicks except for one silent movie, and some quirky takes on romantic comedy.
First, the Grit City Flicks:
“Valuable” (Scott Perry) tells a tiresome tale of a man who wakes up in Point Defiance shrubbery handcuffed to a briefcase and confronting a crazy militiaman. The backwards-looping structure is irritating, the audio distorted and way too loud, the camerawork jerky and the plot nonexistent.
“The Persistence of Beauty” (Kris Crews) would have been an excellent home-movie starring Madeline Joy Crews as her spunky three-year-old-self. As an experimental drama about a sappy dad who’s dealing with his wife’s death, though, it’s more an agonizing 18 minutes of really bad singing, sentimental piano and aimless philosophizing.
“A Glitch in the System” has some funny moments following ex-con Buddy, a.k.a. 8765-309 (geddit?) finding out that life is pretty different after 20 years on the inside. Tom Wolf makes a dumbly comic Buddy (and Mick Jagger lookalike), while co-director Joe Rosati channels John Cleese as the security guard. There are cameos by Doug Mackey, Teddy Hagarty and other Tacoma personages, plus some cute gags (and not so cute ones.)
“The Color of Fred” (Keeslar and Singelis) is an appallingly self-absorbed blurt by artist Fred Novak on his obsessions with Bette Davis, eyebrows and campy make-up. This is what YouTube’s for, folks.
“20 Seconds” (Bryan Johnson) comes from the 2009 72-Hour Film Festival, and takes a funny look at what happens when an innocent guy presses a magic button that loops his life every – you guessed – 20 seconds.
“Mr. Radio” (David Derickson) was the reward for all this filmwatching agony. Full disclosure here: My colleague Craig Sailor is the star of this mock-silent movie shot on 35mm film. So this is not an official review, but I have to say that Sailor made an excellent job as the giddy, gullible Archie who falls in love with radio after his wife leaves him. Lipsticked and melodramatic, Archie’s the perfect silent-film hero, and other locals like artist Fred Matamoros and photographer Rick Semple made smooth, cigar-smoking clubmen. Patrick Neary’s lighting was beautifully Gothic, and while the plot was a bit slow, the witty titles and clever local shots made up for it. A perfect spoof.
Onto the Comedy Shorts.
“Stage 4” (Scott Mlodzinski) is a hilarious spoof on theater companies, reality shows and the audience itself. About to put on their first play are all the usual stereotypes – the smartmouthed director with an Al Pacino accent, the thick-but-hunky lead guy, the ditzy girlfriend, the even-ditzier box office chick and the poncy English playwright – and the infighting, stupidity and vanity is hysterical to watch.
“Public Relations” (Gianna Sobol) is more chick-romance than comedy, but the bitchy bosses the two heroines work for are lots of fun.
“Neighbors” (David McKay) is a classic farce. A dowdy Scottish couple investigate their neighbors’ apartment and rev up their love-life in the process: The acting is understatedly brilliant and the ending unexpectedly tender.
“Some Boys Don’t Leave” (Maggie Kiley) pits Jesse Eisenberg (“Zombieland”) as the geeky ex who lives in his former girlfriend’s hallway against Eloise Mumford, who ignores him with style. Eisenberg is snappy, and the absurdity gives this real emotional strength.
“Dishonesty” (Timothy Watkins) is a Northwest film about a couple that has too many things to hide – he’s overweight, greedy and lazy, she’s an unemployed shopaholic. The acting’s well-balanced and the web of deceit delicious to watch.
The Tacoma Film Festival runs Oct. 7-14 at various downtown venues. Tickets: $8.50/$6.50 matinee. 253-572-6062, www.tacomafilmfestival.com