This weekend, I had the pleasure to attend Bay City, Michigan’s 9th Annual Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival. As of this writing, the festival is in its final day, and unfortunately this means that I was unable to attend today’s showings due to scheduling conflicts. However, I thought that I would offer some quick thoughts on the films I did see. These aren’t going to be fully fleshed-out reviews, mostly because most of these films don’t have a distributor yet, so the chances of the average person seeing them outside the festival circuit are pretty slim. However, I offer you my audience participation scores and my reasoning so that if these films do get picked up for distribution, perhaps you’ll remember what a Pretentious Best Friend once told you.
Arlo and Julie – 1/5 With no understanding of comedic pacing, some truly amateur camerawork, and a bizarrely discordant soundtrack seemingly comprised entirely of budget-saving public domain songs, this film is a trainwreck. I wouldn’t be surprised if director Steve Mims listed Tommy Wiseau among his directoral influences.
Patrick’s Day – 3/5 An interesting look at the life of a schizophrenic in love, yet the film has some serious first act focus issues, jumping back and forth in perspective so that it doesn’t ground itself with a protagonist or central conflict. When a protagonist does emerge in the second act, though, the film takes a turn for the better and is heartbreakingly tragic as a result.
Der Samurai – 1/5 A disgusting film that equates gender non-conformity with violent psychopathy by placing its male villain in a dress and lipstick and offering no subsequent explanation. The film suffers from an overly convenient plot and nonsensical twists, and while well-directed and shot, this film has one of the worst screenplays I’ve ever seen.
OJ: The Musical – 4/5 A cute, if quite predictable, story of a stage director trying to get a crazy musical idea off the ground with the help of old childhood friends. There’s a running joke about suicide that is truly unfunny, but the rest of the film’s charm makes up for that.
Wild Canaries – 3/5 It’s hard for me to measure this one since there were technical difficulties during the showing of this film. However, while the mystery plot was engaging, the characters’ intersecting love lives made them all unlikeable to a certain extent, and the romantic subplots could have easily been cut in favor of more sleuthing shenanigans. Not a bad movie, but more like half of a good one.
BFFs – 4/5 Probably the best film I saw, this one analyzes where the line is drawn between best friend and romantic partner. While I don’t think the film was as funny as intended, the story is strong enough to support the film’s faults.
The Gunfighter – 5/5 A funny joke that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
The Crumb Of It – 2/5 Well acted and directed, but hell if I know what it was trying to tell me.
SPONGE – 1/5 A pretentious musical romp that wants to be profound but ultimately feels idiotic.
The Telegram Man – 4/5 It perhaps takes too long to get to its point, but the emotional gut-punch ending works.
Breaking Chains – 5/5 A strong message film that brings awareness to a critical global issue.
Universal Language – 3/5 Overlong and utterly predictable, yet quaint in its earnestness to tell a love story.
The Zombie’s Trip – 4/5 Shortest film of the festival, biggest WTF surprise.
Directors on Directing – 4/5 The joke perhaps runs a little too long, but to sustain five minutes of film on one joke isn’t easy.