Nolan Canova here. The Tampa Film Review has shown remarkable consistency in showing the best and brightest of the Tampa Bay area and beyond over the past 4 years, but it also has seen some subtle transitioning lately by including many more promotional trailers and music videos than before. In fact, I'd say that I've seen more trailers and music videos at TFR in the past 6 months than I have the past 4 years. Now, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that, mind you, and some of the music videos have been exemplary works I'd never suggest leaving out of the program. But I worry that the proposed goals of TFR exhibiting (at best) completed narrative works by independent filmmakers to an appreciative audience could degenerate over time into (at worst) being merely a promotional tool to be exploited by opportunists to a captive audience. Not all of them, mind you (promotions for other festivals like SunScreen or Moving Image are seasonal, well-respected, and are not what I'm talking about). But some of them.
Many of the music videos that have played TFR are great productions, but by definiton are promotional tools for music groups, therefore their end goal is completely different than that of a narrative filmmaker. Movie trailers are brief glimpses into productions that may or may not play TFR, or even get completed. Sometimes I feel like I'm watching MTV-Ybor mixed with a liberal dose of Trailer Park. Again, I'm not at all lobbying to drop them from the program, but they're starting to take over.
That said, for regular PCR readers and the TFR filmmakers who follow these columns and rely on their credulity, our reviewers have been given a wide latitude over whether to rate music videos or trailers at all (outside of "Nice job!"). They're a different animal altogether.
Former (and future?) fellow PCR staffer William Moriaty provided my transportation to the International Bazaar in Ybor City on this very balmy night, and grateful as I am for the favor, must report that for the second time in recent memory, took a wrong turn downtown which resulted in accidentally accessing the crosstown annex which has no turn-offs until Brandon. Needless to say, we were a few minutes late getting into TFR, but made it just as the first film was queing up. Even in the dark, I could see we had a pretty good size crowd in attendance.
Fellow PCR staffers Terence Nuzum and Chris Woods will be reviewing the films with me this month.
To those new to the process of reviewing the films, all our reviews are bundled together under each movie title, and I've been using a color-coded system to help the reader differentiate when a reviewer's "voice" changes. To wit:
All movie titles and descriptions, usually written by Paul Guzzo (or myself if none is provided with advance publicity) will be in black.
Nolan Canova's reviews will be in Navy Blue
Terence Nuzum's reviews will be in Blood Red
Chris Woods' reviews will be in Purple
All reviews finish with our critic's rating which sit at the end of our review and are in boldface.
Here we go....
"Strip Club King: The Story of Joe Redner" Documentary Preview: An advanced look at the upcoming documentary on one of Tampa’s most colorful and controversial individuals, Joe Redner.
Nolan Canova: An extended look into this upcoming Chris Woods-Shelby McIntyre production that explores the life and times of the notorious Joe Redner, nationally-known owner of the Mons Venus strip club, political activist and social commentator. Scenes shown include interviews with local politicians and celebrities as well as news and public access TV clips of various vintage that paint Joe in a (deservedly) heroic light as a mover-and-shaker of civil liberties, human rights, the freedom of speech and expression, and political candidate. It looks like his historic battles with local government over nudity laws and the notorious "6-foot rule" will be well documented. My favorite scene: 970WFLA's Tedd Webb opines that the city's 6-foot rule didn't do anything to lower crime and prostitution in the area. Catch this preview if you can, but when the movie comes out it will be automatically Highly Recommended.
Terence Nuzum: No review sent.
Chris Woods: Recused from jury as he is co-producer.
"Priere de Toucher" Nadasound featuring Rose Murphy. Music video by Ground Up Films.
Nolan Canova: Very nicely-shot video that revisits the notion of the "fourth wall" where the audience sees the camera people and lighting grips come into and out of frame during the singer's performance, as well as bright colors, great audio, and attractive set-ups which are all Ground Up trademarks. I liked the song as well. Recommended.
Following this was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it 20-second preview of an upcoming Beavilles' "Snow" music video. Looked intriguing and I LOVE their music.
Terence Nuzum: Decent music video that through the whole video reveals the set/behind-the-scenes angle. Idea wasn't so impressive, but I did like the song which reminded me of Portishead. Good.
Chris Woods: A very cool music video from the Ground Up team which was directed by Brandon Windish and cinematography by Jon Wolding. This video was very visually driven with lots of different colorful sets and some cool effects. The video features a beautiful female singer who is walking around the set to one of her videos as make-up artist, cameramen, and lighting grips follow her around but she just pushes them away. Very well put together on all levels and the song was very good. Highly Recommended
Preview to The Beauvilles “Snow” music video - A teaser was shown for a new video produced by Ground Up. Looks pretty cool. It just shows the band, The Beauvilles, lined up for a firing squad and as they’re asked if they have any last words. They start the song and then it ends there.
Scenes from the Weekend Film School: Five teams of student filmmakers filmed the same one-page scene. Despite using the same script, their visions all differed.
Nolan Canova: OK, this one takes some setting up: FIVE groups of filmmakers had one hour to film the same short script. The resulting film was going to be only roughly one minute long. Although Paul's description listed FIVE teams, only THREE allowed their films to be shown. In light of that, Pete Guzzo's group showed their's (which now comes to FOUR exhibited), but explained that it really didn't "count" as they "cheated" and spent a couple hours on their version. Still with me? Good. We were not told exactly what was in the script or how much latitude the teams had with interpretation, only that they had one hour to do everything, including make-up and camera set-ups. The name of the script is "You and Me" and there were common themes: a man comes into a woman's house from the outside and he looks disheveled and/or badly injured. It's established they're in a relationship, but he urges her to a more intense commitment to the point of insistence. She may or may not say, "We can't do this" and "It ends tonight". He repeats the words, "So simple..." She resists. He approaches her to attempt force and possibly murder.
1. Zombies Without Shame team. The actors' names were not shown on the disc. This version is the only one to establish the man is a zombie and has been infected. Green light bathes the scene as the man explains his love. His urging quickly turns into an attack (read: "I need your brains!"). She screams. Fade to black. Cool idea, but this is the poorest shot, acted, and executed video of the bunch. Reportedly, they spent an inordinate amount of time on the zombie make-up, so had to rush the film.
2. You and Me, Group 2.5 team. Wendi Hughes and Zack Hill star in an OK attempt, aided primarily by Wendi's attractive onscreen presence. She pulls it off, but poor Zack isn't quite up to it. The best part of this version is the shocker ending when Wendi pulls out a gun and fires. The only version to do this.
3. You and Me, Team Foxtrot. I don't seem to have this disc, but I remember being extremely impressed with Brent Harvey's acting as the injured man. The camera angles were more inspired than the other attempts. I believe this is one of the two videos to introduce a gun at the climax, but the girlfriend didn't fire as he approached, we simply went to black. Not counting the Guzzo group's version, this is my top pick.
4. Michael McCourt/Guzzo team. Walter Medina and Rachael Lee Stroud. This is the one that shouldn't officially "count" as it was done by the instructors using more time. The lighting and set-up are noticably better than the previous versions, likely because of this. We hit all the marks as the two characters snake around the sets until the pre-determined conclusion. Very watchable, the acting is actually very good on both their parts, but the pacing is weirdly slow.
Terence Nuzum: The first take on the script was a zombie film which was so-so, but apparently lacked time to really film the ending correctly because this group spent too much of their alotted time on makeup for the zombie. The group who shot the one starring Brent Harvey was the best with some really interesting camera angles that put the professional one that Pete Guzzo and others shot as an example to shame. And the Guzzo "example" film didn't have an alotted time, mind you. There was also a more straight foward version of the script that a group shot but I cant remember much about it except that they were the only group to use the option of on-set fire-arms. Zombie group film, Poor. Brent Harvey group film's, Good.
Chris Woods: We were shown films from three different groups that were given the same script to shoot from. The teams’ story was pretty much the same, which was basically a man and a woman in one room, and the man comforts the woman with a troubled situation. The first one was the only one that was about zombies taking over. The other two had the man trying to take the woman away with him or he would kill her. It was a very good effort for these first-time filmmakers. For me, the ones I like the best were the last two out of the three. At the end, the film that the instructors shot was shown, using the same set and story but with a different camera and actors.
"Good?" by E. Haase. Music Video/Collage.
Nolan Canova: I'm a big fan of Eric Haase and it's hard not to like him. I liked this video which is basically TV clips, movie clips and moving clip art set to an industrial-techno soundtrack. Very good.
Terence Nuzum: Eric Hass doesn't usually disappoint, but I gotta say that this one was below his talents. Well put together, I suppose, but mainly consisting of film snippets he didn't shoot (like 2001 and Videodrome). Also, too many of the images were repeated which, I believe, he said was the point because he was trying to imitate algorithms. Sorry, I just liked his previous film, Pornography, better. Fair
Chris Woods: Another film from E. Haase’s film school days. This one was a very strange experimental music video of sorts. It was pretty much different clips from movies and still pictures with some cool animations. Kind of looked like a new wave video from the late 80’s or a video that they would screen at a nightclub. Good.
"Shadow of the Day" -- Music video by Johnny Watson.
Nolan Canova: I really liked this effort to do an MTV-style music video using a Linkin Park song. (It was explained to me that it wasn't actually a Linkin Park video, 'cuz, you know, how would I know?) Good B&W photography helps tell of a tragic accident and its after-effects on a couple. Very Good.
Terence Nuzum: This one used an atrocious Linkin Park song and actually turned out a decent heartfelt story out of it. Not sure if the story concerning a car crash victim and the friend left behind was true or based on the song but it had some decent camerwork that fairly represented the emotions within the story. Good.
Chris Woods: When I saw this one I read that the credits in the beginning said Linkin Park. At first I wasn’t sure if it was one of their videos but it looked to me like Watson just used the song to make his own video. All shot on video and in black and white and for what I can remember is a guy driving around in a car looking for or following a woman. Fair
"Jules Dongu Saves the World" -- trailer from Planet Lizard.
Nolan Canova: Second go-'round at TFR for this catchy trailer. From the same filmmakers who made last year's Flushed Up. The trailer looks like hijinks at a comic book convention. It also looks well-shot and acted, with high energy.
Terence Nuzum: Not reviewed.
Chris Woods: A preview to the upcoming Plant Lizard film that has a wanna-be super-hero running around a comic book connection. Looks interesting. I’ll have to check it out when it’s complete.
"Drawing Dead" by Planet Lizard Productions. This comedy adventure starring
Fisher & Boy from 97X’s Morning Show takes you through the underbelly of
the Tampa Bay illegal gambling ring. When Boy gets kidnapped because of
Fisher’s gambling debt Fisher must come to the rescue of his partner.
Will the talk-show duo have what it takes to talk their way out of this
Nolan Canova: The filmmakers announced prior to the show that one would probably get more out of this experience if one were a fan of the radio talk show hosts in question, Fisher and Boy from 97X. And they were quite right. The cast is certainly willing to go over the top with the kitsch-y material, but the two radio hosts look fairly uncomfortable throughout (particularly Boy). Fisher has potential, though, and if he ever does this again, it'll probably go better. Decent camera work and competent lighting keep this from being a high-profile home movie. The rest of the production explores lunatic burlesque on every imaginable level. If you go for that kind of thing, you'll go for this. Good....in a fairly poor kinda way.
Terence Nuzum: "Sigh." A really, really, really bad comedy starring Fisher and Boy from 97x radio. The oneliners and comedic situations had promise, but fell flat due to bad writing and just plain lack of humor. Boy is not an actor, for sure, but Fisher manages to pull it off mostly. Poor.
Chris Woods: A comedy from Plant Lizard that stars Fisher and Boy from the 97X Morning Show. A woman and her henchmen are looking for Fisher to collect on a gambling debt, but the henchmen kidnap Boy by mistake and now Fisher has to save him and still pay his debt. This short is very well shot and put together but falls short in the story, acting, and comedy bits. The comedy in it is way over the top and it seems like they’re trying too hard to be funny, but it just doesn’t work. Maybe it would be funnier to fans of their morning show. Fair.
"The Road To Hell" music video by Chris Rea and Rodrick Colbert.
Nolan Canova: (Revised) In an earlier published version of this review I remarked that I didn't get to borrow this disc and my memory of this film was foggy at best. Afterwards, producer Rodrick Colbert sent me a link to the YouTube page this video is on and I was able to re-watch it. My memories came flooding back.
A delinquent son, chronically in trouble with the law, is on the run. Teary-eyed Mom catches up with him and tries to set him straight. All this to an infectious blues-y soundtrack that parallels the action. Very nicely done with good performances, especially by the mother. Very Good. (Next time, leave me the disc, guys!)
Terence Nuzum: Not sure I picked up on exactly what was going on here. Hazy night-time shots, gun firing that looks damn realistic and a voodoo grim reaper ushering people to the netherworld all backed by a dusky twangy gothic blues song just kinda do it for me. Simple as that. Good.
Chris Woods: This music video/short film produced by long time Tampa film supporter and USF’s own Rodrick Colbert is his first production and make a very good first effort. The video has a man who commits a crime and is now running from the law and his enemies. There’s some very cool visuals and good music and some very cool gun play. Good
"Sensory Overload" documentary on artist Edgar Sanchez Cumbas by Mike McCourt
Nolan Canova: Stunning camera work and atmospheric lighting help lift this documentary into a place that benefits the material: an artist whose large-scale work, sort of a cross between abstract and grafitti, is a totally immersive, physical experience for the artist. Appropriate mood music completes the package. Good.
Terence Nuzum: Not much that I haven't seen a hundred times in other documentaries. The Pros: excellently shot and lit. The Cons: some guy who sploshes paint on a stone wall and waxes about as philosophically as a short-order cook (actual quote from the film: "Why do I paint? It's part of me. It's like people who jog all the time..") just doesn't make for an interesting subject. Decent.
Chris Woods: Not reviewed.
"Alicja in Wonderland" by Martin Gauvreau. Moving Image preview -- foreign entry (Poland). Subtitles. A man chasing after a lost ring encounters a seductive and dangerous woman in the woods.
Nolan Canova: This foreign film-with-subtitles was a category unto itself this night. A man chases a neighbor boy who stole an engagement ring through the woods until he comes upon a woman (the boy's mother?) who bades him to enter her house and hang out. She tries to seduce him and eventually takes him prisoner. Apparently, her aim is solely to torture him for gratification. Some creepy camera angles make one worry for the fate of the man until her boyfriend/husband comes home with the young boy....and the ring. Told to get out, the man rejoins his finacé, but his life is never the same.
Wow. The camera work and acting are very compelling. The direction is a cut above as the suspense is truly gripping about halfway through. Shot on location in Poland. With not much competition this night, Alicja easily wins Highly Recommended and Film of the Night.
Terence Nuzum: I'm not going to attack this film's ending and I'm not going to praise it because, to be fair, I don't know enough about folk tales to really know what the ending means. But it was amazingly shot and the atmosphere was great. Few independent films know the art of capturing atmosphere but this had it in droves. Creepy, sad, and beautiful all in one. Film Of The Night.
Chris Woods: This short film from Poland directed by Martin Gauvreau was a selection from this years HCC-Ybor Festival of the Moving Image. In this different and strange rendition of Alice in Wonderland, we find a couple going away to the country where the man plans on popping the question to his girlfriend. But a little boy grabs the ring from the house where they are staying, and the man chases the boy into the woods. He follows him into a house where he finds a beautiful woman who ends up capturing the man and holds him hostage. The short is very well done and has a dark mood throughout. Lot of good camera angles: at one point, once the man is held captive, the camera represents his point-of-view, and we the audience are put in his situation. He is being teased by the woman holding him hostage and are surprised when the woman’s husband comes home and questions her about the man tied up in their house. Highly Recommended and Film of the Night.
Visit www.thetampafilmreview.com for more info on the Tampa Film Review.
"The Tampa Film Review for April" is ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova, Terence Nuzum, and Chris Woods.
All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.