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FANGRRL Goes To The 2010 Sunscreen Film Festival by Lisa Scherer
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Inframan (1975) by Jason Fetters
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Interview With The Projectionist, Part 2 by John Miller
Action! .... Speaking Of .... Movie Notes .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf c by Mike Smith
FANGRRL Goes To The 2010 Sunscreen Film Festival 2010 was the fifth year of the Sunscreen Film Festival here in the Tampa Bay area (St. Pete to be exact) and those film fans who’ve been around since the beginning might have noticed a few changes this year. Sunscreen finally moved out of the conference and banquet rooms of the Vinoy Hotel, which it had outgrown, and held all screenings at multiple theaters at Baywalk Muvico. In an ironic twist of fate, however, most of the stores and restaurants at Baywalk have closed, giving Sunscreen attendees the closed-in, private, cozy feel of previous years at the Vinoy. (The major drawback being, of course, having to hoof it a couple of blocks to get something to eat...or else eat movie theater food.)
For the first time, Sunscreen went with a slim tri-fold brochure for its program instead of the larger, multi-page programs of previous years, a decision I ardently hope they reverse next year because I love having detailed descriptions of all the movies and events at my fingertips, instead of the one-sentence summaries in this year’s brochure.
This year’s awards ceremony was the glitziest, most star-studded one yet for Sunscreen, but in another ironic twist, the posh venue (Mirror Lake Lyceum) had a layout unconducive to socializing and terrible acoustics that made it incredibly difficult for those seated in the balcony to understand what was being said. In an unfortunate mix-up completely unrelated to the venue, the awards presenters somehow got off script and went out of order or skipped a name or read the wrong name or something like that….I was in the balcony and could only make out half of what was said, so I don’t know exactly what went wrong, just that something did. I also know that Paul Wilson is one hell of an MC -- funny, sharp, good under pressure, and great at stalling.
Despite a few minor growing pains, the Sunscreen Film Festival had another successful year and continues to earn respect and admiration for its commitment to and support of both film and filmmakers. Here’s a little bit of my Sunscreen experience this year:
Patrick Wilson with unidentified woman
Thursday night I saw Prime of Your Life, a quirky coming-of-age story of sorts set in New York City but shot in St. Pete. Sandy (Nicole Abisinio) is an aimless, self-indulgent writer-wannabee who is forced to confront her lifestyle and to grow up when her BFF suddenly dies after a birthday drinking binge. Partnering with a smooth-talking con man (Ryan Donowho) she met at the funeral, Sandy begins to re-examine her relationships, her family and her life. The film started off with a bang with an eye-catching opening credit sequence and successfully pulled off the New-York-City-even-though-it’s-really-St.-Pete look. The acting performances were strong and the dialogue sounded realistic (which sadly is a rarity these days, it seems), but the last third of the film felt a little aimless and dragged a bit to me. B+ [WON AWARD FOR BEST FEATURE FILM]
I Met With An Accident is a documentary about Benedict, a Calcutta, India man so severely injured in an accident that he is unable to walk and therefore unable to work and provide for his family. An Orlando, Florida-based volunteer group befriended Benedict and his family and helped them out as best they could: financial assistance, job placement, medical intervention, plus simply spending time with them and keeping Benedict company. Covering several years, the film captures the family’s ups and downs during that time and includes interviews with neighbors and extended family about what Benedict was like before his accident. This film has such noble intentions that I kind of feel bad for not loving it, but it’s way too long, leaves lots of questions unanswered and points unexplored, and is in desperate need of a firm editing hand. C+ [WON AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM]
Barry Munday is Patrick Wilson’s new oddball comedy and I had no idea what it was about before I walked into the theater. (That’s the film-fan version of Russian roulette.) Based on Frank Turner Hollon’s novel Life Is A Strange Place, the film tells the story of a slightly sleazy schlub (Barry, played by Patrick Wilson) who hits on one woman too many and wakes up in the hospital to learn that he’s lost both testicles. During his recovery, he’s slapped with a paternity suit by a woman he has no memory of ever sleeping with (Judy Greer). Barry Munday is full of eccentric characters, great cameo performances (Cybil Shepherd, Malcolm McDowell, Billy Dee Williams, Christopher McDonald, Jean Smart), funnily awkward moments and – of course – lots of castration jokes. It’s not a frat-house-style comedy, thankfully, but more of a subtle, quirky, offbeat humor, with almost a 70s vibe, somehow. B+
Odd fashion choices for the opening night party, hmm?
The celebrity encounters were relatively few and far between for me this year, by choice. I’m feeling a little anti-social these days and really just wanted to sit in a theater and watch movies. Patrick Wilson did a Q&A after the screening of Barry Munday, but I was too mesmerized by his dreamy good looks to pay much attention to what he said.
Billy Dee Williams chatting with fans at the opening night party
I did have the honor of meeting Billy Dee Williams at the opening night party. As I was doing my usual wallflower-standing-against-a-wall bit, I spotted him getting a drink at the bar. After the throng of fans had dissipated, he started making his way to the VIP section, which meant he had to walk right past me. (Hee hee hee.) When he did so, I pounced…um, I mean I walked up to him….and thanked him for coming to the film festival. He seemed a little surprised by that – which is the reaction I wanted (hee hee hee) – so I went on to explain that it was such a thrill to be able to see him in person and that we really appreciated his coming to Sunscreen to give us that chance. (Don’t know why I said “we” – maybe I meant us fanboys/girls – but I do remember using that word.) He said something along the lines of “It’s my pleasure” and then thanked me for thanking him . After graciously signing my program, he gave me a big smile and then drifted away into the crowd. I went back to hugging the wall and texting everyone I know that “I just met Billy Dee Williams!!!!”
After the film financing and distribution seminar – which I popped into to kill time but ended up sitting in for two hours because it was the most educational, informative, useful, insightful, honest discussion of filmmaking I’ve ever come across – I briefly met the speakers, Napoleon Dynamite producers Sean Covel and Doc Wyatt, both of whom are cool as hell.
I saw almost 50 short films at the 2010 Sunscreen Film Fest, so in the interest of time, I’ll mention only my personal favorites (in no particular order):
The Source – A cop tormented by a past drug bust gone wrong seeks solace in his local parish, only to discover that solace isn’t so easy to find. Nicely-done drama/action short with a great actor (Paul Hickert) in the lead role. A-
Behind the Bulb:The Triumph and Tragedy of Less Kessler – A simple, silly, surreal “mockumentary” about the rise and fall of an arrogant inventor. If it were five minutes shorter it would be practically perfect. B
True Beauty This Night – Quirky, whimsical rom-com/drama about love, crime and kismet. Great music, creative camerawork, entertaining credit sequence, zippy pace. A [WON AWARD FOR BEST SHORT FILM]
A More Perfect Yellow – Eccentric minimalist artist Lucas Brekenstead discusses his art and its impact on society. Not everyone understands his work, however, seeing as how Lucas’s actual job is designing street signs for the city. Beautifully shot, clever, funny, with a great score. A
If you encounter John Travolta in person but are too far away to see or hear him, does it really count?
Perennial Love – A sweet story – with no dialogue – about a woman waiting for the military man she loves (first her father, later her husband) to come home. Interesting use of zoom-in shots of words on a Scrabble board to tie things together and move the story along. B
Pawned – A washed-up, drug-addicted musician plays his trumpet on the street corner to earn enough money to stay alive and stay high. What would happen if he had to pawn his trumpet one day? Sad and searing, with a great jazz trumpet music score. B
Twilight of Youth – This gut-wrenching sci-fi short about a young, arrogant scam artist who contracts a mutant virus that causes him to age rapidly doesn’t give the protagonist – or the viewer – any breaks. A-
2095 – In a futuristic world where dating is illegal and your office computer tracks your bathroom breaks down to the second, asking out the attractive woman two cubicles over is difficult but not impossible. Bladerunner meets Office Space meets Gattaca meets THX 1138. A
Worth – A moving morality tale about a non-descript violin being sold at a ritzy auction. Beautiful in both style and sentiment. A
Champagne Supernova – Spanish-language short film about a middle-aged woman having dinner with the 20-something man she’s hired for the evening…it’s so not what you think. Well done and intriguing. A [WON AWARD FOR BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE SHORT FILM]
Skylight – An animated documentary about how the hole in the ozone layer is affecting the penguin population. Except it’s really a mockumentary and it’s freakin’ hilarious. A
That’s it in a (rather long-winded) nutshell, folks.
"FANGRRL" is ©2010 by Lisa Scherer. All graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.
2010 was the fifth year of the Sunscreen Film Festival here in the Tampa Bay area (St. Pete to be exact) and those film fans who’ve been around since the beginning might have noticed a few changes this year. Sunscreen finally moved out of the conference and banquet rooms of the Vinoy Hotel, which it had outgrown, and held all screenings at multiple theaters at Baywalk Muvico. In an ironic twist of fate, however, most of the stores and restaurants at Baywalk have closed, giving Sunscreen attendees the closed-in, private, cozy feel of previous years at the Vinoy. (The major drawback being, of course, having to hoof it a couple of blocks to get something to eat...or else eat movie theater food.)