Well unfortunately I've not had nearly as much time recently as I've wanted, to participate in the forum and likewise with the competition. However since its sometimes a perturbing tradition that I should offer feedback for all the films (with bizarre and annoying comparisons) then I felt... best to get on with it!
First of all we're all artists here with varying levels of skills, progress and development, some are more technically accomplished, others have more creative imaginations and so on.
My feedback is based on what I personally like the most, which are films that have creative and innovative storytelling. A reduced level of technical accomplishment is easily forgiven when an audience is confronted with a good story and performance. So we won't be fetishising too much on what I consider to be the superficial, (camera debates, exposures and other technical minutia) unless it has significant impact on the story.
And so we begin! (and please forgive the typos to come.)
A Shot of Faith - Timothy Gaer
We're confronted with desert, cross dissolves, man shuffling forward in a duster, segue's into glass wiping in bars etc. Now, as I watch this film first, i wonder of all the movies to come, how many will utilise these 'classic' visual representations. Of course we're talking Sergio Leonne and others. I don't doubt for a second that many Westerns here will be ironically inspired more by the European Cinematic perspective of the Wild West (spaghetti westerns) than traditional Yankee fare.
We have a modernist spin here too, with our head bad guy (played by Billy Zane here) surrounded by a mixture of villains inspired by the catalogue of urban outfitters. Now - story is simple here, its circumstantial for us the audience.
BANG - there's a crying girl and a bunch of mad (but slightly too relaxed/casual) bad guys. At this point in the film, I would presume, that a good guy is gonna come in, and issue sentence - judge and jury style.
He does, ala a character remnisent of the preacher. We hear some backstory for the main villain - now this can sometimes be useful to exploit as a kind of 'confessional' you could say (Priest-style.) I don't think there conversation is fully exploited to make a dramatic impact (or to give better purpose for the girl.)
Our bad dude is also perhaps a little toooo relaxed by the execution of his friends (by archangel michael here!)
Then the girl is released!
That's it!!! Now heres the problem as I see it. This is a film that looks cute, it looks pretty! The acting ain't amazing but not terrible either (I actually like the Billy Zane guy he looks great for the role and does a good job.) But think about it, is this a story?
Could you tell this story to a six year old, a mere six year old and captivate there attention with it? No... so why go to the extended effort of producing it. Its a harsh point but no amount of cool fx titles or fx blood splats can cover that.
(All the reviews are coming in the next hour)
Results 1 to 10 of 28
07-25-2010 05:29 PM
07-25-2010 05:54 PM
Ambassador - (Namelok?)
Innovative combination of science fiction and western themes, very stylised, sexy and dangerous. There are some great ideas here - with interesting paralells, that is the conflict of the 'ambassadors' mirroring of those of the countries left behind waging war.
The Western music at the start is a little pants for mood - the real atmosphere doesn't happen until we get our pulsating rythmns and minimalist suspense music.
Now, let's look at one of the most effective bits in the film's atmosphere. The middle eastern ambassador and the call to prayer music. Very interesting isn't it the choice of bomb is in effect a booby trap type explosive/landmine.
That plays on a funny little fear we have in the West, and its well played in this film. More of that, playing and toying with our real world neurosis played out in political and violent microcosm would make this film far more 'effective' in making a dramatic and intellectual impact.
So kudos, to your concept, and style. It might not be the most viewer friendly but its a gripping atmosphere you create.
Beans - Jason Jonny Spinos
Of course there are going to be a lot of Western entries that play with the 2 guys at a campfire or 2 guys (one of em injured) type scenarios! (Im dreading the prospect tbh!) However - cliche can also offer opportunity for clever exploitation. I believe this is the case here, we have a quite ridiculous Wes Anderson type Western, a little funny, a little sad, a little silly and weird.
The roles are performed well enough and the script is witty. Sometimes it need only be that simple to be effective.
Blood Price - A J Brooks
As a fan of genre martial arts films and westerns its always a pleasant surprise to see someone attempt to combine them! God knows they have from Red Sun to er... Shanghai Noon. So in some regards I see this film as more a homage than a short film in its own right. Which is fine if this is made to be enjoyed and appreciated by filmmaking peers, but if its for general consumption as it were as a short film, then its perhaps a little too lacking in any kind of narrative depth (despite our revelations near the end as to the cause of there duel.)
It appears as if, two chaps that work already at a theme park in these roles were convinced to help out and make a movie! It has that kind of feel (of course that won't be the case) but the vibe comes from just how staged the circumstances are that we see here. The empty town devoid of life, except for these two chaps and there relaxed acting!
However, the choreography is great but, i would really suggest undercranking or (speeding up in post at least) as it looks a little too relaxed. Most often these martial art scenes are shot (speeded up) anyway so im not sure why you didn't take the opportunity to do so.
So the result is that our pace is slowing a little when as a film centered around a fight scene is a bit peculiar. I imagine this film benefiting from a tighter edit, a sped up fight, but what perhaps can't be remedied is a proper build up towards the fight.
The reason we are supporting the good guy here is revealed at the end?! Whatever reason that might be, it serves a redundent dramatic purpose compared to us being 1) really empathising with our hero and his divine right to kick ass.
So some points there, the music i really liked! I'd actually suggest checking out Shakespere as his duels set up in plays, always had huge expectation and anticipation built to them! Take the character Macduff in Macbeth for example (before the big swordfight, his wife and kid are murdered... and so forth.)
Blood Thirsty Killaz - Zazacast
Now I know you were tempted to start the film with some Miley Cyrus music but - juuust wasnt done on time to make the final edit hehe. Well, this is a silly film hehe, its a kind of guilty pleasure really. (This makes you some kind of wonderous autuer)
I find it quite amusing how our character keeps speaking in Clint Eastwood quotes - and the two chaps here have a kind of amusing chemistry that works quite well!
I mean this film really lives and thrives on the sillyness and dialogue - the start, an the end and the actual story perhaps didn't make much sense or have much purpose except for this ridiculous conversation scene. However its fun and doesn't seem to give a sh*t.
I would be too snobby to see this as a serious short film however, to me its more a funny sketch but for me its a welcome addition to the fest.
07-25-2010 06:24 PM
Bounty on a Dead Man's Head - Matt Harris
Righto - now this is shot nicely enough, our lead is convincing enough, and his powers are interesting and fairly captivating at that! The premise stretches the suspension of disbelief a little too harshly (ironically.) Of course we would hardly be surprised whether our govt stuck waste somewhere, but super power waste in the river, with shoot to kill weekend part timers - came across as a little bit too silly! A bit immature in fact, which jars with our assured mature good guy, the atmosphere and decent cinematography. It really is all in the writing!
Now, the biggest problem really is the simple fact that as a short film it sucks, as a promo for a prospective feature, well I can see the point. However as a short film festival I reflect on these entries as short films, and submitting this to an actual short film festival would see it probably disqualified. (Im not suggesting it should be as dvxfest is for fun, the top commercial ones are business.) However, making a good short film is VERY DIFFICULT, making a promo for a feature, where you can pick and choose a few sensationalist elements to make it enigmatic and exciting is comparitively easy.
So I would suggest taking the 'challenge' of making a short film, instead of as i see it - copping out on that particular challenge
A beautifull shot, well performed romantic little tale - seemingly inspired by a proverb or folk tale? Confidently produced without dialogue and minimal use of props and cast! As an example, this is a real short film, it makes its own indeligible statement, its a work of art on its own (whether you judge it to be good or not) and not a preview.
Now, that said, I did find my attention waning (yes even when our actress gets undressed - well perhaps not after she gets undressed.) However, point being, that just because the fest time liimt is 6mins, doesnt mean your film has to be. This movie could have seriously benefited with a 4.30 minute type cut if not even shorter.
That said, its a beautiful little piece, that like me just requires some belt tightening imo.
By Hook or Crook
I love the cinematography and slow motion horse back fighting, some great stunts here and there, and nice use of lens flares and so forth. I think the kind of mobile camera work we have by circumstance (jiggling about following the horse action) could have been continued in theme somehow. I think like our rugged character we could have had a rugged cinematography here. Instead, once we're dismounted, we're thrown back to Sergio Leonne's DoP - a mariachi style music building to a climax (that fails to deliver with the black and white flash back scenes.) They seem more functional than dramatic.
Take the harmonica revelation/finale in Once Upon a Time in the West, or the powerful flashbacks in Duck you Suckers (Fistful of Dynamite Uncut) and so forth. So from a promising start it just became a little cliche and lazy it felt (in ideas!)
Again the production looked good, and was acted well, but the ideas just seemed to fall a little flat in how the director chose to visually represent the story.
Overall though I did enjoy this entry, it was competent with some nice highlights but for me ultimately was held back by some unoriginal representations.
Simple comedy premise with a doll reveal that while not original is original enough to surprise and delight me whenever i see it! (I remember a great entry in Twilight Fest that used this theme/ child's play idea too.) In anycase, this was well performed, amusing and light hearted. Genuinely funny and charming in that kind of goofy American comedy nerdy like way that we seem to know and love hehe!
I think the charge against our super strong bad ass is hilarious - I think I would have avoided the extreme close ups on him though. (He looks scary ONLY when we see he is like a kind of muscle bound titan.) so maybe medium close ups, but with just the face he looks kinda like a helpful supermarket assistant rather than the terminator!
That's really all I can criticise. It's delightful and charming - well done.
A gothic Western, with surreal and dreamlike visuals, and some nice very stylised flashbacks (sexy and unsual) though perhaps a little repetitive at times! Coupled with some siniter piano music that works quite well!
Yes the ADR is a little crazy to get used to, but you do get used to it, and it plays louder in our filmmaker ears than most audiences. Our young chap does well though he does perhaps throw himself in a little deep on the 'drama' - however, I appluad his effort. He makes for some great faces that again lend a surreal and hellish quality ot the film.
This Purgatory of sorts! I like that he doesn't shoot himself at the end too (because yawn how often do we suffer this, its like the Joke that the character, a music conductor, Salieri makes in the movie Amadeus about ending a composition with a big bang so the audience knows when to clap hehe.)
My only criticism would be for the entry that the old chaps daughter makes into the narrative. That felt a little inserted as it were, i think somehow, if she could be introduced earlier, again perhaps just abstract shots coupled in with the dream like sequence, could lend it a little more cohesion. I know you will probably want to 'save the surprise' of her fate to give the story a sense of revelation at the end, but at present it doesnt quite accomplish that. It feels more like a crude explanation - so that can perhaps be looked at in the edit if you agree with my point?
Anyway well done, a very imaginative and creative entry with a great otherworldy atmosphere.
Now this is a film of some contradiction to me! It looks good, has a nice little atmosphere, some real enigmatic flash visuals and decent performances. However, the background soudns too obscure the voices. I can also say that for the first half I was genuinely confused as to what the story was about, it appeared at times to contradict itself.
Ie. he murdered/didn't murder/did murder his son/alter ego. This back and forth in the start to middle is wasted, until we realise that in fact he's talking to himself (the 2nd half more or less - the best part of the film) That actually engaged me and made me think wow, this was actually quite interesting and touching.
Except for the BANG! See here's the point. The guy is ALREADY dead... we know he's dead because he basically lost his self -worth, his soul, upon murdering his child. Anyone that does that and keeps speaking to a ghost of his kid - is already trapped in there own hell really. So you see, the power is in him walking away, trapped and doomed to repeat the cycle.
The typical American way to end a short film with a gun and a troubled character is... to shoot themselves. I seriously suggest taking that out the sound mix.
Instead you'll leave your audience thinking about the films message and story, instead of that (what Brechte would call Aristolean Drama ending) of having him shoot himself, so we can just dismiss him as sad and crazy.
07-25-2010 06:56 PM
Express Delivery -
This film had me giggling from the moment our 'native american' appears (so yes I found it entertaining) and our insane voice over for the bad dude on the phone. This heist gone wrong type story is a bit confusing and runs out of steam in the first 2.30 minutes. (Im just GENUINELY captivated by the native american taking drags on the cigarette!)
I love the little scene with him tapping the key too! See that's great, theres lots of cute little moments that make me go - yeah! The bad dude at the end with the cigar does an okay bad guy performance, but again can't really compete with our native american. The way he says 'anybody' at the end is just amazing!
So I don't know, as a story and as a short film its a bit non-sensical to me however, there are elements of style and characterisation here that show the director to have a real eye for quirky moments. That is a skill that can't be taught, so honing that should really lead to some great works next. I'd just be wary (and like all crit its just my opionion of course) of any action that might seem 'confused' with such a short film.
Gathering Souls - Richard Johnson
A sadistic little number! You know I actually could tell this was a Chris Keaton script (I'd missed the front title!) So i want to give special mention to Chris here. Though I would love to see more story development in his scripts produced, (not Chris's fault!) the one thing he does excell in for short films, is providing amusing and effective high concepts - especially with 'popular and accessible' twists. Goodness knows an arty toff like me might despair sometimes, but its good fun, and its a decent script so well done Chris.
So the film is nicely shot, and yes teh first two mins are torture porn orientated, but it works, has a grizzly atmosphere. Our lawman 'vampire' freak is suitably horrific! Ewwww....
This is a good horror genre take, and Richard, armed with a good concept from Chris, delivers a welcome and very professional addition to the festival.
Right now Michael is an awesome dude, love him to bits and I was delighted to see a science fiction western hybrid entered by him. The comparison that is most apt for this film is with Kohr's Ambassador.
The film's starting titles - "following the third world war" is very confusing - the docilization chips, peace beacon etc, it sounds more like a description of what your idea is - than a piece of dramatic writing. Any text lending towards exposition etc is still to lend a dramatic purpose - to get us revved up.
The next text, about the guy taken from another world and time, is just in the context of the first phrase, too abstract for us to understand literally, that it means a wild west shooter is brought into the future. I mean time travel in effect is pretty impressive and contradictory to the post -apocaylptic vibe set up (with the post ww3 text) so given how cool the fx, and other elements of the film are - the text atm does you a disserve imo.
The actual story sees us following our gunman exploring a warehouse to plant explosives (shoot a bad guy etc) While our HAL voiced scientist gives him indifferent instruction.
Where the film rocks is visual style, it looks INCREDIBLE, sexy, comic book, - awesome. It can act as a very effective promo for a prospective feature - a dystopian future saved by a wild west renegade of the past - i get it - and the producer in me says it rocks.
But as a short film on its own, it feels incoherent and inconsistent in narrative structure, somewhat underwhelming. The production vlaues rock, and you have a great eye Michael.
II dolore delluo
A kind of subversive Zapata type western - I loved the ending with the kid burning the bank notes, though I found myself a little worn for the first 4 minutes following our adventurer. He was amusing enough but the pace and repetitive music and lack of action or context made it feel a little boring.
The homage style to the past was cute - (Id suggest shooting to underxpose if your gonna do that though, as the grain won't worry you and you'll escape the nasty video highlighting that kinda spoilt your look at times.
All in all a cute and quirky entry, with a witty and cool looking end marred by pace and a lack of engagement!
Yep, I liked this! This was a competently shot, competently performed, competently written piece, that had an ending which escaped the American cliche (of having our guy betrayed after doing the deal and shot too like his brother!) Kudos for actually developing a story and ... telling us it!
See that is the fundamental error that mars most entries. Our films whatever the hell they are, are stories that we are telling. Its like we're calling folks around the camp fire to tell them what happened once... Now if your story is full of gloss, superficial and crap, then you can't really tell it without all the BS on screen. Thats when you know you should better develop the story (script) imo. In anycase while this film lacks bells and whistles some might have, it does have a little heart and story. So a mature entry well recieved.
Lesson in Life
Beautiful visuals for the starting titles, (very much expecting a feature with these though!) Lovely, and very homely (the divine light of Brandon must help here!) The child's story (as he imagines it) where he fights Billy Zane etc, is good. Like that (though i find the grading contrasts a little harsh at times - but still, its pretty!)
I was a little distracted by the kids kepi (it gives him a peculiarly military look that just seems a little out of place?) It might not have been historically, (here kid have my old army hat) but I don't know. - Its a small thing!
Now our injured girl is (bless her for trying) but far too relaxed. She is casually helped to the tree, where she casually slumps by the tree, and then casually says (while beaten to a pulp)
'i told him to stop but he just wouldnt listen to me' or 'he's not bad he's just angry' etc, (and there talking about a killer here whose just beaten the woman!) So its a little bit giggly unfortunately. However - Billy Zane that we have at the end looks and sounds great! I love his performance, he just nails it, our sheriff chap looks the role but is a little too relaxed on his delivery . (saying rather than performing his lines)
Hugging the boy, the moments between characters and general story are good, I applaud that! Its a film that looks nice, but is marred by a very inconsistent middle. Beautiful music too
07-25-2010 07:18 PM
Right first of, I loved the concept - and the music and reversed sound effects - the guys did a decent enough performance, all very competent! Yep more attention to light/exposure etc for camera would improve the visuals, but hey - they tell the story and thats all they gotta do in the end.
However - in terms of visual style there are some glaring issues that I think could have been rectified during production - or can be improved a little now perhaps (unless these are all intended!)
First of - the blue hue that drenches over our outdoor visuals - why? Blue suggests water, it makes the whole place feel like its teeming with moisture! I actually felt moisturised by the visuals of your film (er phwoar)
So why not give it a warm hue, play around with the colours till our throats get dry! Now the other, is any shots that feature clouds! Clouds rain!!!! RAAAIN!!! It takes away from the idea that we're in a kind of desert hell bereft of water - so much so that we have to drink pee!
Likewise with any visuals where we see cars (i think i saw some background traffic) so! Things like that are in your power. The actual story i think rocks and i like the twist.
Stand Off -
This film feels like a lot of fun, yep its well directed by Jason, I like Tom Marshall as I do with his performances in general. I also LOVE the finger - we get a cutaway to that, and that works just great for me. In all technical respects, it looks pretty, sounds okay!
The weak spot probably is just the predicable story. I think too many guys around here and among us filmmakers in general just get too excited at the prospect of actually making a film look professional and competent that we forget to explore dangerous and exciting stories (be it comedy or drama/whatever!)
So I felt dissapointed that I could guess the story so early on (i wasnt trying too) and i think there is just a more engaging way 'this story' could have been told to keep us guessing better. Its a very competent professional short film, but just not a very exciting one!
Imo the mistake here is that too much emphasis is placed on the fake story (lol not the one character makes up to trick his pursuers either.) The fake story is the one about 2 guys taking pot shots at there mate on the hill. The real story is what happened that day at the bank. We should be rivetted to the story there telling each other over what 'really happened to the gold' with a vested interest. We should share in the deceipt that is spun (only being half aware) and it is revealed with satisfying surprise (unbeknownst to our unfortunate two) before they fall prey to the trap. See how films like Ususal Suspects do this etc... So i think this film forgets a little too much where its real story lay.
That said i enjoyed it for its aesthetic, and good performances and ol' tale!
The Damage Done -
This is a kind of neo-gothic, spectacular, and very atmospheric sexy western. The lead character is moody and effective. The banker is a real sh*t, menacing and sneaky. They have great chemistry and the knife fight choreography is splendid.
Overall, this is a little feature packed (effectively) into the six min timeframe (which i appreciate is bloody hard.) So what else can i say, it looked gorgeous, was acted well, had an engaging story that obviously is old as an old mans beard but - is renewed with the interesting elements you bring into it (the unique characters.)
Which is what one does! So overall I take my hat off to you for this one and again beautiful music.
The Legend of the Stationery Officer -
My god I was surprised this is Australian - don't let that new British habit rub off on your indy film movement... As normally you can tell a film is a british short film if its based around an ironci and abstract perspective of ordinary....
Now that said - the Australian charm and zaniness adds a sillyness that makes this film stand out against expected cliche. Highlights include 'give me something wet' - hilarious, as is the clipper high noon gun fight. Kudos for that!
So production/technically a bit inconsistent - but overall does it matter. This is perhaps not the most effective short film imo, but its a hilarious sketch extended into that duration at least, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Western -
This was all a bit silly and cute! I mean I don't feel it was taking itself too seriously, and so if it was then it probably didn't turn out to be a very effective science fiction hybrid. The exchange of eyes had a more comedic effect than dramatic, and the gunfight lacked any well (fighting!) So in all it was a bit of a sloppy effort imo on the gunfight, the post fx with the computer screen and time travel bit was all a bit neat, but storywise just kinda looked thrown in there you know? I'd say this looked a bit like a film I'd produce because I had some things lying around and was up for a bit of fun! So im presuming this wasn't your passing opus to the world Brian Parker! I'd be curious to know your thought and intentions with your film!
So that's it guys - if i missed out anyones film just let me know and ill post feedback !
07-25-2010 08:56 PM
Thanks for the feedback Lawrie. I will win you over to the dark side of 'popcorn' movies one of these days.
07-25-2010 11:07 PM
Thanks for the comments.