Side by Side – Christopher Kenneally (2012)

http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/index.php/2012/09/vod-review-side-by-side-chris-kenneally-2012-3-stars/

Film. Digital. Once, locked in a bitter war and advertised as “film versus digital”, the scrap is barely a fight anymore. Though film keeps hanging on, keeps holding onto devotes, like For Ellen (VOD on 9/19) director of photography Reed Morano, the digital revolution seems cemented in victory at the moment.

This “film”, in fact, was shot on digital cameras. Beginning it’s journey down the workflow, it was stored digitally, edited and graded, and the sound re-recorded and de-fuzzed on digital workspaces. Finally, it was viewed by me (and probably you) digitally, delivered to my digital television by Amazon over a wireless connection, where I watched it in the comfort of my living room. It’s hard to argue against that, the ease, the comfort, and the quickness. No waiting in lines, no travelling, no annoying texters or chatters in the seat in front of you. The only noise outside of the film while watching it was a snoring dog, and I can hardly yell at him to shut the hell up.

It’s a provocative film, though I struggle to call it a compelling must see film because it’s demographic is likely compromised by the intense interest over the last decade in the story. Side by Side is a good primer if you came late to the game, but if you’ve been following the rise of digital and slow suffocation of film over the years, there probably isn’t a lot you don’t know in the offing, and Keanu Reeves’ unfortunate narration style isn’t going to help you stay tuned should you become bored. Still, I appreciate his interest and passion on the subject, and his interview style is fine — the conversations he finds himself engaged in with the Wachowski’s especially is worth watching it for alone.

I’m also appreciative of how much time the film spent on discussing techy elements, like dynamic range and depth of field, and just how important the color grading step is to a finished film, though somewhat disappointed about how little time it spent on archiving. Archival prints are the whole ball game as it stands. Robert Rodriquez is right when he says digital will keep getting better and cheaper, eventually — probably — surpassing film. But how do we hang on to this stuff? Digital is not a sustainable model for making sure these treasures are available hundreds or even thousands of years from now. George Lucas’s offhand, “someone will figure it out because it’s so important” isn’t comforting at this point, especially thinking about stories such as Toy Story 2′s near miss with complete deletion. The final word on it comes from DP Geoff Boyle who pays out the discomfort offered by Lucas by concluding, “we’re fucked.” Sorry to the unborn generations, who may one day have learn about Michael Corleone and the Man with No Name by reading criticism. Suckers! At least someone wins in this story.

My Sucky Teen Romance – Emily Hagins (2012)

http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/index.php/2012/09/vod-review-my-sucky-teen-romance-emily-hagins-2012-3-stars/

To be candid, after seeing the 2009 documentary Zombie Girl, the chronicle of a 12 year old Texas girl named Emily Hagins and her struggled to try and juggle life, middle school and directing her first feature zombie film, I never expected to hear about her again. Like the kids who made a frame-by-frame reenactment of Raiders of the Lost Ark, I thought it was  a cool story, but one that would go no further.

Three years later, though, and here I am talking about her, as her latest feature — the vampire comedy My Sucky Teen Romance – starts its run on VOD. Now nineteen years old and more sure of herself, the movie is a substantial jump up in quality, as you’d expect.

A one-last-hurrah high school movie, My Sucky Teen Romancetakes its starting point from a mutual dislike of teenage vampire culture that Kate (Elaine Hurt) and Allison (Lauren Lee) share as they prepare to head to a sci-fi convention to blow out Kate’s last weekend in town before heading off for college. They are cute and vibrant girls, nothing like the typical riff raff (such as myself) you’d expect to find at a sci-fi convention, and that’s a joke Hagins somewhat annoyingly goes out of her way to make at times, casting the sloppiest, saddest group of middle-aged dorks to fill out the background.

It all goes wrong, of course, when Kate’s long time crush, a grocery clerk named Paul (Patrick Delgado) shows up dressed as a vampire. The thing is, he really is a vampire. His motives hidden from view, he splits his time casing the convention goers, waiting for a specific panel about vampires to take place and mired in awkward sexual tension with Kate, whom he accidentally bites, turning her as well.

Part of me wants to be hyper critical and say this isn’t a professional film, to play the Royal Tenenbaum ruining Margot’s play by saying it’s just a bunch of kids in vampire costumes, but the rest of me is screaming at that part, “shut the fuck up, gramps”. It’s true that it’s not a strict professional film, but it has the hallmarks of being on the path to future professional films for the young director. In most professions, youth is an assett, but not filmmaking. As vital as youth makes you, experience and broadened horizons is a far bigger key to filmmaking. It’s how you learn how and when to apply comic relief, and how to dip into pop culture sparingly, so you avoid making a films with a cultural time limit on it. But so many films these days arrive on screen like a dead fish staring back at you, and that’s something, for all its shortcomings, Hagins avoids nimbly here. There is a surprising subtlety to Kate and Paul’s story, as it intertwines with Jason’s (Santiago Dietche) story that you don’t see coming. It’s a joyful film, like how Shoot the Piano Player is a joyful film. It’s not on par with Truffaut’s second film, but Truffaut was 11 years older and maybe that makes all the difference.