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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Daddy's Little Girl: MUST SEE SHORT FILM "Everything Will Be Okay" Among Nine Films Shortlisted For the Oscars!

"EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY" (2015)
Genre: Drama
Length- 30:00
Company:  N/A

Lea (Julia Pointner) is an 8 year old girl leaving her mother (Marion Rottenhofer) to spend her weekend with her father, Michael Baumgartner (Simon Schwarz).  He takes her out to shop for toys -- any toys she wants -- and then it's on to an exciting afternoon at the fair.

But there's one stop Michael has to make before they can go, and it marks the beginning of a long evening for both father and daughter . . .

ACTING THE PART

"Everything Will Be Okay", or "Alles Wird Gut" by its original German title, is a successful short film by anyone's standards, winning awards all over the world.  Most impressively, it's Oscar Shortlisted along with nine other films.  The version I watched featured well translated English subtitles.

Short films are difficult beasts at times, particularly when you're dealing with what are often amateur actors.  While Schwarz is a seasoned German TV actor, Pointner makes her debut in this film -- a difficult thing for anyone, much less for an actress so young.  She is eight years old.  EIGHT.  And yet somehow she is perfectly credible in her role, even delivering a nuanced performance in which she always feels like she embodies her character, rather than simply a little girl attempting to act.  If her performance was not up to par, this film's emotional resonance would be completely hamstrung.

Pointner is obviously talented, but every single actor in this film delivers solid performances.  Schwarz shows incredible range throughout and his performance took me on a rollercoaster of emotions.  Rottenhofer hits all the right notes as Lea's mother.  All the small characters that pop up along the way -- the police officers (Georg Blume and Christina Scherrer) and the passport agent (Gisela Salcher) in particular -- are also well acted.  It is simply not possible for this film to be better acted.

FEEDING THE CAMERA

The film is written and directed by Patrick Vollrath, and he along with colorist Matthias Tomasi and the rest of his editing team have delivered cityscapes and ordinariness elevated through innovative camera work.

An example: we begin the film with what are, in other circumstances, happy go lucky father/daughter moments.  Everything seems normal, but Vollrath's camerawork floats around like a disembodied spirit, weaving languidly, cutting like the blink of an eye.  The result is an emotional disonnect that occurs in our brains as viewers, and we can just tell something's off, something's not right.

See, Vollrath knows the secret cinematic language of the great suspense filmmakers before him: he understands how to communicate unease visually, and he does it throughout the film, without using any words.

LOVE IS CONTROL

So the acting is pitch perfect and the directing is brilliant, but what really gets me about this film is the writing.

What we have here is a meditation on love -- and not silly, cheesy The Wedding Singer love.  We're talking about familial love, and the need to approve of and to have approval from your children.  Without spoiling anything, essentially both the mother and the father want to be good parents, and how can you tell you're a good parent?  You can tell yourself you are, but what happens when circumstances get in the way of being the person you wish you were?

What happens when the only way to be a good parent, in your opinion, is to be what is, to other people, a bad parent?  At that point, aren't the words good and bad outdated?

Haven't they always been?

CONCLUSION

It's huge, HUGE and quite frankly timeless questions like these that make me declare "Everything Will Be Okay" as not only a fantastic short film, but a genuine piece of filmic art.

"Everything Will Be Okay" is our fourth official Forest City Short Film Review's MUST SEE SHORT FILM of 2015. While it's playing film festivals (and potentially the Academy Awards!) at the moment, I'll post a link here when it's live on the Internet!

DO NOT miss it!

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 4.5 / 5.  Considering how long this film is, it's a tribute to Vollrath's writing skills that I never felt bored.  He manages to find the suspense in drama and prolongs it through the film until it's unbearable when it all comes to a head at the climax.  The actual ending was a bit sudden, but I understand why they chose to do it that way, but after a thirty minute watch, I felt like we could have had a bit more "epilogue", so to speak.
Directing: 5 / 5.  Vollrath's direction is spot on, and I'm sure that it's to his credit that his actors' performances are as spotless as they are.  Add to that his interesting visual choices and innovative camera-movement-as-dramatic-device and this is about as definitive a directorial statement as it could possibly be.
Editing: 4 / 5.  The film looks fantastic and has a decent rhythm to it, but it is awfully long at thirty minutes.  I can't help but feel like there could have been some trimming done to cut down on some of the down time our characters experience.  
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  Nora Czamler handled the sound design on this film, and it does the job just fine.  All the dialogue is professionally mixed and perfectly audible and crisp.  The soundtrack worked, but nothing jumped out at me.
Acting: 5 / 5.  A drama lives and dies by the strength of its actors, and "Everything Will Be Okay" soars as one of the best acted short films I've ever seen.  There's not a bad thespian in the bunch here, but the standouts are unquestionable Pointner and Schwarz.

Final Grade: 4.5 / 5.

Visit the official website for "Everything Will Be Okay" to stay up to date on the film's progress and DO NOT MISS IT when it's finally released online or on DVD!

Check out our MUST SEE SHORT FILMS page to see the other films which have qualified!

"Everything Will Be Okay" is Oscar Shortlisted along with nine other films!  They include:

  • Ave Maria,” Basil Khalil, director, and Eric Dupont, producer (Incognito Films)
  • Bad Hunter,” Sahim Omar Kalifa, director, and Dries Phlypo, producer (A Private View)
  • Bis Gleich (Till Then),” Philippe Brenninkmeyer, producer, and Tara Lynn Orr, writer (avenueROAD Films)
  • Contrapelo (Against the Grain),” Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, director, and Pin-Chun Liu, producer (Ochenta y Cinco Films)
  • Day One,” Henry Hughes, director (American Film Institute)
  • Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut),” Patrick Vollrath, director (Filmakademie Wien)
  • The Free Man (Zi You Ren),” Quah Boon-Lip, director (Taipei National University of the Arts)
  • Shok,” Jamie Donoughue, director (Eagle Eye Films)
  • Stutterer,” Benjamin Cleary, director (Bare Golly Films)
  • Winter Light,” Julian Higgins, director, and Josh Pence, producer (Innerlight Films and Prelude Pictures)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

To Kill Or Not To Kill: Lofty "Memories Of A Hitman" Attempts To Find A New Mark

"MEMORIES OF A HITMAN" (2015)
Genre: Thriller
Length- 13:00
Company:  Western Spaghetti's

A hitman (Jonathan Lambrechts) reminisces on the day when everything went wrong . . . and it all started with the night when his daughter (Lena de Reydt) was killed.

A BIT OF A MIX UP

"Memories of a Hitman" is written, directed and edited by Sebastian Vuye.  It's beautifully shot, with nice visuals and an opening that brought me back to Ridley Scott's Gladiator.  And on that note, the film quality is high enough and the color correction is done so cinematically that you could play this next to most big budget films and you'd not notice much of a difference.

Where the film falters is in its writing.  First of all, it's unclear whether the hitman was always in this profession, or whether he chose to enter this line of work because of his family's death.  Either way, it takes away from our sympathy for his character.  Yes, he lost his family, and that's sad -- but he's also taken away many lives, no questions asked, and those people also had families.

This leads me to the big problem with the story: it is because of all of the above that the "reveal" late in the story comes off as a "DUH!" instead of a "Eureka!" like it's supposed to, and as a result there's no emotional impact to it.  Without that 180 degree turn in the hitman's psyche also taking place in our minds as well, the finale completely loses any resonance.  It becomes just a convenient ending to the story, and I can tell that Vuye intended much more than that.

FINAL THOUGHTS

And let's face it: the whole "hitman redemption" story has been done to death.  This is a cliched concept from the get go, but Vuye is attempting to spin it in a new direction.  There's something to be said for a filmmaker taking risks to try and tell a story from a new perspective.  I respect that, and can tolerate a few missteps in that direction far more easily than someone making the same tired garbage we've already seen a million times.

With a better script, the next time Vuye and company will really hit it out of the park.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 1.5 / 5.  The entire story hinges on the resonance of that reveal, and it just can't follow through with the logic error I mentioned earlier.
Directing: 3 / 5.  By and large a well directed movie.  The shootout was a bit of a headscratcher though -- while interesting and stylized, it stuck out in an otherwise slow and thoughtful film and felt entirely unclimactic.  
Editing: 3 / 5.  Nicely cut together and the film felt about as long as it needed to be.  Some odd errors appeared in the subtitled dialogue: lines appeared toward the beginning that were not voice acted.
Sound/Music: 2.5 / 5.  Moody and ambient, but altogether too constant.  The soundtrack was so one note that it became boring after a while.  The sound design as a whole was effective.
Acting: 3 / 5.  Seth Hunter Perkins provided the voice-over acting, and he sounds perfect for this role.    His delivery was monotone and deliberate, but I suspect this was as much a directorial as an actor's choice.  Lambrechts looked suitably morose in his role.

Final Grade: 2.6 / 5.

Don't forget to check out the teaser to "Memories of a Hitman" and follow the creators on Facebook to learn more about its release date!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Anxiety and Bulimia Plus College = "Never Been Sicker", A Thinker's Short Dramedy

"NEVER BEEN SICKER" (2015)
Genre: Dramedy
Length- 14:59
Company:  Collusive Dreamer Films

Zoey (Morgan Vasquez) suffers from a phobia of vomiting -- an unfortunate condition considering she's a college student tolerating the indignities of dorm room life.  To make matters worse, her new roommate, Ellie (Paige Sciarrillo), is bulimic.

Talk about a nightmare scenario, right?  Well, Zoey's a smart girl, and she figures out there's one way to solve the problem once and for all: get Ellie kicked out of the dorm as fast as humanly possible.

SLIGHTLY ASKEW

"Never Been Sicker" is unique in a few different ways.  First of all, writer/director Claire Fishman's script is direct and suitably off kilter.  It's about bulimia and severe anxiety -- both topics which we don't see dealt with on the screen very often.  In addition, it attempts to treat gross out scenes with a light comedy touch.

Visually, Fishman has a good sense of camera movement and thanks no doubt in no small part to colorist Monika Kolodziej, the film has a vibrant, cinematic look.  There's a definite rhythm the film attempts to establish, but with the exception of the beginning and the ending, the film's never funny or emotionally affecting enough to quite hit the beats.

FEELING BETTER

All very unique, but does it pay off?  Well, that's going to depend on the individual viewer, I suspect.  For my own part, there's an awful lot of vomiting going on in this short film.  While we don't see it directly, we hear it.  It's not particularly riveting to see heads bobbing over toilets, but hearing the resulting product is stomach churning.

There's intelligence to this film that keeps it afloat, though.  I particularly liked the irony of the finale (to say more would be a spoiler, but you'll understand when you see it).  That's just good writing, right there.  

"Never Been Sicker" has a lot of potential, and it measures up in some ways and falls short in others.  One thing is for sure, though: Fishman and her company are all talented filmmakers and I eagerly look forward to what they have in store for us next.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3.5 / 5.  Original, with an ironic conclusion that brings everything full circle.  My only complaints are that the film did drag a little in the middle and that the jokes felt like they should have been more funny.
Directing: 3 / 5.  Fishman clearly knows what she's doing behind the camera.  I particularly enjoyed the shots employed during the party scene.
Editing: 3 / 5.  Fishman also edited the film, which afforded her extra room to convey emotional content.  This was notable in the aforementioned party scene, during Zoey's calm-to-panic rollercoaster ride, which was shot perfectly.  Apart from that, it's a serviceable job.
Sound/Music: 3.5 / 5.  I much enjoyed the alt-tinged pop soundtrack.  It felt quirky and fun -- perfect for the tone "Never Been Sicker" was going for.
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  Good acting from both leads.  Jimmy Hooper, who played Zoey's ex-boyfriend Dylan, felt on and off though.

Final Grade:  3.3 / 5.

Don't forget to check out the trailer for "Never Been Sicker" below and follow the creators on Facebook!







Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!