The absolute best and brightest among this year’s competition features at the Phoenix Film Festival include a road dramedy about a young artist’s search for an old record, a dramedy about a filmmaker’s search for perfect love, a musical dramedy about a mother who returns to her singing/songwriting roots and a dramedy about a depressed man who makes one very unusual request of his friends.
The 14th Annual Phoenix Film Festival will take place Thursday, April 3-Thursday, April 10 at Harkins Scottsdale 101 and, although all 10 of this year’s competition features are worth a look, “Breakthrough Entertainment” has named “45RPM,” “Jake Squared,” “Life Inside Out” and “Teddy Bears” as its 2014 Must-See Selections, designating them as the cream of the competition crop.
Liza Burns plays an artist who, struggling with the source of her inspiration, finds help from an obsessive record collector (Jason Thompson) in the search for her deceased father’s lost music. Boasting a spectacular soundtrack of garage rock, this road dramedy takes viewers on a journey that very well may encourage them to continue their search for something with symbolic or sentimental meaning in their own lives.
Max Gail and Coleman Kelly play a retired professor and his ranch hand son, respectively, who try to reconnect after years of estrangement. Even though the story is essentially boiled down to a series of dramatic moments, the movie’s mood falls flat, abolishing any atmospheric fluctuation while also making it difficult for viewers to remain invested in the story as it seemingly slowly unfolds.
E.J. Bonilla plays an ambitious young Latino man who, fueled by misguided nostalgia, buys a small apartment building in the Bronx and moves his boisterous family into the apartments to live rent-free. Although it features a few fine performances among its Latino cast, this drama plays out like a soap opera - one whose volume and intensity are turned up entirely too high, resulting in more annoyance than amusement much less affinity.
Elias Koteas plays a filmmaker whose problems compound exponentially when younger versions of himself invade his life and try to solve his romantic problems. Packed with poignancy and emotional resonance, this remarkably relatable dramedy encourages a great deal of introspection about our own issue-laden love lives while also being entertaining to the power of two.
Filmmaker Randy Murray takes a look at America’s most controversial sheriff - Joe Arpaio - and his ringmaster’s approach to media, politics and law enforcement. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is nothing if not entertaining and this documentary embodies every bit of that - from its riveting reflection of his pursuit of the spotlight to its extremely eye-opening examination of his less-than-savory exploits.
Eddie Jemison and David Jensen play small time wannabes who banter about the rickety streets of New Orleans to find themselves in a strange tug-o-war. Boasting both a contemplative story and an incredibly intriguing cast of characters, this black-and-white dramedy effectively draws viewers into the community that it creates even though it may be a bit too artsy for those seeking something straight-forward.
Maggie Baird plays a mother who returns to her musical roots, rediscovers the passion of her youth and finds a way to connect with her troubled teenage son (Finneas O'Connell). A magnificently moving motion picture, this musical dramedy inspires viewers to find meaning in life through creative expression while also treating them to some outstanding original songs.
Filmmaker Theo Love takes a look at the largest criminal investigation in East Texas history, when 10 churches in the buckle of the Bible Belt are burned to the ground in five weeks. As compelling as it is concise, this documentary demonstrates how violence can shake a close-knit community to its core while delving deep into the minds and hearts of everyone involved.
Filmmaker Whitney Ransick takes a look at the company that rose to the top of the independent film scene in the 90s before financial risk-taking and mismanagement caused it to crash. Although it is an admirable effort and likely one that anyone familiar with the Shooting Gallery’s films will appreciate, most unacquainted viewers will feel as though they are students sitting in on a dry cinema studies lecture.
Gillian Jacobs, Zachary Knighton, Melanie Lynskey, Ahna O'Reilly and Jason Ritter play people who head to the desert to help their friend (David Krumholtz) heal from the loss of his mother. Boasting excellent performances from each and every member of its ensemble cast as well as some pretty surprising poignancy and emotional resonance, this dramedy entertains while also encouraging a great deal of introspection about our own desire for empathy and connection.