Late at night when the city goes to sleep, the mysterious, exotic and often erotic unseen realm of underground Arizona indie emerges from the digital depths, occupying the FilmBar screen and revealing secrets, psyche and (sometimes) sleaze with abandon. Anything goes during the monthly Dark of the Matinee’s Arizona Filmmaker Showcase hosted by local filmmakers Brett Walker, Christopher Coffel and Matthew Robinson from the podcast and website Dark of the Matinee. This event is a terrific monthly opportunity to see AZ indie in its most real, rough and raw form: films made because the filmmakers wanted to make them, no festivals, distribution or potential profits as their driving force. These are stories filmmakers want to tell using images they like and music they want to share with everybody. The recent presentation of the Arizona Filmmaker Showcase provided a well-balanced serving of some of my favorite genre’s; with some brooding and surreal storytelling as well as heaping helpings of go-go music and go-go-dancing. Mark your calendars for the next Dark of the Matinee Arizona Filmmaker Showcase at Filmbar. See for yourself the mystery and creativity of the AZ indie filmmakers when they turn out the footlights and put on the red light. Here are the films I saw in the order they were screened.
The Dinner Guest – Bianca Luedeker
I first saw this film ages ago (2009 to be exact) at one of the early Filmstock Film Festivals, and I was glad to see it again. This horror/comedy by (then) ZGI student Bianca Luedeker follows a day in the life of 30-year-old teenager Sam (Zach Brutsché) and his new friendship with junkyard zombie Jake (Randy J. Shams). While Sam has a failure to launch, Jake suffers a failure to lunch; ostracized by his fellow flesh eaters for being a vegetarian. Sam has Jake over for dinner with his overbearing mother (Kathleen Cameron) and Jake helps Sam find the guts to stand up to his mean mom. ‘Guest’ is a very entertaining student film made primarily to highlight the prosthetic/gore effects created by Luedeker, talents that became the subject of her (still) very popular mini-doc and film festival favorite “I Want to be Tom Savini”
Final Take – Mom has good taste.
The Human Condition – Alan Williams
This Tucson made movie got a lot of hype during it’s dismally short festival run, yet I didn’t have the opportunity to see it. So when it took the Filmbar screen, I knew exactly what I was watching, but had no idea what to expect. ‘Condition’ uses the same dialog by the same actors in several different scenarios that are all interconnected. I’ve been consistently disappointed by this kind of gimmicky technique in the past, but director Williams not only makes it work, he makes it work frighteningly well. Williams does far more with this short film then ever originally intended, presenting firemen, soldiers and others currently considered national heroes by virtue of their occupation, and presenting them as cold, sinister, cunning and callous individuals. U.S. soldiers fight shoulder to shoulder in the desert and one resorts to fratricide in an effort to return home, seizing the opportunity to steal a dying soldier’s identity and helping to hasten his demise. In another telling vignette, firemen rush into a high-rise building in a staccato, empty intensity; as cold as the concrete and steel they conquer to reach the rooftop. Upon gaining access, they silently stop and wordlessly form a line far behind a woman threatening to jump, coolly looking on while waiting for the negotiator to do his job. Excellent photography adds to the cold and vast distance presented in every sequence, maintaining linear geometry in every shot with collapsing parallel lines and punishing points and edges. As a paramedic himself, director Williams is able to open a window to his soul, while still keeping all of his secrets. An explosive and iconoclastic examination inspired from witnessing first hand, the darkest depths of the human condition.
Final Take – More than human.
Oh No! Espionashhhh! – Marco Polo
From the director of such Arizona underground classics as “The Ghetto Was Never Enough” and “Phantom of the Ghetto” director Marco Polo presents his newest release from the International Crime Jazz Film Collection and filmed in glorious Hyper Color-Noir. ‘Espionage’ opens in black and white, as a gathering of the coolest cats and grooviest gals go-go dance and do the twist in a funky Phoenix flat, splitting this square scene and blasting off for kicksville. So I gave the film 5 stars and put my notebook away. There’s something in there about spies and a plot to destroy the economy with counterfeit money, but why waste your time trying to follow a plot when there’s so much groovy go-go music and go-go dancing going on. The sound is absolutely atrocious, dialog is complete nonsense and the scenes resemble a haphazard collection of the cheesiest, goofiest, craziest super-8 images ever captured. But factor in the awesome go-go music and go-go dancing and it all evens out. The horrible dialog and outrageously horrendous dubbing are only accentuated by absurdly misspelled subtitles and ridiculous sound effects. But there’s also awesome go-go music and go-go dancing, so it’s really no big deal. Color is all over the place while resolution and aspect ratios literally change in the blink of an eye, as scenes from old, low budget 60’s spy movies are boosted right off of YouTube and tossed in whenever necessary (like most of the editing throughout the film). But a large portion of those scenes contain awesome go-go music and go-go dancing, so I’m really just splitting hairs. ‘Oh No! Espionashhh!’ is a hilariously awful and extremely entertaining film made just because; no film festivals or distribution deals or anything to keep it from its colorful creativity, just the desire of director Marco Polo (in the lead role as Johnny Danger) to simply share his favorite music and his favorite styles of filmmaking with everybody, as he and his pals romp through Phoenix and cruise classic cars through Papago Park. Look for performances by a who’s who of Phoenix artists, including indie director Travis Mills, circuit bending musician and classic car voodoo resurrecting wizard Corey Busboom, and a cameo by Phoenix’s “Hip Historian” Marshall Shore as the Clarendon Hotel desk clerk. Excellent go-go/spy/surf soundtrack by Curse of the Pink Hearse.
Final Take – Oh Yes! Go-go dancing!