The Florida Film Festival did not pay or ask me to write this post. I am writing about it to promote the festival and spread the word on Florida’s entertainment culture, which, contrary to popular belief, isn’t just police dash cams of people setting things on fire or news stories chronicling the adventures of Florida Man and Florida Woman.
Regrettably I wasn’t able to see as many films this year as I would have liked, but I still got out a couple of times. It was nice just being out among other filmgoers and seeing all the hullabaloo of people standing in lines at an event.
Well, here we go!
Crush the Skull (2016)
From the movie description on the FFF2016 website:
This hilarious, suspenseful, manic, comic horror-thriller follows robbers Ollie (Chris Dinh) and Blair (Katie Savoy) on their last heist with Blair’s slacker brother Connor (Chris Riedell, Fruitvale Station) and his one-man “crew” Riley (the extremely funny Tim Chiou, Crossing Over). When this dysfunctional gang breaks into a house that is impossible to escape, they soon discover it’s the lair of a sadistic serial killer—equipped with thick single-paned windows, un-openable doors, and a basement murder room with moving walls. What ensues is a quirky game of cat-and-mouse as the crew wanders deeper into the demented den of horrors. Viet Nguyen’s bone-chillingly good-time CRUSH THE SKULL began as two short films that played FFF in 2013: “Crush the Skull” and “Things You Don’t Joke About.” It is genre-bending fun that’s tense, well-paced, and legitimately frightening.
I was really excited about this one. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I found it lacking something – it just never came together in that perfect way some movies do. Chris Dinh definitely has leading man charisma, and Tim Chiou’s comedy timing is great, but the writing wasn’t as sharp as it could have been. “Trapped in a Psycho’s Puzzle House” is now a genre of its own, and while Crush the Skull is definitely a fun entry with some great performances and a strong start, it ultimately didn’t break any new ground. I’d say 3 out of 5 stars, but only because I’m comparing it to such classics as The People Under the Stairs and Housebound. It certainly wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t that great.
Animated Shorts Collection
The animated shorts collection is always a mixed bag, but this year I found a LOT to like. I’ll do a short description of my favorites.
All Your Favorite Shows (3 out of 5)
A kid addicted to the escape of watching movies through his cell phone can’t accept reality. As he goes through his daily life, flashes of scenes from famous films and television shows illustrate how he orients to real life – sometimes with disastrous consequences.
Panic Attack (3 out of 5)
Humorous depiction of living with anxiety. Much funnier than it sounds!
T.P. (4 out of 5)
THIS one – this was a stop-motion short about the life of a roll of toilet paper. The roll starts out young and fresh, hanging next to a roll that has but a few shreds of white paper left, forming an old-timer’s face with an eyepatch and beard. The old roll tells the youngster about the beautiful white light, entreating him to escape and live his life free of the daily humiliation of being used until he’s used up. Some light gross-out humor means we’ll never see this in a Pixar movie, but it was actually delightful in the long run, and got a lot of laughs in the theater.
Tales of Mere Existence (3 out of 5)
Series of sketched vignettes depicting the foibles of daily life. I enjoyed the low-key pacing and sardonic humor of this one. Rather than being truly animated at times, it looked as if the artist was filmed while drawing on the back of the paper.
Borrowed Time (4 out of 5)
A lavish CG production about a cowboy’s regrets concerning his father’s accidental death, and the role he played in that death. This was a beautiful short about redemption and forgiving one’s self. I’ve seen some shorts powerful enough to make me cry and alas, this one didn’t, but it was still a wonderful, well-visioned journey.
Loneliest Stoplight (5 out of 5)
A new highway gently pushes a stoplight with a long career into obscurity, until a massive accident gives him a moment to shine and he receives the appreciation he is owed. With art by Bill Plympton and voicework by Patton Oswalt, this was one of my favorites of the festival.
Pure Concentricity (4 out of 5)
Stop-motion photos of staged images in nature. It had a bit of an Andy Goldsworthy vibe, with naked people. Folks in the audience expressed concern at the naked man traveling facedown through the desert and whether he was all scraped up and sunburned after.
Welcome to My Life (5 out of 5)
This one has Pixar written all over it, in a good way. A Japanese monster must deal with the prejudice of his peers and high expectations from his parents in high school. A treasure from start to finish!
So that was my film festival experience. I could have seen more films but I was a dirtbag and saw Disney’s The Jungle Book (WONDERFUL) and I am intending to do an Apples and Oranges comparison to the original animated version later this week. I hope you enjoyed reading, and as always, have a good week!