Contrary to the contentions of those who insist film critics must be frustrated wannabe filmmakers, I have never had the slightest interest in making my own movie. I have too much respect for the art and craft to subject the world to whatever piece of crap I might churn out.
The Salt Lake Film Society's Open Mic Night at the Tower Theatre provides an outlet for local folk who, unlike me, actually think they can put one of these crazy movin' picture shows together. For last night's installment, I was invited to serve as guest judge for the two-hour collection of 14 shorts programmed on a first-come, first-served basis. And there's some talent out there, kids.
Several of the shorts were the product of this month's 48 Hour Film Project, in which filmmakers were given a group of requirements arond which to organize a short film in two days. That led to the disorienting experience of watching multiple films in which a character named "Jacob Simon" appeared, or someone uttered the line, "Just wait and see." But it also led to my personal favorite, Sohrab Mirmontazeri's insinuating Western titled, appropriately enough, Western. It consisted almost entirely of two cowboys exchanging terse words, interrupted periodically by a saloon girl, but I was caught off guard by the tension in both the performances and the compositions.
Even without the 48 Hour Film Project requirements, there were some odd thematic threads running through the evening. Impending apocalypse and/or epidemic informed John Schwarz and Shane Smith's XY Fail, Joe Amici's Untitled and Jimmy Martin's L'espoin. Sprays of blood decorated Tyler Ford's Murder Pussy, Chali's El Guerrero Villa and XY Fail. And reparative "gay-cure" therapy appeared in both serious (the documentary Testimony) and comic (Murder Pussy) forms.
But perhaps the biggest surprises came not so much with what appeared on screen, but who appeared on screen. Derek Westerman's Brief Nudity Required -- a goofy collection of screen tests for tasteless non-existent films, including JonBenet Ramsay and O.J. Simpson bio-pics -- featured Juno's Michael Cera as one of the screen-testers. And City Weekly contributor Ryan Bradford turned up in Andy Bauman's Shark Jump, in which two pals engage in various innuendo-laden activities during a power failure. Thanks for that image, Ryan. If I avert my eyes next time you pass through the office, you'll know why. (Scott Renshaw)