The ASU Capstone film screenings returned to the Galvin Playhouse on the ASU campus Friday, December 14, 2012. The Film and Media Production (FMP) class of 2012 presented an astounding array of talented filmmaking, brimming with surrealism while still maintaining a balance of dialog driven, narrative films. The class of 2011 provided such an impressive assortment of film styles and techniques that I was fearful it would be little more than a passing fad, and forgotten by the time the next class came around. Not only were my fears unfounded, they were way off the mark, as the class of 2012 provided a banquet of visual feasts, with incredible images, insanely surreal stories and superb cinematic samples of the diversity in filmmaking and the inspiring creativity coming out of the ASU Film and Media program. While still considered one of the relatively newer film programs available in Arizona, the FMP at ASU is already establishing itself as an outstanding and original program offering the resources for creativity focusing on captivating cinematic storytelling and professional, visually astounding productions. Here are the films I saw in the order they were screened.
Someday – Zach Booher (In Memorium)
Tribute presentation of the music video directed by ASU student Zach Booher and featuring his band “While We’re Up” performing their song “Someday.” Booher died in a motor vehicle accident on July 8, 2012 while on tour in Wisconsin. He was 22 years old.
The Gate – Nicholas Mihm
Estranged daughter Alice (Léana Courtney) returns home to be with her dying father (Mitch Etter). While she angrily confronts him for abandoning her years ago, Alice realizes she has never left his thoughts, her memory remaining strong and living vividly through his writing. Very slow moving and heavily melodramatic film with great acting and sound. Stupendous location photography.
Final Take – Grease the hinges.
Our Little Secrets – Jennifer Jordan
A young woman prepares for college while struggling with her own insecurities. She wants to marry her world famous, mega-superstar, Tiger Beat beefcake boyfriend instead.
While her gal pals continue to support her, they also demand some evidence that this relationship really exists. She kicks them out and confides in her dad that all may not be as it seems. Bad photography and bad acting nail the lid on this floundering, would-be tale of obsession and sadness, leaving a deeply involved psychosis presented more like a schoolyard crush.
Final Take – Keep it to yourself.
Lucid Dreams – Jesus Fadel Ramirez
Loony loser Alec (Zach Ragatz) becomes obsessed with harming a local politician (Amy Serafin). His only friend Jack (Brett Green) tries to get him to snap out of it, but Alec has gone beyond the range of rescue and is now crazy as a bag o’ hammers. Painful memories of a traumatic and abusive childhood at the hands of his parents (Steve Marmon and Laura Durant) push him beyond the brink of sanity, forcing a violent showdown. Disturbing film with good acting and excellent, well used ghoul lighting. Presented with Spanish subtitles.
Final Take – Waking terror.
Right Around Sunset – Kristine Morgan
Two adorable, college-age youngsters (Chris Labadie and Carly Marshall) meet in the park and share their interest in philosophy, mainly the writings of Kurt Vonnegut. Love at first sight finds the two frolicking some more, lighting sparklers and eventually taking naps together. He has to return home to care for his sick mother (Julia Malcomb), so they press the pause button on their relationship. In an odd, documentary style insert, his mom tells him too be true to himself and never compromise. After a year of separation, his hiatus honey returns to him, but even a gallon of Kingsford can’t spark these cold embers. Mentioned elsewhere as an extended trailer to a feature length film, the current presentation of ‘Sunset’ offers plenty of idyllic scenes of the romantic couple, but barely hints at the slightest strife. The jagged combination of documentary-style interviews with the narrative story make ‘Sunset’ seem like two completely different films. Good acting and great locations (Indianapolis, Ind.).
Final Take – Darkest just before dawn.
Outside in-Inside out – Patricia Sabio Ramos
A young girl prepares dinner while speaking to her mother’s urn. Her drug addicted, male prostitute brother is summoned to the table and they both reminisce about their mom. Two of his fellow addicts arrive, one ready to score and the other clean and sober after being paroled. The trio leaves little sis behind as they head to a filthy drug house to get high. When big brother o.d’s, little sis tries to alleviate his suffering by purchasing more drugs for him. As he rots before her eyes from disease and addiction, she tragically shares his dreams and nightmares. Hang on for the ride of your life as director Ramos takes you on an emotional, visually stunning journey through addiction, loss and grief. Filmed in Spain with an astounding cast. Presented with English subtitles.
Final Take – Addicting.
Running Still – Tyler Sugg
Water is the enemy, the essence, and the elixir as a man sits alone in his modestly furnished, 70’s style living room while a portrait of the Mona Lisa beckons him. Now the lonely astronaut consumes his protein pack in the dining area, surrounded by simulated wood grain paneling. A flashing triangular beacon above vinyl records summons him to a dream of drowning. He awakens violently, the Mona Lisa leering as the beacon now painfully pulses from his chest. A large metallic sphere rolls at him menacingly, revealing itself as the earth. Earth is a lush forest of redwoods, where a nymph walks gently through crystal clear streams and runs terrified through tangled trees. Standing on the beach, the astronaut now confronts himself, beating his speechless alter ego standing motionless beside him on the shore. ‘Still’ is a film about separation, loneliness and isolation, and provides lots and lots of symbolism. The triangle reappears continuously throughout, representing the essential triad of air, sea and land. Water is the most prominent element, as tears of loneliness flow like a tiny stream through a forest, and roar in the waves of an ocean. The fluid from a fountain pen oozes like the blood of a mocking Mona Lisa, a sneering and cold reminder of the companionship the astronaut longs for the most. This superb minimalist, surrealist, semi sci-fi film incorporates stunning visuals and astounding locations into an exotic and alluring canvas of textures and imagery. Relax and absorb this outstanding, fascinating film.
Final Take – Magic in motion.
Honorless – Jason Mills
From the first frame to the very last, there is some serious head-crackin, face-smackin, sword-whackin, pistol-packin, babe-slappin, chopper-crashin, plaster-blastin and all around butt-whoopin going on in ‘Honorless.’ The thrilling, non-stop, high intensity action is provided by Arizona martial artist Richard O. Ryan, and presented in a weird, purgatory journey through fantasy realms and terrifying realities. Director Mills swears this film was made for a pittance, but one look at the incredible FX and high dollar props will leave you wondering, and definitely wanting more.
Final Take – Scouts honor.
The Low – Derek Smith
As the reprehensible Abraham Sullivan Thomas (Bill Wetherill) is laid to rest, grave robbers Jeb (Kasim Aslam) and Cooper (Ross Gosla) prepare for a night of pilfering. In the dark days of 1800’s cholera, a string is tied to the finger of the deceased, connected to a bell above the grave. While the ghoulish grifters furiously dig in the moonlight, bells gently ring throughout the cemetery, terrifying and tormenting the tenacious thieves. ‘Low’ is a well made, well photographed creepy tale of the old west reminiscent of Rod Serlings “Night Gallery” TV show. Not so much a tale of redemption, but a dark and sinister take on what bad people do with a second chance. Sound design is a little rough, but the essence is as clear as a bell. Acting is strong throughout, with a notable performance by AZ indie regular Steve Briscoe as the caretaker.
Final Take – A cut above.
The Man From The Sky – Trent Burbage
Beat up and beleaguered cubicle crawler is dumped by his girlfriend just as he prepares to propose. He takes off to his cabin in the woods for some alone time and witnesses a UFO crash landing yards away. Out pops a smart aleck, wisecracking E.T. who steals clothes from his reluctant rescuer. After being recalled to work, the lonely loser takes George Jetson with him to the office and discovers his coworkers cowering from the destructive forces of an evil succubus, who also happens to be his ex-girlfriend. The sharp humor and laugh out loud gags are great at first, but fizzle by the time the reluctant hero returns to the office. Great comedic performances. Good FX.
Final Take – Clothes encounters.