It’s officially the evening of DAY 4 of the 30th
FFF, and I’ve already indulged in about half of the films of the Fest in some
fashion, either virtually or butt-down/mask-up style. So … drumroll please… it’s time to roll out
Part ONE of my picks and pans, covering the first four days of the fest. So as not to overwhelm you with endless
opinionated verbiage, I’ll cover some, but not all, of the other offerings. Finally, we’ll play catch-up with noteworthy
films previously omitted here along with a recap of who garnered what award.
And remember, it’s my opinion; you may totally agree
or may believe I’m a total jerk with zero taste whatsoever. I won’t be offended. A fellow critic friend and I almost NEVER
agree on thumbing something up or down, yet we’ve never resorted to fisticuffs,
opting to break bread instead of each other’s chops.
Shorts #1: Hello In There
Just as an FYI, following an established FFF tradition, these shorts are segmented into blocks, and those blocks are named in honor of a
musician who passed away in the 12 months before the fest; in this case, Shorts
#1 honors John Prine who passed away in April 2020 from complications related
to Covid 19.
The short films in this series are David, Marie, Swim To
Steven, Sproutland, Wiggle Room, Five Minutes and Swipe. David stars Will Ferrell and William
Harper Jackson. A therapist (Ferrell) is confronted simultaneously with an
out-of-control son and a tightly wound patient (Jackson). Yes, two big names, but it was Will Ferrell
doing Will Ferrell. And by that I mean
Ferrell being thrown into an extremely awkward situation and trying to maintain
control while visibly melting down. It
went for the guffaws but I didn’t so much as titter. Really disliked the overacting by the son,
who came across as a bratty 10-year-old rather than a H.S. teen. Wiggle Room,
involving an incident at an insurance agency, a captive bunny and a wheelchair-bound
woman looking for some compassion, has earned a Sundance award.
|Swipe, Dir. Anthony Sneed|
Yes, I get the extremely
unsubtle pretext for the woman’s (Deanna Gibson) actions. Escape, freedom, release
and some just desserts. Yet I didn’t feel emotionally vested, so her obvious
glee in the final scene was unfulfilling.
In this program the standout was Anthony Sneed’s Swipe. In a short 5-minutes, the film opens with a shoplifting
dare perpetrated by a group of middle-school boys, and closes with a
humorously karmic turn.
Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street This Spotlight Film, Directed by Marilyn
Agrelo, takes you behind the scenes, before a single Muppet found themselves on
one of the most famous streets in TV Land.
Street Gang provides us with the backstory of how the trio
of Joan Ganz Cooney, Jon Stone and Jim Henson formed a TV powerhouse with one objective:
develop engaging, educational programming for inner-city children. Working with the Carnegie Institute’s Lloyd
Morrisett, they identified the educational disparity as being economic, not racial. Partnering with educators and TV writers,
they formed the Children’s Television Workshop, whose backbone go-to was Never
Talk Down To Kids. I can tell you
from personal experience that, decades later, the idea behind Linda
Ellerbee’s Nick News was spawned from an identical font.
|Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street, Dir. Marilyn Agrelo|
Street Gang’s audience, similarly to Won’t
You Be My Neighbor, is anyone who grew up with Bert & Ernie readily
available on their PBS station … which, btw, wasn’t mainstream prior to Sesame
Street. The ‘Street’, whose name is
attributed Henson, is where everything happens.
Like any other street, this Street was first filled with only bi-peds;
the CTW staffers soon learned that the big draws for the kids were the ones
with bits of fluff. They’d listen to
Maria and Mr. Hooper, but they embraced and learned from Kermit.
Watching the puppet masters work their magic from beneath
the scenes was entertainingly disconcerting, a bit like seeing Disney street characters
walking around with their heads off. The
clips of celebrities from stage & screen will knock your socks off. And the memorable musical anecdotes are
themselves worth the price of admission.
Street Gang is charming and engaging, opening the door into the
world of our collective childhoods.
Everything In The End Writer/Director Mylissa
Fitzsimmons feature debut falls into the Competition Narrative Feature
category. This highly existential film about
the end of the world as we know it has beautiful Icelandic mountains, lovely
images of water, wind and cows, lots of cows, who are unconcerned that the end
is nigh. Apparently, we have DONE
SOMETHING to generate our own demise.
I’m guessing global warming rather than pandemic. For those on screen, the waiting is the
hardest part. Per the post-film QnA, the
crew of six shot the film in nine days. Except
for star Hugo De Sousa (Paolo), every actor came to the set for only one
day. There are three languages spoken –
English, Icelandic and Portuguese, with subtitles omitted to help you identify
with the “lost”- ness of the characters.
The characters themselves are representative of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’
five stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and
Acceptance. We follow Paolo through his
DABDA journey. By the time the big
reveal happened, I personally wished the end had come 45 minutes sooner.
Midnight Shorts Sometimes I catch these, sometimes I
don’t. This time around, it should have
been a don’t. Just not my cuppa. It’s not the content, primarily sex or
violence, animated or live, or a combination of all four. I Just Don’t Get It. So maybe it’s not you and it’s me. I did enjoy one offering in the bunch, David
Mikalson’s 14 minute STUCK.
I think for fans of Florida’s alleged underage sex scandal team of
Gaetz-Goldstein, watching this film should be required viewing.
The Truffle Hunters My disappointment in this Food Film goes back to
my opinion about what makes a good documentary. Engagement and education. So was I engaged? Somewhat.
Was I educated? Not enough. Perhaps I was expecting to learn more about
truffles, and not so much about the men and dogs who excavate and market the
fungi. Filmed in Northern Italy’s Piedmont
valley, this semi-documentary takes you into the hills and homes of the
mushroom men, and deeply explores the relationship they have with their
Since the best specimens are found
underground, a dog’s nose is the key to finding the fungi. The
competition is fierce because the
production is extremely limited. Dogs
are poisoned by rival hunters. Fungi
deemed unmarketable are sold in back alleys. But what does one taste like? No idea.
Are they prized simply because there are now so few? Would any other large mushroom be just as
palatable? No idea. Why do I call this a
semi-documentary? Because many of the
scenes and conversations are obviously pre-set, which disturbs my opinion of
what makes a doc a true doc, though the doggie-cam shots were a nice touch. Do
I still want to someday visit Bel Paese?
Certamente! Can I recommend The
Truffle Hunters? Fa mezzo.
|The Truffle Hunters, Dir. Michael Dweck|
& Gregory Kershaw
|The Catch, Dir. Matthew Ya-Hsiung Balzer|
The Catch Competition Narrative Feature Money
is tight in this Maine fishing village.
Beth McManus (Katia Winter), the daughter of Tom (Bill Sage), the
villages’ top lobsterman, has returned home after being gone for five
years. And she’s pregnant. Her dad is still trying to control her every
move. But there are bigger, more
nefarious forces working against the McManus family. Someone is stealing the family’s daily lobster catch,
a conglomerate is trying to horn-in on these family fishermen in New England and drugs have
worked their way into this tight, working-class community.
It does have all the makings of an old
Western, and, in fact, that is exactly how Director/Writer Matthew Ya-Hsiung
Balzer envisioned his film, as a ‘Western-on-the water’. The Catch is a tasty chowder,
combining actual events and personal stories of the area’s residents with an
enjoyable, artistic flair. There are
secrets and sellouts. Will the McManus
family be able to get out from under, when they don’t even know who’s responsible
for the on-going theft? The bonds of
family and friendship will be tested as the net tightens. There are a number of red herrings in this
fishing tale, some of it shot in low-light situations. When asked if the on-screen darkness was
intentional, we were told it was. Not
only does it reflect the actual visibility of the fishermen, but it also
represents looking through the murk and trying to dislodge the slimy rot hiding
in the silt.
Lisa Blanck is the Associate
Editor for In Focus Magazine. She's been a News Editor at NBC affiliate
WESH2 in Orlando for more than a decade. She was formerly with WKMG6 for 14
years as a News Editor. She spent nine years in advertising, marketing,
promotions and live special events at Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite and MTV
Networks. She also worked as an on-air host for local cable access programs.
Lisa has covered the Florida Film Festival for the past 29 years as well as the
World Peace Film Festival. She was a columnist for Lady Freethinker,
ShelterMe.tv and Examiner.com. She has been a columnist for the Focus In
Newspaper and now for In Focus Magazine.
Lisa Blanck can be reached
at: [email protected]