No year would be complete without an evening of ASU Capstone films. The 2016 ASU Fall Capstone showcase presented by the ASU Film and Media Program (FMP) provided some new and unique perspectives in the ASU student films and certainly a heavy emphasis on stylized filmmaking. Whereas before the Capstones seemed to be lightly interwoven with a prominent theme such as religion, politics or sex; thematically the films were completely independent of each other. Their connection came from their prominent detail in production, with light and color being the order of the day. And not just creative lighting either, but textured, colored light. Exaggerated illumination that exploited the scenery to create mood and direction, splaying shadows into their own sub-plots, minimal glowing walls into calming numinous portals. Anxiety, fear and love in wordless, colorful cogitations.
Your Kimchi Smells Bad – Ryan Farrell
Sun-Yung (Yoojin Han) gives her dad (Yong Tak) a hard time for only eating Korean food and testily demands that they ditch the cuisine from the old country in favor of a more American menu. Pops reminds her of her cultural heritage but ultimately relents. While enjoying lunchtime with a classmate, she finds the container of kimchi that pops lovingly packed for her just as two school bullies show up. The two thugs harass the pair for their putrid portions, so she bails on her lunch mate who takes the full wrath of the ruffians. She returns to confront the cads and with a handful of kimchi, the bullies get a taste of her own medicine. Charming, well shot little film that playfully tackles identity and assimilation. Final Take – Food fight. (Watch it here)
Bimmy’s Game – Vincent Viti IV
Its Bimmy’s (Nick Nobs) birthday and all he wants to do for his 28th is spend the day in the arcade with his best pal Jimmy (Joe Mascort) just like they used to do in the old days. Jimmy is a little reluctant to indulge Bimmy, having already experienced Bimmy’s video game addiction first hand. With their trust funds converted to game tokens, the two embark on Bimmy’s special day. As sure as a Pac Man gobbles a ghost, Bimmy freaks out and it’s up to Jimmy to intervene. No real plot or deep story to develop which seems to be director Viti’s intention, as he has a field day exploring the medium of film, maximizing sound and color into playfully exaggerated manipulations and situations. Final Take – Competitive edge.
Trust In Me – Yagna Madala
At the opening of her first gallery show/fundraiser, tense and nervous Margo (Abigail Acosta) introduces her girlfriend (Taylor Lauson) to her father (Mark Speno) for the first time. She’s prepared for the worst until her girlfriend’s former college roommate arrives at the show and she immediately drives a wedge between the lovers. Margo goes bananas on her sweetheart and all three ladies get downright catty with each other. Meanwhile, pops is actually a-ok with everything, taking the evening in stride and just wanting his little girl to be happy. Conflict is forced and superficial. At times, the interaction of the women seems added for effect. What this film lacks in substance it makes up for in droves with stunning lighting and color garishly exaggerated and powerfully inappropriate. Color and illumination are splayed everywhere in generous portions, creating texture and mood that seductively carries each scene, while the dialog and action merely provide the impetus to journey from one colorful location to another. After faithfully attending the ASU Capstones for the past six years, a filmmaker finally made use of the captivating architecture right outside the door, revealing stark shadows in cool geometric asperity, and parallels that sublimely reveal linear collusions. Final Take – In living color.
Left Or Right – Nathan Matthews
A young man (Cliff Williams) packs his car and says goodbye to his sweetheart (Janae Dunn) to begin his climb up the corporate ladder. Before departing he pauses and reflects on his future, revealed in flash-back and flash-forward; a torrent of cause and effect, choices and consequences, joy and sorrow. Well shot, confidently assembled offering that is not so much a ‘what if’ film, but more of an ‘alternate endings’ style of storytelling. Final Take – On the fence. (Watch it here)
Sad Clown – Andrew Parsi
An unfunny comic (Cody Lecates) bombs big time at the local laugh shop and gets tossed out along with his manager (Joe Mascort). They make a back alley deal with a mysterious stranger (Eric Banks) that gives them the ability to travel through time and warn bored audiences of the dystopian future they will endure if they elect a woman for president. Angry, clownish flick that relies heavily on F-bombs to make it appear raw and edgy. A pseudo political foray that gets it wrong on so many levels. Final Take – Time for new material.
Telling Lizzie – Daniel Neal
After his drunken bachelor party, Johnny (Derek Rushing) awakens next to a strange woman (Rebecca Gambino-Harris). He hastily ditches the sleeping girl and heads to the home of his future in-laws, to meet the family of his fiance (Sara Walton) for the first time. As Johnny tries to find the courage to reveal his infidelity to his beloved, an already awkward situation is amplified by the arrival of his one night stand. Well shot and well acted slow going comedy that offers a humorous new take on 1967’s ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.’ Final Take – Keep it in the family. (Watch it here)
PC’s For Refugees – Ryan Farrell and Lindsey McMenamin
Documentary about computer geeks Abdul Bayazid and Riad Sbai, who have made it their mission to provide refurbished computers to every refugee family in the state of Arizona. Inspiring doc reveals the talents we all possess that can benefit others in need. Final Take – Ubuntu blues. (Watch it here)
The Skeleton God – Derek Rushing
Josiah (D’andrae Atkins) and his little sister Tyler (Asiah Cottingham) are terrified by their abusive father Robert (Alan Johnson) who flips out on the tykes for making too much noise while his jazz band is rehearsing. With the help of their playmates, brother and sister find refuge and strength in their imaginary adventures. Director Rushing crams 10 pounds of potatoes into a 5 pound sack with several potentially interesting characters barely glanced at. Spells of protection are cast and forgotten, twists and new directions vanish into thin air and a series of adventures lead nowhere. Lots of unnecessary dialog precedes the action, which becomes confusing and muddled as the children’s perception of reality begins to blur. Color and lighting are very creative, turning a suburban home into a surreal fantasy land of dark forces and magic. Excellent soundtrack by Ethan Revere Smith. Final Take – Bare bones.
Queen – Fernando Padron
From his Arizona home, Juan (Alaysia Mckenzie) speaks with his mother via telephone in Mexico. She needs money to return to the U.S. and Juan knows just where to get it; by winning the $2,500 prize at the local drag show. Getting the cash proves to be fraught with hazards for Juan, as he encounters his disapproving dad, violent rednecks and catty queens (Piper M’Shay and Khaled Eldesouki). Much like the preceding film, ‘Queen’ has several stories to tell and not enough time to tell them, as the film loosely samples a cartload of topics including: light hearted comedy, the plight of immigrants, bullying, diversity, homophobia and a host of others. ‘Queen’ takes us in several directions, all of which we are prepared to go, yet leaves us stranded after every departure. Top notch photography. Terrific music and performances. Final Take – Queen for a day.
Leap – Michael Finlay Jr.
A dying dad (Randy Messersmith) refuses treatment for his terminal illness in order to protect his daughter Daria (Abigail Acosta) from debt. As his life ebbs away he is confronted with vivid memories from his past; some tender, some violent. Some that reveal his own counterfeit faith; beliefs adopted for his own selfish purposes. Another terrific exploration of the medium of film that relies almost solely on light and color to reveal the director’s intentions, wrapped in a heavily melodramatic story. Just about the closest we got to a theological theme this year. Final Take – Might as well jump.