The May Arizona Filmmaker Showcase presented three films that had previously screened at the Phoenix Film Festival in April, along with two other films that were screened only the night before at the Short Shorts with Short Leash outdoor film festival.

The Amazing Mortimer – Directed by Phil Wilson
Old ventriloquist Mortimer (Greg Joseph) entertains an audience of about 3 people with an act as stale as Halloween Matzos. Little Thomas (Zander Nolte), the clumsy, abused nephew of the theatre owner has to tell Mortimer to gather up his stuff and kick rocks. Mortimer doesn’t take the news very well, especially since he’s living in his dressing room(?) and flips out on Thomas. They make up and Mortimer bestows his mystical powers of stupefaction on Thomas. The first student film to come out of the new Huntington University Arizona Center for Digital Media Arts. Difficult to stay tuned in, especially when exteriors of an old vaudeville club are shown, and cut to brand spanking new building interiors where ancient Mortimer has lived for the past several years(???). Saccharine tale meanders into a Mean Joe Greene jersey-toss finale. Final Take – Wooden.

Contentment – Directed by Alexandria Rizik
Young Scout (played by director Rizick) dons the open mic and reveals her thoughts on the true meaning of contentment, reflecting upon the two relationships in her life that have led up to this moment. In a series of flashbacks, she remembers the drunken party where she first met Brian (Tyler Burke) and how she desperately groped for a bottle of wine that was just out of reach until her handsome hero arrived. Gobsmacked by Brian’s masculine presence, she holds his red plastic cup-o-hooch while he retrieves the vino for the thirsty damsel. With a gleam in her eye she unscrews the cap and downs the booze like it was maple syrup and her mouth was a stack of pancakes. As her memories course through saturated synapses, Scout continues on; to a table full of empty wine glasses and a legibly scrawled love note, to the feculent tenderness of their first ethanol-enhanced kiss. A bad break up leaves Scout abandoned and Brian operating a motor vehicle; his meager belongings beside him on the passenger seat. Sitting alone in her favorite watering hole/art gallery, the now single Scout is approached by handsome Miles (Farrell Roland) who promises her happiness, contentment and free beer. They howdy-do and chug-a-lug a pitcher apiece, and as their relationship blossoms, Scout is flooded with memories of conspicuous consumption with Brian and conflicted by the torch she still carries for the loveable sod. ‘Contentment’ is another one of those jacked up short films that pretends to tell one story while subtly screaming another. It is easy to see why this film is a festival favorite; filled with rich and exquisite photography, a lyrical, dreamy pace and the sappily sagacious denouement of the main character. Viewed strictly within the relaxed, superficial languor cleverly constructed by the director, the film is every bit the somber, sober assessment of happiness vs contentment that the director manipulates. But it is the films glaring, almost alarming prevarication that creates its perverse attraction and morbid allure. Director Rizik wishes to placate us with the life lesson learned by the protagonist; a lesson that clearly has nothing to do with substance abuse, forcing us to pretend to ignore the rapid recap of her memories; all involving alcohol consumption. Rizik gives every assurance that this film is not simply one of those classic cry for help type deals, and that the constant flow of booze depicted in her film is merely a prop, a background, a casual coincidence. An aside. The elephant in this room is cumbersome, ugly and fatally overconfident. A negative distraction that is impossible to ignore, robbing this film of it’s real beauty and replacing it with a desperate manifesto. Final take – Complacent.

Legacy – Directed by Ryan Henry Johnson
The year: 2166. The place: the barren wasteland of decimated planet earth. Sole survivor Kale (Ryan Tree) battles creatures and belts out a tune in front of old planes. Sexy V (Aria Song) drops out of the clear blue sky and starts a nuclear countdown on her arm. The two race across the desert and battle lizardy space creatures in order for the bomb to be um, dis-armed(?). Directed by Ryan Henry Johnson, ‘Legacy’ is a frustrating, bloated, hifalutin presentation that can’t decide if it’s a music video or a monster movie. Neato FX. Final Take – Looney tunes.

Path Of A Luthier – Directed by Cliff Sarde
Well shot tranquil doc about the only guitar making school in North America; The Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery. The school was founded right here in Phoenix in 1975 and is located on Grand Ave. Several students and instructors are interviewed as they relate what the school has meant to them, both as instructors and as graduates. ‘Luthier’ doesn’t really know when to end, as stories are revealed, concluded and then recapped by the same person, followed by still images of their work that look like magazine ads. The Arizona connection is disappointingly minimized. Final Take – B natural.

L.A.S.E.R. Pen – Directed by David Miller and Tyler Riggs
Super spy Jasper Hollins (Chris Ryan) is captured by the bungling henchmen of his arch nemesis and has to do some fast talking to escape this sticky situation. Funny and clever IFP Challenge film that picks up the pace and is consistently entertaining. Great performances by Gary Herkimer and Baron Dixon. Final Take – The write stuff.