The ASU Fall 2017 Senior Film Showcase took place on December 2, 2017 and featured twelve examples of student work from the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theater that included a music video and two demo reels. After enduring the Spring 2017 Senior Capstone films way back in May, I had considered skipping the screenings altogether, but I didn’t want to end a tradition that I had kept for over six years, finding it best to simply disregard the previous semesters offerings and move forward. The Fall capstone screening was severely under-promoted and seemed like an almost secret affair; easily slipping under my radar with only one announcement buried deep in the internet and coming out only the day before the screenings. With the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theater having recently teamed up with Sun Studios that year, optimism was at its peak as this new creative partnership would help to fill in the production gaps that had been plaguing the ASU student films in recent years. This was not the case. While the films certainly look and sound better, the stick remains firmly thrust full forward and the films continue to nosedive into the nescient wreckage of mediocrity. Here are the films I saw in the order they were screened.
As Seen On TV – Charles Sterling III
Unable to feel pain, Samson (Miloh England) roams the streets of the city wearing a ski mask and a leather jacket, fighting crime and beating up bad guys. When he’s not doing that, he washes his superhero clothes at the local laundromat where he meets the kind hearted yet physically abused Camilla (Rachael Anderson). Samson falls for the sudsy siren and surprises her with flowers one night, discovering the extent of her injurious relationship. He follows her home and attacks her boyfriend. For all of Samson’s displays of heroism, Camilla shuts him down superhero style, so he adds ‘Love’ to his list of ‘Things That Hurt,’ a list that includes hot irons and ‘no good t.v. shows.’ Bad acting and a dragging pace. Good photography and soundtrack.
Final Take – Channel changer.
Black Girl Magic – Moriah McDaniel
McDaniel belts out a tone deaf tune by the freeway in a stunning gold wrap while glitter-bombing passerby.
Final Take – Vanishing act.
Sis – Vimani Baxter
Lisa (Sara Walton) is roommates with her younger sister Marla (Melissa Warren) and Marla’s boyfriend Beau (James Ponte). Predictably, the unemployed Lisa and Beau are gettin’ it on while poor Marla is at work. The tension in the house sort of builds creating an atmosphere you could maybe kind of cut with a dull knife if you were so inclined. Possibly wracked with a guilt-like feeling, Lisa corners Beau and demands that he come clean to her sister about their affair (????). Instead, the girls go out drinking and address the men at the bar with disparaging comments. Back home and hung-over, Marla finally figures it all out and confronts the pair. Lisa is pretty gosh darned sure they did not have sex per se, and seems to invoke a modified version of the two-thrust rule. Marla kicks Lisa out and Beau finds her at the bus stop, so he can give her a picture he drew of her (????). Lisa returns and apologizes to Marla for maybe possibly boinking her boyfriend sort-of. They sit on the couch together and awkwardly reconcile. A few clever comedic inserts garner some laugh out loud moments, but aren’t enough to make this can of compressed air into a remotely engaging film.
Final Take – Family anti-matters.
The Fame – Caden DePietro
Drunken rock guitarist and party animal Cooper (Colton Koesser) encourages his already out of control house party to get even crazier. His bandmates Matt (Caden DePietro) and Dusty (Dusty Woods) angrily pull him aside and remind Cooper that they are playing the most important gig of their life tomorrow, so it’s time to call it a night. Cooper pshaws the advice and returns to the party, but not before Matt warns him: Screw this up and you’re dead to us. The next morning Cooper awakens to the realization that yup, he missed his gig. He then descends into a groovy, trippy psychedelic guilt-themed nightmare, filled with (intentional?) biblical imagery. Amid weird lights in his house, Cooper sees himself burning in hell and is attacked by a serpent in his kitchen. His bandmates appear clad in black, and angry vengeful nightmare Matt attacks Cooper and plunges him into the swimming pool, paving the way for some nifty underwater photography. This film is all about exploring the textures of light and color and has a field day with some very well used practical FX. The bad dialog (F-word in five different inflections, basically) and required student elements prevent this film from casting the bonds of convention and losing itself in a truly bold, experimental journey of film expression.
Final Take – The fan forgotten.
Reset – Heeyoon Nam
Young Gabrielle (Gabrielle Hyland) awakens alone in the Hotel San Carlos with no memory of how she wound up there. In her room is a bunch of stuff including stacks of money, a passport, an Arizona drivers license, three pieces of paper with cryptic notes, cigarettes (she never smoked!), a valentine card saying ‘please be mine,’ these are some of the things she left behind. Sorry, channeling some groovy 80’s suburban soul instead. Gabrielle has a bunch of flashbacks and records a video journal on her new camera to figure who she is. Some bad guys arrive at her hotel and later, someone slips a note under her door inviting her to a hotel room in South Korea where she’ll get all the answers she’s looking for. She jets to South Korea (really, South Korea!) and keeps her appointment where she’s informed by a top-secret Korean soldier (director Heeyoon Nam) that she’s actually a test subject for ‘Project Reset’ because spies blah blah blah North Korea blah blah blah secret experiments yadda yadda yadda assassin’s and so on. Another student project wholly undertaken as if the director had been lured by the bright lights and glitter of Amazon Prime, creating a bloated, pretentious tale rife with bad acting, a boring plot and some really nifty locations. You can watch the film here.
Final Take – Jet lag.
A Short Film About Sex – D.J. Birch
Red (Arizona Blue Johnston) looks at a pornographic drawing on his phone and is invited to a drunken party by his beanie wearing bro Kevin (Michael Scott). Freewheeling Kelsey (Abigail Garlow) arrives at the same party and proceeds to get stoopid wasted. She hooks up with Red and they awaken in bed together and experience their customary awkward morning after moment. Later, Red confides to Kevin that he can’t recall if he climaxed or not. More specifically; if it required a post-coital wash down or could be easily handled by the laundry room. Back at Kelsey’s place, her roommates are wondering the same thing when they find Kelsey sacked out on the couch and a used condom in the sink. Turns out, every time Red and Kelsey get it on, they both black out and can’t remember anything afterwards. They seek medical advice (both the degreed and the quackery kind) before deciding to put their hormones on ice for a while and do friend stuff instead. Performances are good and the comedic timing is excellent. Shot in a distinctly 80’s screwball comedy style (even the titles look like the opening to “Better Off Dead”), ‘Sex’ offers a fun and quirky comedy that provides plenty of raunch humor without having to completely rely on it, allowing the intentional stylistic look to fill in with clever sight gags.
Final Take – Choad The Wet Socket.
Miss You – Quinlan Donovan-Schager
A man and a woman sit alone in their rooms respectively as each yearns for the other. Her lover cast to the left of the screen in blue while she remains to the right in light. They each play records and dance alone; first a little safety dance, then some ballet, and they finish together with a fantasy waltz. Charming little film that utters not one single word, and therefore always scores really high in my book.
Final Take – Together in spirit.
Express – Hansen Yang
Completely inept Zhang (Mo Yang) gets a job as a courier in the big city (Beijing?) and proceeds to screw everything up by embarrassing customers, damaging packages and being late on his deliveries. No story or anything really going on, just a day in the life of an incompetent delivery guy. Good photography and strong performances somehow make this short and simple film very engaging. Subtitled in English.
Final Take – Delivered on time.
Go Fetch – Zane Berry
Following a bad break up, photographer Tom (Reyce Carrasco) is left with only his camera and his loyal canine companion Faxon (River). Tom spends more time focusing on his photography and less time playing with his adorable pooch, until poor Faxon meets an untimely end and Tom is left all alone. Each night Tom dreams of doggie heaven where he and Faxon frolic again, and Tom tries to take the camera shy pups picture. When he awakens, blurry images of Faxon appear in Toms camera. Tom forces himself asleep every night to try to capture a clear image of his ghost dog, before he realizes his reality exists unfiltered and outside the lens. Well photographed, well acted light hearted and charming tale of mans best friend, life and loss.
Final Take – Paws for reflection.