Indie Spirit & Commercial Predilection: Dances With Films 2011 – Feature

Within the continuing structure of everything festival, Dances With Films has carved out a nice niche not placating to any thought of what independent should be. Instead they motivate themselves behind the best films that dictate a sense of individuality.

The first intention got the instinct right in the melding of a simple story of friends who got lost along the way. Within “Ten Years Later“, while many of the cast speaks to certain idiosyncrasies of humanity along the way, two specific performances stand out. One relishes in the idea of Jake Hoffman as a man who loses his way but ultimately comes to terms with who he is. The performance has a distinct organic feeling to it, not unlike his father but also all his own. The stand out that balances his brooding timeliness is Rachel Boston who is slowly but surely building her resume with a luscious cross-section of parts. There is something undeniable and correct about her with a wisp of edginess. Her character could become a caricature but she fills it with a distinct amount of reality that allows it to flourish. Written and directed by Aaron Metchik, the film shows a steadiness which, while not overwhelming, delivers in its coming of age blending humor and nostalgia with a sense of narrative.

Playing the heavy hand sometimes can provide undeniable drama but that depends where faith lies in the equation. With “Wake” the narrative revolves around a skater trying to do that major jump to impress the sponsors. In today’s saturation, this ability seems in accordance with a pipe dream. However when a high flying stunt leaves the lead character paralyzed, the road to recovery becomes a hard one. With seemingly no family, it is his girlfriend’s grandmother that sees a notion of faith in him. Ultimately, the story wants to be a miraculous one, full of healing, but the exact structure was recently played in the same texture with “Sympathy For Delicious” against a much more lurid backdrop. Despite some surefire authenticity and great skating sequences, the breathe of the intention falls short.

The idea of the bachelor stage tries to play to fruition with “Stags“, a would-be comedy about a group of men in NY chasing their dream of maintaining their independence while finding the girl that is right for them. The cross-section of the men shown creates too much talking about the subject though many of the situations including the wedding reprisals, sitting in the bar and erstwhile but failed experiences play well but ultimately trite. The persuasion or endgame is predetermined but doesn’t offer a really necessary progression. The film itself is a rumination of what it is to be a man in the big city without anyone truly knowing or caring who you are.

Heading into the midnight slot fest “The Millenium Bug” does intentionally what it really wants to do: create that straight to video create feature with a little bit of sex. Unlike “House Of 1000 Corpses” mixed with “Nothing But Trouble”, the true star is some of flagrant special effects which, while interesting, are completely overblown compared to say “Monsters” which knew to play up its possibilities just enough. The crux at the center of this story is a couple who ends up being taken hostage by a family of crazies who want to simply breed and kill. Halfway through, one gives up with an actual story and hopes for at least a decently climax scene which eventually finds it way but with less cohesion than a box of Cheerios.

As an afternoon romp, “Sweet Little Lies” is another coming-of-age tale though this one is of a girl searching for her father while child services tracks her down. The road trip narrative of the script which is balanced with some interesting interplays shot on the odd side of Vegas works simply because the lead actor, a drifter who just happens to cross paths with this kid, has some texture and depth to him. Like “Saint John Of Las Vegas”, our anti-hero here is a man who hasn’t found his place and is struggling to get by simply by cheating and stealing. His redemption isn’t so much one of possibility as it is just being who is and allowing his heart to show through once in a while

Looking at a movie from different structure sides provides an interesting story structure. Seeing only one perspective and half of another allows the viewer to progress with what the movie is providing and not necessarily its intention. “Scalene” is a movie about tragedy and murder as approached from three different sides. The female point of view as shown provides quick a hard lined intention which is extremely dramatic, well thought out and executed for this style of independent film. Conscience and the notion of right it seems is all coerced within the eyes of the beholder but the end result here is assured with a very steady hand.

Having made one of their weird trippy make-out movies seems to be the idea behind “Night Of The Alien” but its quirkiness is too mired in its own wanna-be cleverness to truly make a mark but the impact of certain high structures makes it definitely amusing. The central character of Fran is seemingly uninteresting while the Lord Of Evil & Darkness has possibility in him but never quite attacks his character with a ferocity he so desperately needs. Lucky inside the band headquarters has the quirkiness to make some really inventive quips. However the one that seems to deserve a movie of his own as a paranoid schizophrenic is Danny. The actors seems to truly get the modulation which makes his switch between reality and a dream state both interesting and poignant. The narrative itself relies on an almost “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” motif about saving the world with a band which comes off more disparate than when the first movie introduced the idea of it.

In making a comparison of the degradation of life between the ultra rich trying to be normal and the normal wanting to be rich, there tends to be a production of cross pollination where creatives need to figure business and the money people want to be creative. While different moments of “Trophy Kids” paint a convincing argument about the race to become what you think you are, its resolution veers a little too off base. It wants to pretend that the idea of existence is simply a matter of will, while it is simply a series of luck and coincidences that either work out or don’t depending on a certain place within the universe. The use of a writer as a plot ploy to an eventual enlightenment by trying to become the person he is writing about only to fail and resurrect in making his benefactor notice what is right in front of him is novel at times but also quite formulaic.

When approaching the notions of loneliness against what might be consider bad judgment, “Days Together” takes the idea wrapped in a shade of forgiveness despite best intentions. The specific structure of modern life takes a little too much of a wistful yet comber downturn as the lead character tries to re-establish her life and become something more, until she figures out that she is who she is going to be and nothing more.

The intention of “Close Up” follows “Day Together” and its ideals from the reverse angle bringing the notion of a man who has lost everything. The plot device of being an actor as in other indie films is overused since that is the life experience of many of the creators. The progression of hitting rock bottom and not being able to breathe always balances itself in the form of a muse. While the performances reflect melodramatic, the ending climax set during the actual Times Square New Year’s Eve Event in NYC shows the inherent use of the Canon 5D at capturing great images within a very confined space and making it feel cinematic, despite showing a necessary gap in security.

Hitting the other end of the spectrum with “The Pill” which understands its subject with genuine irony but a sarcastic sensibility, Rachel Boston, seen earlier in the festival in “Ten Days Later” shows her range playing a girl who unnerves a guy she likes only to find out he is involved elsewhere. Noah Bean as the man trying to figure out how to work what he just did brings the right balance of bewilderment and honesty (as much as he can) to the role while Anna Chlumsky (best known for the 90s nostalgia piece “My Girl”) shows her grown up element bringing about comparisons to Anna Paquin with the same amount of talent resting in tandem. As the dialogue, which spikes nicely, fans the flame, all the performances keep pace without overstepping the line in one direction or becoming too schmaltzy in the other.

Establishing the horror context while balancing psychology and supernatural elements, “The Corridor” works better than other genre entries in the festival because it knows that tension needs to be built. Using a secluded space (ala “The Shining” or “Cabin Fever”) sets the pace but the strength resides in establishing the host of characters which plays closer to “Dreamcatcher” than anything else so there are stakes to be lost when everything eventually turns sideways. The resolution is nothing if not treacherous but in understanding the journey of the film, the filmmakers, who shot in their native Nova Scotia, understand the underlying primality of mankind.

Dances With Films works in many ways within a crowded festival structure because it doesn’t overdo its cause and cater to too many mouths. It simply searches for the truly independent films it likes and doesn’t compromise on its selection or distinction. It simply lets them be.