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Y9 CAYOM Film Festival - Submissions now open

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This Christmas, three wise men (@4815162342, @Alpha, and @cookie) will descend upon the town of Betlehem the world of CAYOM, but instead of bringing three gifts to baby Jesus, they will bring the hammer down on your wannabe Oscar bait.

 

Last year, two entries went on to be nominated for Best Picture (Learning to Care and Sandboy), and one entry went on to be White Wyvern. Can the magic be repeated, or are we in for a whole lump of coal (i.e. a bunch of mediocre offerings) this year? Only time will tell.

 

Here are the official rules for the festival agreed upon by all the participants. Some changes have been made from last year in regards to budget as such.

 

  • The new In-Competition Budget Limit is $35 Million
  • The new OOC (Out of Competition) Budget Limit is $75 Million
  • Public Submission for the Film Festival begins today and lasts for 5 weeks until December 6th. One film may be submitted in-competition and one film out-of-competition. Judges can only submit a single film out of competition. There will be a separate discussion/announcement thread run by the judges too.
  • AMENDED 11/17: SUBMISSIONS ARE FINAL. Once your film is submitted, you're not allowed to remove your submission, nor replace it with another film. Doing so will disqualify you and your film(s) from the category.
  • Once submissions close following the 6th, the judges will internally set up a schedule for reading all of the submitting films, in whatever order they agree upon, so the judges read the same films at the same time. The judges will write their reviews of each film and circulate them with each other (via a PM thread/Telegram chat) so that one of the judges can post all of the reviews simultaneously.
  • While non-judges are able to read the films, ALL NON-JUDGE REVIEWS/REACTIONS ARE EMBARGOED UNTIL THE JUDGES REVIEW THE PARTICULAR FILM!!!! The discussion thread prior to judge reviews can be used for more general, non-spoiler/non-reaction talk about the festival.
  • Following the finishing of Judge Reviews, the Judges internally confer, and vote on the following categories: Best Film, Best Director, Best Acting Performance (no division by Gender or Lead/Supporting), Best Screenplay (no division between original/adapted). The winner and runner-up will be publicly announced for each category

 

A list of In Competition and OOC Films will be featured in this post and updated at regular intervals.

 

 

In Competition

The Next Good Day (dir. Tom McCarthy, @MCKillswitch123)

Bikini (dir. Kelly Reichardt, @SLAM!)

Shadow of the Comet (dir. Harold Kingsley, @El Squibbonator)

 

 

Out of Competition

Death is Not My Friend (dir. Emily Harris, @MCKillswitch123)

Go-Kart Gottlieb (dir. Tom Tykwer, @SLAM!)

Edited by cookie
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Screening Out-of-Competition:

 

DEATH

IS NOT MY

F R I E N D

 

VERY LOOSELY Based On: A life of deaths CW: Death, by u/MetallicMintGreen from Reddit

 

Studio: Phoenix Fire Entertainment

Genre: Surrealist Drama

Rating: PG-13 for language, thematic material and sexual content

Format: 2D

Budget: $25 million

Runtime: 125 minutes (2 hours and 5 minutes)

 

Director: Emily Harris

Producers: Emily Precious, Lizzy Brown

Screenplay: Emily Harris

Cinematography: Ewan Mulligan

Score: Paul Clark

 

Cast:

- Hannah Rae as Sasha (teen/young adult)

- Olivia Thirlby as Sasha (adult)

- Natalia Dyer as Tara

- Moisés Arias as Aiden

- with Naomi Watts as Michelle

- with Liam Neeson as Darren

- and James Jude Courtney as the black robed figure

 

Plot Summary: After experiencing trauma early in her life, Sasha begins having visions of a dark creature, whose intentions are unknown.

 

Plot (~7.8k words):

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xKOQRcyL-wwKGse0ZuLOgGkfy3HLU4hqGGjohmaO6hI/edit?usp=sharing

Edited by MCKillswitch123
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Screening In-Competition:

 

THE NEXT GOOD DAY

 

Based On: The Next Good Day, by Oliver Bisky (on Reedsy)

 

Studio: Phoenix Fire Entertainment, Anonymous Content

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 for thematic material involving suicide, and language

Format: 2D

Budget: $15 million

Runtime: 106 minutes (1 hour and 46 minutes)

 

Director: Tom McCarthy

Producers: Steve Golin, Tom McCarthy, Jonathan King, Liza Chasin

Screenplay: Tom McCarthy

Cinematography: Masanobu Takayanagi

Music: Mychael Danna

 

Cast:

- Devin Druid as Levi

- Kirsten Dunst as Dr. Jan Delaney

- Katelyn Nacon as Leah

 

Plot Summary: Dr. Jan Delaney buys a piano to have Levi interact with it. As days of therapy go by, Levi's past becomes clearer.

 

Plot (4.9k words):

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G7roroDUMcfCSO8aX4lEoqdZWUJImEutyQ4J7qo9xE8/edit?usp=sharing

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Screening Out-of-Competition

 

Go-Kart Gottlieb

Studio: Studio Groundswell

Director: Tom Tykwer

Genre: Dramedy

Rating: PG-13 for Language and Thematic Elements

Budget: $40 Million

Runtime: 1 hr 36 min

Language: German

 

Cast

Matthias Schweighöfer as Gottlieb

Udo Kier as Felix

Numan Acar as Selim

Franka Potente as Marie

David Kross as Karl

August Diehl as Hans

 

Plot Summary

Spoiler

Black. Engines revving, wheels spinning. We open with a fast-motion first-person POV of a go kart racer as they drive on a track.
 

Cut to fast-cut footage of a Karting World Championship race. But then—the footage cuts back and forth from an audience in the stands to the fast cuts of karts revving across the track. Excited murmurs fill the stands. Then the karts appear, and the crowd cheers as they pass by. An official raises a checkered flag as they cross the finish line.

 

Gottlieb (Schweighöfer) and his wife, Marie (Potente), clap as the first place winner exits their kart and takes off their helmet. It’s Gottlieb—the first place finisher who hugs the fans and crew rushing to him? We cut back to Gottlieb in the stands as he stares with longing. Cut back—Gottlieb had imagined himself as the first place winner, and it’s actually Karl (Kross) pumping his fists in the air.

 

The race being over, Gottlieb and Marie walk around, and he tells her he’ll wait for her while she uses the bathroom. But Gottlieb has other plans. She enters, and he walks off.

 

Karl and his crew walk with victorious swagger while cameramen take pictures. Hans (Diehl) slips into the crowd and yells that he believes Karl’s win is illegitimate because of the technology in his kart that surpasses the other karts. He is told that Karl would not have raced if the racing organization hadn’t given his kart their approval. Hans storms away in anger.

 

Gottlieb searches through the crowds and comes across a garage where Felix (Kier), who triples as a manager, coach, and mechanic, is doing post-race things with his crew. Selim (Acar) is one of the members of his crew. Gottlieb runs in and asks Felix if he has advice on how someone can start a kart racing career from scratch. Felix looks him up and down and essentially tells him to go away.

 

Gottlieb walks out dejected—but Selim runs out to meet him, gives him a business card, and tells him he can help him get in touch with people who can help. Gottlieb thanks him.

 

Gottlieb then goes to find Marie. Suddenly, there are SCREAMS offscreen. He runs through the crowds to find the screams. It takes him a while, and he hears even more screams. Other people are running toward the screams, so he joins the human flow and finds Marie, who is on the ground and bleeding out.

 

Gottlieb kneels to her and asks the crowd what happened. Karl is at the scene and swiftly explains that he was signing autographs when Hans approached him with a knife—it was then that Marie stepped between the two men, trying to stop the attack, and Hans began stabbing her instead. He also tells Gottlieb that Hans ran off, and he gives a description of him.

 

Gottlieb takes off running to find Hans and eventually sees a sketchy man in an alleyway between white tents. He shouts at Hans, who stares at him with crazed eyes before running away. Gottlieb chases after him and loses him—or so Gottlieb thinks, because Hans ambushes him and stabs him in the shoulder. Gottlieb fights back and pins him down just long enough for security officers to rush in and detain Hans. Despite being told to stay by security, Gottlieb stumbles away.

 

From afar, Gottlieb sees paramedics carrying Marie on a stretcher and pushing it into an ambulance. Gottlieb hurries to the ambulance and shouts for Marie. When the ambulance takes off, Gottlieb to the parking lot, while keeping eyes on the ambulance, and jumps into his SUV. We cut to a shot of Felix’s POV as he stands and watches Gottlieb from far off.

 

Cut to Gottlieb driving astonishingly fast down windy roads as he attempts to keep up with the ambulance. He dodges traffic when he needs to and drives with notable skill. Inside the ambulance, the paramedics do what they need to do to keep Marie alive. They ask each other who the car following them might be—but Marie knows who it is.

 

Cut to the paramedics wheeling Marie through the hospital lobby and through the hallways. Gottlieb runs in and is stopped in his tracks by nurses who notice his condition. He asks if paramedics wheeled a woman in, and they confirm that Marie is being taken to the ICU. Gottlieb catches his breath and allows the nurses to take him to another room.

 

Days pass by as Gottlieb and Marie recover in separate rooms. Gottlieb is taken to see Marie. She will recover, but her condition will be critical for weeks, and there will be long-lasting effects. Gottlieb mutters that he’s worried about being able to pay the hospital bills. He is told not to worry about it—but he still worries.

 

One day, Gottlieb and Marie are in the hospital, and they are told that they have a visitor. It’s Felix. Gottlieb meets Felix in the hallway; Felix opens by saying that he tracked down the ambulance’s time of departure and arrival and discovered that because Gottlieb was able to catch up with the ambulance, he actually drove from the track to the hospital in less than ten minutes. Gottlieb nods. Then Felix steps closer and says that his team needs a new kart racer—but if Gottlieb accepts being the racer, then he must promise that he can drive like he did on that day. Gottlieb promises, and they shake hands.

 

But in Marie’s room, she tells Gottlieb that it seems as if he and Felix had seen each other before. Gottlieb admits that he abandoned his watch to find out how to get into kart racing, and Marie calls him childlike, reminds him that she might not have been stabbed if he had been there for her, and forbids him from pursuing the sport. Gottlieb tells her that he thinks he can earn money to help pay medical bills through the sport, and he will pursue it despite what she says.

 

Marie then says she would be better off dead if Gottlieb is speaking to her like that. Gottlieb stares at her before storming out. We cut to a still shot of the hallway; Gottlieb storms down the hallway and thinks, before making a decision and storming back toward the room. Cut back to the room, where Gottlieb bursts in and monologues about how he believes that he can drive for her just as much as he can drive for himself. Marie says she doesn’t believe that.

 

In the parking lot, Gottlieb hits the steering wheel multiple times and screams. He stares out at the hospital before driving away.

 

Two Weeks Later, Gottlieb arrives at an indoor practice track owned by Felix. He shakes hands with Felix and Selim and gets to work practicing right away. He races through the track smoothly, but Felix believes that he can go faster. So Gottlieb goes around again, but Felix again suggests that Gottlieb can go faster. Gottlieb goes around a third time, and Felix reminds him of how he drove for his wife, shouting that he needs channel that energy. Gottlieb then drives fast around the track, and Felix tells him to drive multiple laps around the track. The laps meld within each other as Gottlieb drives around the track a dizzying amount of times.

 

Match cut to Gottlieb driving during a race. We see many karts in front of him during a POV shot. Then he expertly maneuvers around the other racers and clutches second only behind Karl. On the podium, Karl admits that even though he’s younger than him, he feels indebted to Gottlieb because Marie is the reason why he’s still alive today. They share the carton of milk that is given to Karl for winning the race.

 

At his apartment, Gottlieb writes checks to pay the medical bills while Marie silently watches from a corridor. Gottlieb goes to put the envelope in the mailbox, and then goes back into the apartment—but Marie has disappeared. On the coffee table is a note—"You've found a new love, so I will get out of your way."

 

Gottlieb then goes back to the practice facility and tells Felix and Selim that he needs to quit. They try to stop him, but Gottlieb exclaims that he should never have pursued his dream at the expense of his wife—he laments that he can’t race for her anymore because she’s not with him anymore. Then, Selim asks him if he wants to race for himself. The two get Gottlieb to admit that he wants to race for himself—not only this, but the fact that he really just wanted to race for himself. Gottlieb then decides not to quit, and Felix grabs Gottlieb’s shoulder and tells him that he’s proud of him.

 

Another big race comes, but before the race, Karl shows Gottlieb the technology of his specialized kart and says that he’s asked the league to implement the technology in more karts than just his own. He says that it’s an artificial intelligence that allows the kart to analyze the track and vibrate to signal the racer of when to turn and which parts of the track to drive on. Gottlieb thanks Karl and gives him a thumbs up.

 

Gottlieb, Felix, and Selim place the A.I. technology in the go kart, and the kart revs on its own. Felix shouts in triumph because he is finally in a position to see the driver he’s managing win a race. He puts pressure on Gottlieb to win, and Gottlieb says “I won’t let you down.”

 

The AI-adorned karts line up to begin the race, and a girl waves a checkered flag to get them started. Gottlieb and Karl race against each other and are leading the pack. They begin to drive laps over slower racers as well. It all seems like a normal race until…

 

One of the slow karts they’re lapping spins out on its own. Gottlieb and Karl dodge it, but the spinning kart and the detached wheels hit other racers behind them. It is soon clear that all of the racers have lost control of their karts. Some leap out of the karts while others cannot undo their seatbelt. Soon, the karts drive into the pit stops and into the tent areas, running people over and causing all sorts of havoc. One of the karts targets a food stand selling glass bottles of milk. The milk vendor (surprise cameo by Dan Stevens) throws milk bottles at the kart in a crazed attempt to defend himself, but to no avail. The kart crashes into the stand, killing the milk vendor and destroying the glass bottles.

 

Gottlieb and Karl have leapt out of their karts and are running away from the carnage. They catch their breath thinking they’re safe. But then, a herd of karts revs behind them. Gottlieb runs to the left, but Karl keeps running forward. Karl is then run over by the herd of karts, and he dies.

 

Gottlieb rushes into a conference tent and hides behind a table that is leaning on its side. Engines begin revving offscreen; he peeks out and sees the herd of karts circling him. The engines go silent, and one kart drives forward and stops, as if confronting him. Gottlieb sees that it’s the kart given to him by Felix.

 

Fade to white and then to a flashback of Gottlieb and Marie in bed and staring up at the ceiling. Marie asks him what he desires, and Gottlieb snap-answers “you, of course.” Marie says “besides that.” Gottlieb answers that he wants to be successful in something that he enjoys doing. He doesn’t want to live life doing something that doesn’t excite him. Marie then answers that while she knows she’s hypocritical, she’s struggling to say anything other than the fact that she desires Gottlieb. The ceiling fan whirs. Gottlieb asks if the fan is spinning too fast. Marie smokes a cigarette, puffs out smoke,  and tells him to let it spin.

 

Fade to white and then back to the conference tent as Gottlieb cries and says he’s sorry as all of the engines rev as if chanting for his demise. Then Selim runs in and throws a Molotov cocktail at the karts. The karts catch fire and start driving around madly; Felix and Selim grab Gottlieb and take him away from the tent.

 

The three men flee the scene and run far away until they’re on the side of an empty, winding back road. Ambulances and police cars drive by swiftly. They stare at each other before staring directly into the camera. Cut to black.

 

Edited by SLAM!
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Screening In-Competition

 

Bikini

Studio: Studio Groundswell

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Based On: Bikini by Alicia Erian

Genre: Drama

Rating: R for Nudity and Some Language

Budget: $10 Million

Runtime: 1 hr 21 min

Format: shot in 35 mm and screened in 3:2 ratio

 

Zoey Deutch as Vanessa

Ramy Youssef as Shawki

Beanie Feldstein as Angie

James Ransone as Officer Jim

 

Note on Filmmaking: Many long takes. Slow pace. Close-ups are rare, if any.

 

Spoiler

 

1960

 

Fade in on a shot of an apartment living room. Angie (Feldstein) is on the couch, reading a book. There's a bedroom door far down a hallway. Then, a naked young woman (Deutch) opens that door and walks down the hallway. Angie looks up as the woman, her roommate Vanessa, does a cartwheel across the living room and beams with joy. Angie says to put some clothes on, but Vanessa says "why? We're not going out." Then, Vanessa struts back to her bedroom.

 

In the bedroom, she lays down on her bed and stares up at the ceiling. She thinks for a moment and then decides to rummage through the closet and put on a pink bikini. She stares at herself in the mirror and examines how she looks.

 

Vanessa walks into the kitchen while Angie is cooking. Angie looks at her in the bikini, but sticks her nose up and says that if she's going to eat at the table for dinner, she needs to put more clothes on. Vanessa asks Angie to at least tell her if she looks good in the bikini. Angie says that it suits her. Vanessa smiles and walks out.

 

At the dinner table, Angie tells Vanessa (now fully clothed) tells a story about her past from before she moved into town and took a job as a secretary. Angie says that she used to have casual sex in her past, but became pregnant and chose to give the baby up for adoption. Vanessa reminds Angie that it's not the first time she's told her that story. Angie then says that she brings it up again to remind Vanessa of what could be at stake for those who act in too much of a free-spirited manner. Vanessa asks Angie if she thinks walking around the house naked is too free-spirited. Angie says that wasn't what she said (though of course, that's what she means), so Vanessa says she's sorry about what happened to Angie, but she doesn't think it's appropriate to compare their lifestyles to one another's. A silence as Vanessa finishes eating. Then Angie apologizes, and Vanessa mutters that it's okay as she storms back to her room. Angie sits alone, and then Vanessa playfully shouts back, "I think I'll be naked if I want to be naked." Angie rubs her forehead in frustration.

 

Naked again, Vanessa crashes onto her bed, pulls the covers over, and goes to sleep. Cut to the next morning as the alarm goes off to let her know it's time for class. She puts on clothes, and then she examines her socks, deciding whether or not to put them on. She decides not to put on the socks and simply puts on shoes instead.

 

Vanessa goes to her graduate school classes. Shawki (Youssef), a glasses-clad exchange student from Alexandria, wows everyone with an impressive knowledge of American politics. Once the class is over, a friend tells Vanessa that a group of classmates will have lunch with Shawki to learn from him about middle eastern politics, and Vanessa decides to go with them. At lunch, Shawki convinces the students that the Israelis should get out of Palestine, and he also convinces them that tea is meant to drink in a glass with lemon. Vanessa admires him.

 

At a graduate student party, a friend tells Vanessa that Shawki is there, so Vanessa goes to look for him. It takes Vanessa a minute or two to find him, and when she does, he is wearing a cone-shaped party hat on his head and is in the middle of a heated debate with another student. Shawki beats him in the debate pretty handily, and when the other student goes for a drink (because he needs one), Vanessa steps in and strikes up a conversation with Shawki. The conversation ends with Shawki being invited to her apartment.

 

In Vanessa's apartment bedroom, Shawki looks around and says he admires the place. Vanessa asks if he minds if she takes off her shirts. Shawki says it's fine, but he blushes and looks away. Vanessa sits next to him and talks about why she likes not wearing anything—because she likes how natural it feels. Shawki says that he admires how bold she is. She says thanks, and they sit together for a bit.

 

Angie walks in and peeks through Vanessa's open door as Vanessa and Shawki are shown kissing; Angie looks aghast and sneaks away. In the room, Shawki looks at Vanessa and says, "You are the first woman of me," and Vanessa smiles at the comment. Vanessa sees him out of the apartment. Then Angie appears and asks to talk with her. They sit in the living room, and Angie says she thinks Vanessa should date someone American. Vanessa asks why, and Angie says that she could ruin her reputation by falling for Shawki. Vanessa says she doesn't care. Angie says it's Vanessa's decision and walks away. Tears fall down Vanessa's face.

 

In a montage, Vanessa packs her things, hugs Angie goodbye, and drives to Shawki's house. The montage ends with a moment in Shawki's bedroom where they start to make out, then lay down on his bed and continue tumbling toward an implied sex scene.

 

Fade out and back in; Vanessa wears her bikini while she flips eggs in a pan. She calls for Shawki, who shouts that he's in the bedroom. She walks off and finds Shawki going through Vanessa's clothes in the closet and divides them into "should where" and "shouldn't wear" categories. Vanessa asks him why one of her bikinis is in the "shouldn't" section, and Shawki answers that someone could pull the string and the whole thing could come off. Shawki walks out; then Vanessa walks to the closet and starts reordering the "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" herself, but quietly so Shawki doesn't hear. Shawki calls for her; Vanessa shouts "ah, the eggs!" and runs back to the kitchen.

 

Shawki is then shown building a small sailboat in his garage. The boat is almost finished; Vanessa watches as he paints the name "Nefertiti" on its side. Shawki explains that he would go fishing and sailing in Alexandria, and he describes that experience and how much he enjoyed it. Vanessa then asks if both of them can fit on the boat. Shawki says that Vanessa is skinny enough as to where it'd be like she wasn't really there on the boat.

 

They drive to Skaneateles Lake and park next to a station wagon. While Shawki sets up the boat at the public launch, Vanessa takes off her shirt and shorts, just wearing a bikini and tennis shoes. When Shawki asks her to put on her clothes, Vanessa reaches into the trunk—and puts on sunglasses instead. "How's that?" she asks—but Shawki turns away. "C'mon, it's kind of funny," she says—but he ignores her.

 

They sail by nice houses. Shawki gawks at them and points to the ones he would want, but Vanessa isn't too impressed by it. They continue sailing, and they sail by the Skaneateles village, a strip of shore decorated with shops. Shawki has to maneuver around a sailing race, and he instructs himself in Arabic as he does so.

 

They sail for a long time, and three young men sail by Shawki's boat in a boat twice its size; they whistle and shout "hey hot stuff!" at Vanessa before sailing on. When the bigger boat passes, Shawki lets the sail go slack.

 

Shawki: I wish to return.

Vanessa: Why?

Shawki: I'm tired. Ready about!

Vanessa: What?

Shawki: I told you in the car—ready about!

Vanessa: Tell me in regular language. Just this once.

Shawki: Ready about! Hard-a-lee!

 

Shawki adjusts the sail, and the sail hits Vanessa and knocks her into the water. She breaks above the surface and waits for Shawki to sail back for her. Shawki sails back for her, but he doesn't stop the boat. He yells for her to get back on, but she feels around the boat and finds nothing to grab onto, so she can't get back in the boat, and Shawki sails right by. Shawki makes a pass for a second time and tells her to get on, but Vanessa still can't get on. On the third pass, Shawki doesn't tell her anything, and Vanessa doesn't try—and Shawki simply sails away. 

 

Vanessa finds her sunglasses floating close by and grabs them; by then, Shawki's boat is a speck in the horizon. She swims back toward the town so she can make it to the nearest private dock. The swim takes an hour; during the swim, she deviates between breaststroke and freestyle swimming. She swims without stopping and heaves herself up onto a dock; then, she rolls onto her back, catches her breath, and stares up at the sky.

 

She then walks beyond the dock. The dock's house has a green backyard lawn that is freshly mowed. She almost passes the elevated, screened-in back porch when a voice says "excuse me." A blond-haired pregnant woman walks onto the porch, stands behind the screen, and stares down at Vanessa.

 

Vanessa: I'm sorry. I was just swimming. I didn't mean to trespass.

Woman: Where did you get that?

Vanessa: You mean my bikini?

Woman: Would you mind telling me?

Vanessa: No, I got it in Syracuse. Sorry about trespassing.

Woman: It's fine. Did you swim across the lake or something?

Vanessa: Sort of. Yeah.

Woman: I swim at night. I don't want anyone to see me like this.

Vanessa: ...My boyfriend pushed me off his boat.

Woman: ...My husband's a doctor.

 

A moment's silence.

 

Woman: Goodbye.

 

Vanessa waits for the woman to walk back inside. Then, she walks around the house. She walks down the road that leads to the public boat launch area. Multiple cars pass by with young men peeking out and hollering at her to ask if she needs a ride. None of them actually pull over, though. She continues walking and then has a sudden urge to pee, and she ducks in the bushes. After she finishes, the station wagon from earlier in the film passes by, carrying Shawki's boat on top of its roof. The boat belonging to the three hollering men is attached to the wagon's trailer hitch. Vanessa stares aghast as the station wagon passes by.

 

She makes it back to the boat area and finds Shawki curled up in a ball, sitting near the car. She runs up and asks him what happened. His glasses are missing, and there are red marks on his face.

 

Shawki: The boys take my boat.

Vanessa: What? What boys?

Shawki: Who like your swimming suit.

Vanessa: Let's call the police, Shawki. C'mon. Let's get to a phone.

Shawki: No.

Vanessa: Let's get your boat back, Shawki.

Shawki: I don't want it!

A silence.

Shawki: Please drive. I cannot see.

 

Vanessa helps Shawki into the car. She drives the car down the windy road and parks at a police station. She asks Shawki to follow her inside, but Shawki doesn't budge. Vanessa unbuckles and gets ready to go inside alone. But Shawki grabs her arm. She stares at him and sees fear in his eyes.

 

Vanessa asks him if he really wants to abandon his boat. Shawki explains that the group of guys told her that they'd try to find her and take her from him. Vanessa says she's not afraid of them. Shawki asks, "what about the police?"—he explains that he's afraid that the police could find a way to pin the blame on him, and he could be arrested and charged. "But it's not your fault," Vanessa replies. But Shawki stays silent. So Vanessa tells him to wait in the car; she'll talk to the police, and if they ask for him, she'll tell them he doesn't want to talk to them—and if they don't help after that, then that's that. Ramy stays silent. Vanessa says she'll be right back; she gets out and walks to the station (still wearing just her bikini, by the way).

 

Inside, she speaks to the officer at the front desk—Officer Jim (Ransone). He looks her up and down.

 

Officer Jim: May I help you?

Vanessa: Yes. My boyfriend's boat was stolen by three men.

(An offscreen officer says, "who gooses a boat?" The front desk officer laughs and turns back to Vanessa.)

Officer Jim: Really? Where did this happen?

Vanessa: Around Skaneateles Lake. I saw them driving away with the boat on their car.

Officer Jim: On their car?

Vanessa: Yes. It was a station wagon.

Officer Jim: Righto. Now, you said there were three men. Did you get a good look at 'em?

Vanessa: No. I saw them on their boat. They were pretty far off.

Officer Jim: Sounds like your boyfriend had a better look at 'em.

Vanessa: (hesitates) He did. Yes.

Officer Jim: Where is he?

Vanessa: (hesitates) He's in the car outside. But he doesn't want to come in.

Officer Jim: Oh? Why's that?

Vanessa: (hesitates) He's a foreign exchange student, so he's always been nervous around the police.

Officer Jim: Oh? Where's he from.

Vanessa: Egypt.

 

Officer Jim cocks an eyebrow. He smirks. He looks down at Vanessa's bikini, then up at her face.

 

Officer Jim: Gimme a moment, will ya?

 

Vanessa watches as he walks away. He waves other officers over to him. They talk in a circle. Vanessa leans her head over the counter to get a look, but she's too far away to hear anything. Then, he comes back.

 

Officer Jim: I'll be honest with you. I think we're missing some crucial information on this story. So unless your boyfriend wants to come inside and talk with us, I don't think you'll have a case.

 

Vanessa stares at him.

 

Vanessa: Okay. I can ask him. He might change his mind.

Officer Jim: You do that, miss.

 

Vanessa turns to leave.

 

Officer Jim: One more thing.

 

Vanessa whips back around.

 

Officer Jim: Next time you enter a police station... Wear clothes. Capisce?

 

Vanessa's cheeks go red. She turns to look at other officers, who are snickering at the comment. She looks back at Officer Jim.

 

Vanessa: I think I'll wear what I want.

 

Officer Jim is taken aback.

 

Officer Jim: Well. That's your prerogative.

Vanessa: In fact! If you won't be of any help—

 

She rips off the bikini's top piece and hurls it on the ground.

 

Vanessa: —then why should I take any of your damn advice!

 

She does the same for the bottom piece. She glares at the officer in rage.

 

Officer Jim's jaw drops. He stares at Vanessa and seems to enjoy what he's looking at. The other officers walk closer to the sight, laughing and whistling. Cut to a low-angle shot of Vanessa, who sizes up the officers before leaving the station. Cut to Officer Jim, who turns to his buddies and says, "well I should have arrested her for indecent exposure, but I'll admit, she made my day." The comment is received with more laughs.

 

Cut outside the station as Vanessa storms to the car. She gets in the driver's seat; Shawki, who'd been sulking, notices her. First, he's shocked, then he's frustrated, and then he's sad again. They sit in silence for a minute or two as Vanessa waits for Shawki to say something, but he doesn't. So Vanessa starts the car and drives off. There's a sequence of the couple driving home and saying nothing to each other before reaching Shawki's driveway. They wait for a moment before Shawki tells her that he's sorry. Vanessa reminds him that it's not his fault.

 

In another montage, Vanessa packs her things, hugs Shawki goodbye, and drives away from Shawki's house. Vanessa adjusts the rear-view mirror and uses it to wipe away her tears before putting it back.

 

Cut to her in a bedroom, where she sits naked on her bed. Her rotary phone rings, and she goes to pick it up. It's Angie, who sits on her couch as she talks to Vanessa. They catch up for a bit; then Angie asks about what happened between her and Shawki. Vanessa explains that they broke up on mutual terms but are still friends. Angie says that's a shame, and then she tells Vanessa to listen. Angie then explains that she still feels guilty about giving up her child for adoption.

 

Vanessa: Hey. It's all right. You made the decision that was best for you. If you couldn't raise him, you couldn't raise him. There's no shame in that.

Angie: I know. I just... He was my baby. And I let him go. Is it okay that I did that?

Vanessa: You're fine, Angie. You did right by him. He'll have a happy life now.

Angie: Who's to say he wouldn't have had a happy life with me, though?

Vanessa: Well, I'm sure he would have, even if you would've struggled. But my point is that you don't have to blame yourself for doing what you believe is right. I promise.

Angie: Thank you, Van. Really. Oh! I got sidetracked. Uh...

Vanessa: Yeah? What is it?

Angie: Stacy moved out.

Vanessa: She did? When?

Angie: Just last week. And I was calling because since I thought you might know someone... But it sounds like you already answered that!

Vanessa: Yeah. Well, thanks for the offer! But I think I need to wait before I do that.

Angie: Why's that?

Vanessa: I want to take a step back and think about what to do next. You know?

Angie: Oh. That's fine! Take all the time you need. And if you don't move in, you know I'm just a phone call away.

Vanessa: Me too, Angie.

 

They exchange goodbyes and hang up; then, Vanessa sits back on her bed for a little while longer. Then, she quietly puts on her clothes, but stops and considers if she should put on her socks. She smiles, perhaps at the fact that the decision belongs to her. Cut to black.

 

 

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Screening In-Competition

 

Shadow of the Comet

Studio: Fossil Record Animation

Director: Harold Kingsley

Genre: Action, Science-Fiction

Rating: PG-13 for language, violence

Budget: $25 Million

Runtime: 2 hr 25 min

Format: hand-drawn animation

 

Main Cast:

Samuel L. Jackson as Lee Richards

Janet Maheswaran* as Valerie Acharya

John Wilkins* as Michael Schwartz

Peter David Meyers* as Ian Seymour

Andrew Harrow* as Joseph "Big Joe" Creed

 

Plot Summary

Spoiler

The film opens on a monologue by protagonist Lee Richards, describing how humanity always considered itself invincible, but was unable to survive the destructive force of nature. This occurs against a backdrop of a comet in space, which is then shown colliding with Earth. Cities are destroyed, clouds of black smoke and dust fill the air. All of this fades out to reveal it is a flashback, and Lee is in fact walking through a devastated North Carolina landscape (the ruins of Charlotte can be seen in the background). 

 

The title is then shown

 

We see a montage of Richards' travels during the opening credits, during which he is barely eking out an existence. No other humans are to be seen. At various times, we focus on a NASA logo on Richards's clothing. 

 

The story proper starts with Richards unsuccessfully attempting to build a fire and cook something over it, when he is distracted by a sound coming from a nearby thicket of dead vegetation. Turning to investigate, he discovers that the source of the sound is another man. The new man does not introduce himself, but instead accosts Richards, who in turn demands to know where he came from and what he wants. 

 

The new man remains cryptic and cagey, but tells Richards he is looking for a place where he believes that his family have survived the disaster that seems to have wiped out the rest of humanity. Gradually, through their conversation, more details of the backstory are revealed. Richards explains that he was a former NASA astronaut on a space mission to deflect the incoming comet with a nuclear bomb. The mission failed, but he was inexplicably one of the few-- if not the only-- people to survive the impact. Richards agrees to help the new man find what he is looking for, but privately distrusts him. 

 

Richards and the new man-- who eventually reveals that his name is Michael Schwartz, and that he is a former firefighter-- arrive at what appears to be an impromptu refugee colony of other people who have survived the impact. Upon his arrival, Richards is captured and interrogated by a group of armed thugs, who seemingly act as the colony's makeshift police force. He is freed, however, by Valerie Acharya, a former mathematics professor who had arrived in the colony several weeks beforehand. Acharya claims that, based on her calculations, the colony is inherently unstable, and this will eventually lead to its collapse. The refugees in the colony also whisper of an "Ark", the nature of which is not elaborated upon.

 

Richards and Schwartz seek an audience with Ian Seymour, a billionaire survivor who exudes an outsized influence over the rest of the survivors in the colony. Seymour comes off as welcoming and friendly, and apologizes-- in a surprisingly sincere manner-- for how his "supporters" acted towards Richards. Richards, however, isn't convinced, and when he is alone with Schwartz, he tells him that he believes Seymour is going to be bad news for the colony. The very next day, Seymour makes a public speech to the rest of the refugee colony, claiming that humanity can "rise again" and will experience a "new golden age". The majority of people in the colony are thrilled by this, and, buoyed by this popularity, Seymour asserts himself as the leader of the colony. 

 

After witnessing this, Richards and Schwartz speak to Acharya again. She explains that she specializes in chaos theory-- the study of things that are inherently unstable and unpredictable. In other words, the exact opposite of Richards's work as an astrophysicist, which focused on very predictable things such as the orbits of satellites and planets. Using the failed mission to deflect the comet as an example, she points out how a complex system never stays stable for long, and why she was worried about the refugee colony. Schwartz asks Acharya if there is any other way for civilization to survive. Hess says she doesn't know. 

 

As the days go by, food and water become ever scarcer in the refugee colony, and Seymour declares that the solution to this is to steal from the other refugee colonies. To that end, he sends his armed supporters--now organized into a militia-- on raids into nearby refuges, where they kill the inhabitants and take their supplies. Lynchings and beatings of survivors who disagree with Seymour become common as well. Meanwhile, Richards, Schwartz, and Acharya decide it is no longer safe in the refugee colony, and make plans to escape. 

 

That night, the three of them sneak out of the refugee colony, only for Schwartz to suddenly confront Richards about how everything from the comet collision to them ending up in a tyrannical refugee colony was his fault. Richards attempts to defend himself, saying he couldn't have predicted any of that, only to realize that Acharya's chaos theory is more true than he gave it credit for being. He asks if either of them blame him for the failure of the comet deflection mission, but they both say they do not. 

 

They arrive the next day at a neighboring refugee colony called New Asheville, where they are greeted by Schwartz's family. Richards recognizes that resources are still poor, but refuses to stoop to Seymour's level of raiding other refugees. He does, however, ask Acharya about the "Ark". She assumes it to be some kind of underground bunker that would have allowed a certain number of people to survive the impact. Richards, however, is unconvinced, and believes it to be something more. He decides to investigate.  During one of his routine explorations of the colony, he discovers a metal door in the ground. The door opens, leading to what seems to be a long mine shaft. He climbs down it, only for it to be revealed that it isn't a mine shaft at all, but something much stranger. 

 

Meanwhile, Seymour's militia are preparing to mount an attack on New Asheville. Seymour declares that it is a matter of pride, not simply of gaining more resources, and that they must be destroyed at all costs. Many of them are well-armed now, with makeshift spears, axes, and a few even have guns. They begin marching towards New Asheville, clearly intending to wipe them out. 

 

As Seymour's militia arrives in New Asheville, Acharya and Schwartz attempt to rally the inhabitants to fight, while Richard continues to investigate the tunnels he has discovered. It turns out the tunnels lead to a huge underground base of some kind, which has been sheltered from the impact, but is completely unoccupied. Richards tries to turn on a computer, but it doesn't work. Instead, he picks up a book, and then slowly looks up, realizing that what he sees illustrated in it is sitting directly in front of him. The underground base is in fact a bunker for a gigantic spacecraft, built before the impact as a last-ditch effort to evacuate Earth. This is the "Ark" he heard about.

 

Richards returns to the surface with this news, only to discover that Seymour's militia is already attacking New Asheville. Many of the refugees then proceed to follow him, Acharya, and Schwartz towards the Ark; Schwartz attempts to hold off the attacking militia but is killed. Once on board the Ark, Seymour confronts Richards directly on the catwalk overlooking the spacecraft, and is about to push him over the edge. Before he can do it, though, he is suddenly seized from behind and thrown down the launch silo by his own bodyguard Big Joe, who angrily declares that Seymour is the reason his brother died. 

 

Richards and Acharya escort the survivors onto the Ark-- which he christens the Michael Schwartz, after his deceased friend-- and prepares the giant spacecraft for launch. The scene then zooms out to reveal the spacecraft rising from its launch silo on a column of nuclear fire, ascending into orbit with the last of the human race on board. As the spacecraft recedes into the sky, Richards gives another monologue, against a backdrop of outer space. This time, he talks about the inherent corruptibility of human society, and whether it will ever be possible to overcome it. He says he doesn't know. 

 

The scene then fades to black, and the credits roll.

 

 

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Better late than never, it is time for the Second Annual CAYOM Film Festival, hosted by your judges: I, @4815162342, and @cookie. The reviews for the opening film of this year's festival, Kelly Reichardt's Bikini, will be posted shortly, but here's the current schedule for this year's selection of films:

 

Day 1 - WednesdayJanuary 12th

Bikini (dir. Kelly Reichardt, @SLAM!, In Competition)

Shadow of the Comet (dir. Harold Kingsley, @El Squibbonator, In Competition)

 

Day 2 - Thursday, January 13th

Death is Not My Friend (dir. Emily Harris, @MCKillswitch123, Out of Competition)

 

Day 3 - Friday, January 14th

Go-Kart Gottlieb (dir. Tom Tykwer, @SLAM!, Out of Competition)

The Next Good Day (dir. Tom McCarthy, @MCKillswitch123, In Competition)

 

After the premiere of the closing film on Friday, the judges will determine the winners and runner-ups of three prestigious categories: Best FilmBest Lead Performance, and Best Supporting Performance. Audience members can post their own reactions/reviews to the selected films in a separate thread, but only until after each film has been reviewed by the judges.

 

See you all in 30 minutes when the Bikini screening finishes.

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Bikini

 

Alpha:



This is admittedly a nice change of pace for Studio Groundswell (the Studio Formerly Known as New Journey Pictures), as the more-relaxed narrative structure keeps the film from descending into heavy moralism. Unfortunately, this does give way to a messy exploration of sexual politics that betrays the film’s intended feminist message. While Vanessa’s journey is meant to be one of self-discovery, the film consistently places her as the victim of her own sexual impropriety. Scenes like the one at the police station try to cast the blame on judgmental male actors, but the film can’t help but feel a little judgmental itself.

Aside from Vanessa, the characters on the periphery feel a little underdeveloped. I didn’t quite buy the realism of Shawki being a well-educated foreign exchange student that still speaks in broken English, and it seems like everytime the film is about to add another layer to his frustrated character it takes a step back. Overall, this was a very fascinating film to read, and I think its confused metaphors may warrant some deeper analysis later on, but for the most part I didn’t find its observations on gender and sexual freedom all that revelatory.

 

Cookie:



I've made a point in the past (see my Roman Fever review from Y7) that minimalist narratives weren’t particularly my cup of tea, and so going into Kelly Reichardt’s Bikini, knowing her filmography, I admittedly walked in trepidatious. Bikini, while somewhat different from most of Reichardt’s work in that it actually features a satisfying resolution, still fits into her mould, though how blunt the overall message about gender freedom is delivered may be an acquired taste to those familiar with the director's other work. 

Zoey Deutch plays Vanessa, a young woman who refuses to let any obstacle or inconvenience get in her way, and is more than willing to defy social norms in an act of rebellion more centred around that she just wants to do what she wants than out of some greater sense of justice, even if the climactic police station scene is the most righteous (and amusing) moment in the film. Deutch delivers a very solid turn here, as does Ramy Youssef as her boyfriend Shawki, initially set up as a fearless scholar who over the course of the film’s short running time reveals that, in the end, he’s just as frightened and powerless of what the world will do to him as everyone else are (on top of being a very clumsy sailor), leading Vanessa to have to be the one to stand up for him. The latter half of the cast are just bit parts, between Beanie Feldstein’s Angie who serves as little more than a personified bookend, and James Ransone’s Officer Jim as a comic foil in the one scene he’s in.

While Bikini is not a film that would light the world on fire, it is a solid little film with clear themes and messaging, as well as a sprinkling of humor and crudeness to give it the edge it craves.

 

Numbers:



This is a frustrating film since it wants to explore things such as the male gaze, historical prudeness, personal bodily autonomy, etc., but I don’t believe it tackles them in a satisfactory manner. The character of Angie for example is the stereotype of someone who vociferously and outwardly condemns promiscuity and licentious behavior, yet secretly kind wishes to experience it as well, and the story about her past pregnancy is used more as a character prop than any meaningful development. Similarly, the character of Shawki feels like a frustratingly generic stereotype of a prudish Muslim who lashes out at a Western woman for not abiding by his cultural preference. There’s a few bits where it seems like something dynamic might happen with him, but it kinda just fizzles out. Even Vanessa remains mostly static. She starts and ends pretty similar, with only some experiences along the way.

I get the film is going for a naturalistic, slice of life feel to the storytelling, drawing out most of the content through the course of a single trip to a lake up Western New York, but the point of such storytelling is to use vignettes and surroundings to draw out the character arcs rather than a more traditional plot progression. Here, the film doesn’t really draw out that much at all. I will say that overall, Zoey Deutch is a solid bit of casting for the role of Vanessa.

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@CayomMagazine

 

Screening for Harold Kingsley's Shadow of the Comet has reportedly finished. Judges expected to deliver reviews within next 20-30 min. #CAYOMFest

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Shadow of the Comet

 

Alpha:



Another animated sci-fi mini-epic that never reaches its lofty ambitions. Every now and then you’ll get a line or plot development like “a mathematician determines that the theoretical probability of this colony collapsing is extraordinarily high” or “this previously-unmentioned bodyguard has appeared at the last minute to avenge the death of his brother who was killed off-screen,” and all I can see is the writer’s hat trick, an attempt to move from Plot Point A to Plot Point B as conveniently and mind-numbingly as possible. This is an improvement on this new studio’s last big animated feature The Insect God, which felt more like a TV writers’ plot bible than a fully-completed feature film, but Comet is unfortunately severely undercooked.

 

Cookie:



Being an animated feature is sadly the only thing that stands out with this trope-laden post-apocalypse survival drama, and no matter how much command Jackson lends to his vocal performance, his character doesn’t evolve past two-dimensional at best — which is a problem given how nothing the rest of the film is. The film’s sudden introduction of a bodyguard that only exists to turn on the main antagonist just as they’re about to achieve victory in the film’s climax is a real head-scratcher, as you’d think it’d be something the film would’ve bothered to set up beforehand, but I guess the studio decided that’d take too many frames to animate. Ultimately, Shadow of the Comet is so rote that there’s very little to write home about either in the positive or the negative, a very disappointing festival entry if there ever was one.

 

Numbers:



Most stories that involve a celestial body heading for Earth are focused upon the attempts to stop it, or the societal issues that plague humanity in the run-up to impact, so it is a nice change of pace to see a film that instead skips past that part to deal with the people left behind. In that respect, Shadow of the Comet borrows quite heavily from the library of post-apocalyptic fiction, so at the end of the day there is nothing new, but the use of hand-drawn animation as the medium provides for a new window to view what happens after the end of the world.

Fossil Record Animation continues its pattern of using mostly unknown persons to fill out the voice cast, and while it’s admirable as a cost-saving measure in a studio system that blows big budgets on all sorts of films, it also makes it hard to judge the overall effectiveness of the roles. That said, most of the characters in the film are pretty stock cut-outs, with the weary and potentially untrustworthy traveling companion, the analytical scientist, and the megalomaniac grasping for power in the vacuum of society’s fall. The only character with any depth to him is Lee Richards, who does go through a solid character arc of drifting from the certainty of predictable mathematics to the fluid unknown of chaos theory dynamics as the shifts and changes in human behavior challenge his world view. Samuel L. Jackson lends a cantankerous world-weariness to the role, someone whose absolute certainty of things slowly gets peeled back.

I think where the film ultimately falls short the most is the balance between running time and content. While the film clocks in at almost two and a half hours, the story doesn’t quite fill the gaps, resulting in some parts where it seems like the movie is killing time with drawing out some scenes and incidents before moving things forward again. The result of this are a couple instances where the plot suddenly lurches forward with a development that either resolves a problem tidily or swings things on a new axis entirely. In the end, the film remains fairly engaging, if bogged down by some derivative choices and thin set-up.

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@CayomMagazine

 

Screening for Emily Harris's Death is Not My Friend has just concluded. Judges' verdict are expected within the hour. #CayomFest #DeathIsNotMyFriend 💀

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Death is Not My Friend

 

Alpha:

Spoiler

This is gonna sound like a nitpick but it’s actually a recurring problem that needs to be addressed: when you’re making a serious dramatic film for an ostensibly adult audience and you’re on a budget of $25 million, realistically you’re not going to turn to highly-expensive CGI de-aging technology so the actors will look like younger versions of themselves. It costs around a million dollars to model a CGI human head, and each frame costs around $30,000 to $100,000 to animate. The cost of this technology is prohibitively expensive and no filmmaker working on a budget like $25 million would turn to it as a solution, especially when there’s much more vital production costs that need to be covered. I won’t entertain any debate on this, it takes me out of your film and there isn’t really a counterargument against that.

 

Anyways, it makes sense that this is based on a Reddit post because this has a ton of things that irk me about modern “elevated” horror films: an over-reliance on monotonous, repetitive “atmospheric” scares combined with some incredibly blunt, dime-a-dozen metaphors for grief and trauma. There’s not a single character that develops from the very-tired family drama trope they’re introduced as: everyone is static, going through the motions up until it’s time for some Really Sad Shit to happen and that guy in the robe shows up. This is especially true of the dad character Darren: from frame one, director Emily Harris is blatantly telegraphing to the audience “this guy is going piece of shit” and the film refuses to elaborate on that or peel back any layers beyond the standard abusive-father clichés we’ve seen dozens of times before.

 

What’s really the point of all this? We’re just watching a woman’s miserable life unfold, and a personification of grief shows up every now and then to let the audience know they’re supposed to be very unsettled right now. Apologies if I’m coming off so harsh but this film embodies some of my least favorite trends in horror right now, and at a certain point I just became completely disengaged from what the film was trying to achieve because of the lack of psychologically-complex characters in this supposedly psychological drama, and the repetitiveness of these very skin-deep musings on the nature of grief.

 

Cookie:

Spoiler

A film so 2000s in mood and execution the only thing missing was an Evanescence song playing during the end credits— Oh wait.

 

Death is Not My Friend spawned the longest review of the festival from me, but not necessarily because it asks of its audience to be particularly analytical. It wants to showcase surreal, frightening imagery while also bringing the tears, but between its two settings, an overly flawed structure emerges.

 

My issues are two-fold; For one, the film is based on a Reddit post, and it has the subtlety of one — laying on its themes overly thick to have the impact it desires most of the time. That'd be easy to look past if the story had a strong flow, but by the time the tenth or so relative has died and the red-robed figure shows up to play yet another round of artistic peekaboo, the level of repetitiveness really starts to take its toll. It probably works a lot better in the story’s original written form, but played out cinematically, it results in tedium rather than eliciting dread or tugging at your heartstrings. This, in turn, also makes the film’s actual climactic moment when Sasha, having been driven onto both her figurative and literal ledge, finally confronts the apparition that’s been haunting her seem random and sudden. The lead-in’s technically there, sure, but the way it plays out in the story proper, it doesn’t feel entirely earned.

 

Secondly, Sasha being a very passive protagonist doesn’t help answer questions one might have about how she actually deals with both trauma and the specter that’s haunting her. All of the red-robed figure’s meaning is dedicated to its presence, but I was never made to understand why it took on the appearance that it did, or what it doing the same thing over and over was actually supposed to serve. It again highlights the film’s lack of a real flow; it’s there to look scary and make Sasha upset, and… that’s about it?

 

I think the issue there is that Sasha never brings up the specter to anyone, or even questions its existence outside of the visions. It leaves the viewer thinking that these visions ultimately don’t even matter, and you could cut the majority of those scenes out and it’d have no impact on how Sasha handles grief, a subject she doesn’t bring up that much anyway as the film just moves from one set piece to the next, creating some awkwardly sluggish pacing even outside the repetition. Very few of the people Sasha is supposed to be grieving for are given the development that would make the audience care for their passing either, and so we struggle to share her pain as much as the movie wants us to. Only one death is actually effective, and that’s of her older sister, given that the bond she shares with Sasha is the strongest one in the film. Like most of the rest of the film, however, it happens and then the film lumbers on without going back to it much. I get that’s part of the point, that life moves on and we have to learn how to deal with grief, but it leaves the film cold and distant when it should be warm and introspective.

 

Death is Not My Friend, despite its intentions, is a sadly underwhelming affair, perhaps held back by its source material but whose execution leaves as much if not more to be desired. Audiences recently acquainted with grief may get more out of it, but that sadly wasn’t the case for me.

 

Numbers:

Spoiler

Phoenix Entertainment tries to roll out the red carpet for its crimson-stained take on the time-old story of how we cope with the sometimes senseless and random deaths of those around us. Does it work? Partially. The primary issue with the film is perhaps that it falls into a predictable rhythm of Sasha has someone close to her she has an interaction with, there’s an emotional poignancy, a creepy faceless robed figure shows up with red tint on the camera so you know it’s artistic, and then someone dies. As mental representations of death go, it’s hardly original, but the first time or too it hits pretty well, and then it keeps happening. The film finally does build to an emotional and successful final confrontation, but it does beg the question of why Sasha never tried to interact with the robed figure before at any point in time. The result is a film that occasionally pokes through the surface to hit the audience with feels and ambiance, but at other times feels a bit perfunctory.

 

I think part of that issue comes from how much time in Sasha’s life things cover, with the age of four to an indeterminate young woman age (casting both a 24-year-old and someone only a decade older as adult Sasha is a strange choice, since changing casting for not that significant an age jump compared to child to adult kind of throws off the ability to connect with adult Sasha), with the film just methodically chugging along with little kid Sasha, then middle kid Sasha, then teen Sasha, then college Sasha, and so on. We don’t quite get a chance to really latch on to how any particular Sasha is dealing with things. I think the film would have been far better grounded if it was focused around adult Sasha dealing with her depression and grief with occasional flashbacks to incidents when she was younger. If anything it would have least made the Death interludes a bit punchier and more meaningful in showing how Sasha got to where she was.

 

The cast is generally serviceable, if no one from the roster particularly stands out with time to distinguish themselves other than a couple Sashas and Naomi Watts as her mother Michelle. Liam Neeson has a little range in playing an asshole, but for the most part, his character is one-note.

 

In all, the film provides a halfway successful semi-surreal gateway into living with trauma, but it’s an example of a film having most of the right pieces, but not assembling them in the right way.

 

Edited by cookie
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11 minutes ago, cookie said:

Death is Not My Friend

 

Alpha:

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Cookie:

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Numbers:

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Spoiler

Very fair criticisms across the board, thank you for your opinions.

 

Alpha is 100% correct on the CGI thing, he wasn't the first one to bring it up (Blanks last year rose the same issue with Returning from Hell, when I had Eric Stonestreet's character go through CGI), and y'all right, I totally agree.

 

Btw, it is not completely a horror movie - it's a drama with surrealist elements, very much in the same style as the director's film Carmilla. But plenty of people consider that to be a horror movie (I don't, personally, but that's up to everyone specifically), so really nothing to say there lol.

 

The issue that I think does ring true the most amongst everyone, and seems to be most unanimous, is the repetitiveness of the structure. I guess I can try to explain what I was trying to do: the purpose of structuring the movie the specific way I did was because I wanted to very much replicate that exact feeling of repetitiveness and numbness that is created once something seems to happen over and over and over again. That's exactly what happened to Sasha - who, ftr, fake name aside, is a real person: this is in fact based on a Reddit post, but it's based on a non-fiction Reddit post (same as last year's Returning from Hell) that has nothing to do with surrealism. I got the idea from the story based on a small excerpt of it that lit up the concept of "framing a piece of trauma like a photograph in your brain for the rest of your life".

 

It's an extremely "customized" biopic of sorts, in which I wanted to create a specific piece of art around someone else's story. And I think that, exactly like that other movie, I might've focused too hard on having everyone experience what the real person felt, more than on a traditional, more cohesive film structure. As I said, my goal was to have that numbness of "Jesus, more trauma?" creep inside to the point that you feel bloated and exhausted, like you're being driven over the edge yourself. Unfortunately, didn't quite make up for it with exhuberant storytelling, nor did I accomplish my intended goal to the full extent anyway (and if so, not on a positive way), so, my bad.

 

Definitely agree on the characters not having much to shine, being underdeveloped, cliched and/or on the one-note side, although I appreciate the praise to some of the performances. Finally, for the issue of the creature's point not being specifically defined, ultimately, my explanation is that the robed creature is Sasha's own torment, her own imaginary personification of Death, haunting her since childhood, A trauma that she carries from day 1. She never talks about the creature to anyone else because it's her torment and hers alone - she knows nobody would ever understand. A scared child may never truly speak about their monsters, and Sasha never spoke of hers.

 

Otherwise, pretty much everything else not mentioned here, I agree with and will kindly take as constructive criticism. Thank you guys @Alpha @cookie @4815162342

 

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GO-KART GOTTLIEB

 

Alpha

 

Spoiler

 

What an ending. Probably the funniest film of the festival, I thought I was watching that Leslie Nielsen parody of The Fugitive where the freight train is chasing him off the tracks and hiding behind trees and shit. Based on the relatively-serious first 75% of the movie I can only assume that Tom Tykwer was trying to create a heart-pounding climax but he ends up with an unintentionally-great piece of slapstick comedy.

 

But overall, this was pretty unremarkable. It starts with a very silly idea which is a serious sports drama centered around go-kart racing and up until a point, it plays it completely straight-faced and it just becomes boring pretty quick. Hard to get me invested in a racing movie with family drama and out-of-control mayhem when Speed Racer is right there.

 

 

Cookie

 

Spoiler

 

To those not overly familiar with New Journey Pictures's formula of studio drama films (even if this technically arrives from a studio born out of its ashes), Go-Kart Gottlieb may sound more interesting than it actually is. What’s initially sold as a perfunctory sports drama almost abruptly in the final act turns into what audiences may first assume was a fever dream they had while falling asleep in the middle of it, only to discover that no, they haven't dozed off, the madness really is unfolding right in front of them. And that's not to say it isn't a bit of a sight to be seen, full of scenes of robotic vehicle rampage interspersed with confusingly vague relationship drama.

 

Unfortunately, the film falls victim to where other post-Yin NJP films have themselves gone off the rails, in that the surprise is pretty much there for the hell of it, perhaps as a last ditch move by the writers to make what they perceive as a lacking story more noteworthy by throwing a sudden supernatural twist at it to see if it'll stick, jumbling the narrative instead of enhancing it. Depending on how invested you were beforehand, it could either make a boring drama entertaining on a trashy level or a compelling piece instantly crash and burn.

 

Go-Kart Gottlieb leans towards the former, but only by that much. The third act mayhem does make for an entertaining finish, but it is simultaneously undercut by the PG-13 rating leaving out any carnage that would’ve allowed it to at least achieve some sort of grindhouse cult status.

 

Go-Kart Gottlieb isn't among the worst of its kind (Higher Ground and White Wyvern are both worse, in my opinion), in part because of that ending, but there’s very little to dig into besides that, despite the go-kart setting acting as a blunt stand-in for the German motorsport scene.

 

 

Numbers

 

 

Spoiler

 

So, for like 85% of the film, the movie is a generic by the numbers sports drama. Not bad or anything, but it hits all the standard tropes and cliches and it’s engaging enough to pass the time. Then, the movie hits a switch, and goes kinda bonkers. Won’t say what happens, but essentially the film suddenly shifts from Very Diet Days of Thunder to an Asylum horror comedy. And then, almost as suddenly as it goes bananas, it suddenly ends.

 

So yeah, this movie mainlines some silly pills in the final 15ish minutes. I don’t know if it makes things better or worse, but it certainly makes it more memorable than it otherwise would have been

 

 

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THE NEXT GOOD DAY

 

 

Alpha

 

Spoiler

The cast does a mostly fine job, but it makes sense that this was based on a short story, because the world as depicted on-screen is so insular and underdeveloped, and it fails to deepen any of the characters or their relationships with one another. Mind you, this isn’t a complaint about “worldbuilding”: the lesson here shouldn’t be that it isn’t possible to tell very simple stories with a small set of characters. This is me asking, can you imagine these characters actually existing and going about their lives beyond Levi and Delaney’s piano therapy sessions, or Levi and Leah’s sibling arguments? The replacement for that is mostly some first-semester psychology class musings about grief and trauma. And while other might find some of the material here to be fairly moving, for me it’s presented in a very un-cinematic way that failed to resonate with me. Felt very film school-ish, in a way.

 

 

Cookie

 

Spoiler

 

As the second of two Phoenix Fire Entertainment submissions dealing with loss and grief, The Next Good Day takes a smaller, more intimate approach than Death is Not My Friend, and succeeds better than it, if only up to a point.

 

While one can see its main twist coming from a mile away, and coming close to derailing the story at its most melodramatic intervals, Tom McCarthy’s more understated direction and some fine performances from its limited cast help pull the film back up to a respectable level. Dunst as Levi’s psychiatrist is the stand-out here, keeping a level head even as our protagonist exposes more and more of his fractured personality the further their interactions develop and the parallel timeline with his sibling begins to sync up with the present. For as well as the film flows otherwise, the parallel structure can lead to a few hiccups, but nothing that results in any derailing to the overall experience. With that said, some of the cameos, particularly of a recognizable face appearing in a throwaway bit at the very end, prove a bit unnecessary and risk to distract rather than add, but the film is courteous enough to not linger on them for too long.

 

The Next Good Day is solid, dealing with its subject matter in a suitably levelheaded way, even if I  didn’t walk out finding it anything spectacular.

 

 

 

Numbers

 

Spoiler

 

The other festival offering from Phoenix Entertainment shares a number of thematic similarities with Death is Not My Friend, mainly the travails of a young adult coping with grief and loss and projecting it through waking hallucinations. Unlike Death is Not My Friend, the core of the film is based around interactions between main character Levi and his therapist Dr. Delaney, and there’s some actual explorations of feeling beyond passive suffering.

 

However, the scenes between Levi and Dr. Delaney end up feeling a bit flat, with a lot of slowness before everything gets tumbled out in the final handful of scenes. In a way it feels like the film is deliberately hiding the ball to have a “A Ha!” moment at the climax, even if the hidden ball becomes fairly obvious well before the film reveals it, and the result is it feels like the film is killing time with some scenes that move the characters forward by inches at a time. Devin Druid does give a good performance as Levi, even if the character is at times written to be a bit too cipher-like.

 

So I am overall positive on the film, but I think the writing speaks to a trend these days where instead of trusting and engaging the audience from the tilt films or shows try to play coy and backload things unnecessarily. If the story is not meant to be a mystery or a puzzle, then it usually is better to be straight sooner rather than later.

 

 

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That concludes the admittedly scarce (and long delayed) Year 9 festival. Special thanks go to @El Squibbonator, @MCKillswitch123, and @SLAM! for participating with their submissions, and for the CAYOM audience for tuning in and being patient through the delays.

 

As previously announced, the awards are limited to just three this year: Best FilmBest Lead Performance, and Best Supporting Performance, as voted upon by our judges. As only three films with rather small casts were submitted in competition, no runner-ups will be featured outside of Best Film.

 

Without further ado, our first award up is:

 

Best Supporting Performance

and the winner is...

Spoiler

medium_c9b7f452abf99da11441e5e49a045acd-

 

Kirsten Dunst as Dr. Jan Delaney 

in The Next Good Day

 

"Dunst as Levi’s psychiatrist is the stand-out here, keeping a level head even as our protagonist exposes more and more of his fractured personality the further their interactions develop..."

- @cookie

 

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Best Lead Performance

and the winner is...

Spoiler

zoey.png?hOzZSgIcyZZyQ1q31yByuXlccUieAZ.

 

Zoey Deutch as Vanessa

in Bikini

 

"Zoey Deutch is a solid bit of casting for the role of Vanessa." - @4815162342

 

"Zoey Deutch plays Vanessa, a young woman who refuses to let any obstacle or inconvenience get in her way... ...Deutch delivers a very solid turn here..." - @cookie

 

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and for our last award...

 

Best Film

and the winner is...

Spoiler

Zoey Deutch

Ramy Youssef

Beanie Feldstein

and James Ransone

in Kelly Reichardt's

 

Bikini

 

"Overall, this was a very fascinating film to read, and I think its confused metaphors may warrant some deeper analysis later on, but for the most part I didn’t find its observations on gender and sexual freedom all that revelatory." - @Alpha

 

"While Bikini is not a film that would light the world on fire, it is a solid little film with clear themes and messaging, as well as a sprinkling of humor and crudeness to give it the edge it craves." - @cookie

 

 

Runner-up:

Tom McCarthy's

The Next Good Day

 

"The Next Good Day is solid, dealing with its subject matter in a suitably levelheaded way, even if I  didn’t walk out finding it anything spectacular." - @cookie

 

"...(T)he core of the film is based around interactions between main character Levi and his therapist Dr. Delaney, and there’s some actual explorations of feeling beyond passive suffering... ...So I am overall positive on the film, but I think the writing speaks to a trend these days where instead of trusting and engaging the audience from the tilt films or shows try to play coy and backload things unnecessarily." - @4815162342

 

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