Friday, May 23, 2008

Oberlin year-end cinema screenings, pt. 2

It's been over a month, and my memory is starting to fade fast. Yet I feel an urge to revisit these student films that even their creators have probably forgotten about. But I made a vow that I was going to finish this, so here goes:

Tuesday, 5/13/08. Geoff Pingree's Cinema Practicum and Senior Tutorials:

(1) George Saines - Catatome

A documentary about the history of the Carnegie library and beginnings of the Mudd library. I missed the first part of this. It was an interesting subject, especially for Oberlin people looking to hear some about the history of the (now) seemingly useless and unused Carnegie building.

(2) Julia Reisen - Mapping

"Mapping" of the female body. I don't get this obsession with female nudity. It seems to come out of a lack of more substantive ideas. Either that or the whole sex-positive atmosphere has convinced people that matters related to sex and nudity are so much controversial and more interesting than anything else.

(3) Jake Coburn and Ma'ayan Plaut - Waking The Innocent

A full-fledged narrative film about a guy who gets in a car accident driving drunk but doesn't remember the details. I guess he figures out that his "friend" was really responsible but his friend ends up getting away with it anyway. The sound was mixed kind of poorly in places (a continuing problem with these student films), and the acting was also a little weak, but I thought the story was original enough. Unlike some of the other narrative films, this one was a bit less escapist and more true to the social atmosphere of college, which I liked. I'm not exactly sure what it's trying to communicate by the fact that his friend gets away, but I took from it the idea that people often don't get caught for doing shitty things. Sort of, anyway. There's a little bit more to it there that I can't communicate right now. And the film only seemed to approach that idea, so it's hard to tell exactly what was intended.

(4) Jared Correia - Faceless

A documentary about drug dealers in Oberlin. Aside from dealers saying how easy it was to make money off dealing and then saying they quit because they couldn't maintain that lifestyle, I don't really feel like this one said anything to me that I didn't already know. It didn't really get into what would possess someone to become a dealer, or why it seems pretty easy for someone who wants to commit the time to that, or why college students have such a preoccupation with drugs. In short, a pretty simple, mindless piece of work.

(5) Charlotte Tachet - Strange(r)

A French exchange student remembers her time at Oberlin. Should be renamed to Isn't Oberlin Crazy??? No Really, Isn't It???

Ok, so maybe I'm being a little harsh. I was annoyed that this didn't make any observations about Oberlin outside the very obvious ones, but I'm not sure what I'm supposed to expect. It seemed more like a film of athletic highlights high school sports teams watch at the end of every season instead of a film about something. I guess that's ok if that's what she was intending.

(6) Annabelle Laurent - Limay

A documentary about the women of a small village in Central America. I honestly remember virtually nothing about this one, which means it must have been competent enough. I got the vibe that it was about women fending for themselves when their husbands are long gone, looking for work.

(7) Namrata Kolachalam - Encryption

Really well shot sci-fi piece that ruined itself by taking what must have been about 6 minutes of actual footage and stretching it out endlessly by repeatedly editing the same bits of dialogue together. I know it was a measured effect, but the repetition doesn't reveal anything more about the events that are happening onscreen. Instead, it slows everything down to a crawl and makes what would have been a well-executed piece really annoying. I hate when people over-edit stuff like this.

(8) Ian Page - How To Build An Antenna

An experimental film that begins with instructions on how to build an antenna but descends into a weirdo blitzkrieg of images and sounds from television. I liked this one, though after seeing it a second time when it was screened without building an antenna bit, I realized how unnecessary that first part seemed. At the very least, I think he should have done the building the antenna part straight-up, without any collage, and then gradually descended into the second part.

(9) Jason Outenreath - Sinema Provocateur

Mindblowingly idiotic in the best way possible. This has about the most misogynistic plot a person could ever come up with (an evil organization of women called the castrati want to rule the world through their castrated politician puppets), but the idiocy was so obvious and up-front that it made it an incredibly fun to watch. Just about every bad hollywood action/sci-fi movie cliche is on display here, and it's done impeccably. Definitely the highlight of the night.

(10) Zenith Richards - Four Feet of Segregation

This wasn't screened due to technical difficulties. Had there been a little bit more effort to test for these problems before the screening, I think more people would have stuck around.

(11) Maggie Casey - Set Free

A "documentary" about a mental health patient that might have seemed interesting and relevant, had it not been only 4 minutes long.

(12) Peter Nowogrodzki, Nick Pumilia - Birds of Prey

A documentary about birds of prey making the Cleveland area their home. Interesting in a sort of discovery channel, I-was-just-flipping-through-the-tv-and-found-this way.

(13) David Sherwin - Up From the Muck

Yet another documentary, this one about kids Sherwin taught in Cambodia. This one was remarkable for the amount of glitches and technical errors contained in the tape, which rendered almost unwatchable. I don't know if the problem was in the tape itself or the screening, but I certainly hope David was aware of those problems and had an intent of fixing them.

(14) Sara Krugman - Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings

A pretty good college of different images that took about 5 years to actually play, making me wish heavily that someone actually bothered to work out all the technical details before they ask people to sit and watch films for 4 hours. Maybe that's why basically no one stayed for the whole time.

(15) Valerie Alt - Not Yet Home

In an exciting turn of events, this one is a documentary, this time about illegal immigrants working in Oberlin. I was annoyed that it presented people objecting to illegals as racist and one-sided, and felt that it could have done a lot more to push the issue and go further into why the issue of illegal immigration mines so heavy on the American psyche.

(16) Lena Dunham - Bumppo & Me

I can't even begin to describe the things that have bugged me about this film. I have to admit this one is probably the only reason I even bothered to come back and write about a month old screening. Lena Dunham, in both of her films, has done a better job than any other student filmmaker of evoking a reaction inside me, even if it is extreme annoyance and disgust. That's an awful lot to accomplish for someone I don't know at all.

The lovely Lena Dunham goes with her friends to visit an eccentric old man who she's been communicating with online for several years. We learn plenty about all the weird, crazy, bordering on terrifying things that Natty Bumppo has done, but never about the man's philosophies or why he's worthy being profiled on film.
He's also an author, but you wouldn't know it if Dunham wouldn't have mentioned it, because he doesn't seem to talk about it all. She likes him because of his rugged individualism and ability to live and define himself outside any culture. In some ways, this is an encapsulation of the Obie spirit. But like Emerson and Thoreau supporting John Brown, or Pete Seger supporting Stalin after a visit to the Soviet Union, I think she misfires and finds a crazy person instead.

When asked about how he would define his life, Bumppo doesn't seem to know, or at least be able to answer in any coherent way. But that seems to be enough for Dunham (though not some of her friends...I can tell he scares the shit out of her boyfriend), who is infatuated with his mail order bride, obsession with firearms, and history of impulsive and violatile behavior. He's certainly an interesting subject, but her relationship to him seems heavily on the surface in a way that fails to reveal anything that truthful.

(17) Maya Curry - The Rice Cake Incident

One big inside joke among the members of Curry's house that will probably seem kind of dumb in a year or so, really, but it was at least pretty fun to watch.

(18) Alison Luby and Oren Shalev - By the Books

A detective story that takes heavily from Chinatown and The Long Goodbye (to the point of almost plagiarism). I could see the influence, but not anything else. Which leads me to...

(19) Jared Correia - So It Goes

this 30+ minute disaster. The plot is taken from Persona - one person decides to stop talking, the other one has to deal with that. Of course, anything that made Persona an insightful and disturbing look into the human condition is gutted thoroughly, and we're left with an ugly looking sequence of digital video that goes absolutely nowhere. I might even call this pretentious, but I want to save that word for more deserving works of art. I could say that this is a case of style over substance, but there isn't even a style here. It's just a bunch of monotonous, badly filmed (the shots are flat and tedious, there's obvious dirt spots on the lense in places, the sound is mixed badly) shots of a wife walking outside, then coming home from working and getting undressed as her husband continues to not talk. At one point, in an out of place part lifted from a Bergman film seemingly without any regard to its relevance in this film, she attempts to pray to God which is something no Oberlin student would do (they'd much more likely take their misery out on others passive-agressively). And then she kills herself.

None of the important and deeply affecting issues of life and death in Bergman's work can be found here. No attempt seems to be made to put them there. This coupled with all the technical issues and the excessive length all equal just a big waste of time. I sincerely hope that when people think of Bergman's films, they don't think of something like this, which is far from even being competent enough to qualify as a parody.

I hate to badly trash the work of someone I don't know, but if you make a film that heavily references a famous Bergman film, yet seems to contain none of what made that film insightful or interesting, it makes me question if you even understand what you're referencing in the first place.

(20) Rachel Greenberg - Capoeira Angola at Oberlin (WIP)

A documentary about Capoeira Angola that ended up actually being a lot more interesting than was probably intended through it putting Greenberg and her complaining about the difficulties of relating to people here and how people misunderstand Capoeira in the forefront. It seemed like it was still striving to be more conventional and boring like some of the other documentaries, though. I certainly hope the roughness was intentional, but who knows.

(21) Ally Paz
- Always a Good Show (WIP)

The bit shown lasted about 30 seconds, which I didn't really get the point of seeing, especially at the end of a 4+ hour screening.

That's it!

No comments: