2014 Florida Film Festival: Opening Night, Friday, April 4

FFF2014LogoYou might say I was a little excited to attend the opening night of the Florida Film Festival. As a Cinephile passholder, I was guaranteed admission into the sold out program. Nevertheless, I arrived at the theater an hour before the film was scheduled to start. I was the first person in line. I brought a book for the wait, but didn’t read much as I was chatting with volunteers and fellow attendees and generally rubbernecking at the usual mild chaos that accompanies the start of any large event.

Half an hour before show time, the doors opened, and I was the first person to walk into the theater and choose a seat. Another passholder sat next to me and we chatted until the program started. Preliminaries included short welcome speeches by Enzian Theater and Florida Film Festival President Henry Maldonado, Orange County (Florida) Mayor Teresa Jacobs (the County is the primary public sponsor of FFF), and Maylen Dominguez, the Program Manager of the Film Production MFA at Full Sail University (the primary sponsor of FFF).

After the formalities, the lights went down, and the screen lit up.

Oh Sheep!

Directed by: Gottfried Mentor
Germany, 2012, 7 minutes
Florida Premiere

This review contains spoilers

I was looking forward to this short far more than I was looking forward to the main feature. I love sheep. I am a knitter, after all — that is how I know Sam and Emily. And look at those adorable sheepy faces in the trailer! And the sheep hop up and down so excitedly and cutely! But I should have known that all would not be well in the world of sheep because of that splat of blood at the end of the trailer. Somehow, I missed that little moment when I first viewed the trailer.

In this short, two shepherds bring their flocks to the only patch of green grass in a barren desert. The two flocks immediately intermingle and hop happily up and down. The shepherds eye each other suspiciously and push their flocks apart. But the sheep keep pushing past them and hopping happily.

The shepherds finally cooperate in building a wooden fence between the two flocks. One of the sheep butts a hole in the fence. A bump rises on his forehead. Then the shepherds build a barb wire fence. A sheep takes a run and jumps. His fleece billows in the wind. He looks so happy. And then things go sideways. We see blood splashing on the faces of the other sheep. We see the happy jumping sheep hanging from the barbed wire. The shepherds build a tall stone wall. The sheep bash their heads against the wall. Much spurting of blood, and on the pretty green grass lay the broken dead bodies of some of the sheep.

The shepherds decide on a different solution — they each shear their sheep into different patterns. One flock has lines of wool; the other has wool polka dots. The sheep are allowed to intermingle. At first, they hop happily together. Then one sheep notices the different patterns. The two groups start fighting each other, blood flying everywhere. At the end of the short, the bodies of the sheep litter the grass. Every. Single. Sheep. Is. Dead. I . . . I . . . just can’t.

Not recommended

The Trip to Italy

Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
UK / Italy, 2014, 107 minutes
Florida Premiere

First there was a 6 episode TV series The Trip, which was then made into a 2010 film of the same name. In the series and movie, Steve Coogan (both the actor’s name and the character’s name) is a food critic for The Observer. Bob Brydon (ditto) is Steve’s friend who tags along on a working trip when Steve’s girlfriend cancels at the last minute. The Trip to Italy is a sequel in which the pair go on assignment to Italy for The Observer.

I went into this movie not caring about it at all. I have not seen the TV series or the first movie. The trailer looked kind of boring. I ended up being pleasantly surprised. I laughed throughout. I loved the quick glimpses into restaurant kitchens. I was starving when I walked out, having seen all that delicous-looking food. The scenery was predictably stunning. I really, really want to visit Italy now.

About 1/3 of the jokes in the movie involve the characters doing impressions, mostly of various gangster film stars, but also of different actors who have portrayed James Bond, Christian Bale as Batman, Tom Hardy as Bane, and more. Another 1/3 of the jokes involve quotes from movies. I know I didn’t catch all the impression or movie references, as others laughed at moments that meant nothing to me.

In critical traditions, a literal journey is a symbol for a metaphorical, often spiritual, journey. In this film, each character has a tacked on metaphorical journey. Bob has an extra-marital dalliance early in the film and is contemplating returning to that city for another go. Steve wants to spend more time with his 16-year-old son. Neither situation is resolved at the end of the film. The characters are still in Italy, and the very end of the film is a conversation between Steve’s assistant and Bob, comparing the endings of two movies. It is obvious that they are telling us that these two endings are the two possible endings for The Trip to Italy, but then we don’t know which ending the characters choose. It is a clunky and mildly depressing end to an otherwise funny and meaningless film.

Overall, I enjoyed the film, but I’ve already started forgetting it.

Not particularly recommended

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