Blogging CineVegas: From the Wild Weekend to Closing Night
An inside look at the films, Q&As, promotions and local flare at CineVegas 2009.June 22nd, 2009 | Jessica Tripp
In grand Vegas tradition, CineVegas really heated up for the weekend. Theaters became more and more crowded as locals and visitors joined the press and film students that had been watching faithfully since Wednesday.
Friday night’s big screening, 500 Days of Summer, which will be released wide later this summer, was sold out, but there were other films to be seen. Patriotville, starring Emmanuelle Chriqui and Justin Long, is a refreshing coming-of-age film that involved neither cheerleaders nor road trips—and a surprise ending. Director Talmage Cooley said in the Q&A that the film had been influenced by many of his own relationships. He wanted to put across the idea that life, like relationships, is about change and growth. This story-centered film leaves the viewer with a sense of catharsis and light-heartedness.
The first film on Saturday morning was a series of shorts made by local Nevada filmmakers. Some of them stood out as well-shot and beautifully made. Tokyo Rose was shot using local students, and was one of the deepest well-done shorts in the set. Path, the story of a man who breaks up with his girlfriend because she lives in New Jersey, had a much larger budget, and was equally well-done. Nancy Boy, a film about a homosexual white supremacist and the difficult decision he was forced to make was the most complex of the lot. There was a touch of sci-fi with D.A.I.S.y., a touch of silliness with The Unfortunate Story of a Lost Soul 2—which director/star/writer Joel Schoenbach admitted was made when he was bored one summer in Hawaii— and a touch of creative absurdity with The Confessions of Orange Traffic Cone Assassins, but the shorts program itself was definitely a good mix films and both thought-provoking and very entertaining.
The next screening I attended, Asylum Seekers, directed by Rania Ajami, was one of the more elaborately promoted films at the festival. It was preceded by a wedding on the red carpet. One of the volunteers said that the couple had been applying for a wedding license at City Hall when they were randomly asked if they wanted to hold their wedding at CineVegas, and in true Vegas style, they were wed by none other than The King himself.
The screening of Asylum Seekers left the audience wondering if the filmmakers themselves should be committed. The characters were stereotypes of contradiction, such as the virgin nymphomaniac and the paranoid exhibitionist. All of these crazies had absurd costumes designed to show off their various insanities, for example, the teenage computer addict with a scary passion for electricity looked like someone out of an anime convention. After being introduced to the asylum, the viewer quickly realizes that the people running the institution are as unbalanced as the patients. The film has some fragmented scenes reminiscent of Clockwork Orange and random additions that remind one of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. “A floor show, in an empty house, in the middle of the night…” popped into my head as the inmates were asked to perform in a talent competition as part of their entrance.
The director revealed in the Q&A that this was the first independent film that allowed the use of the Red Camera, which is a hybrid of digital and film cameras. This camera, which sends the recordings straight to a hard drive, allows for much more improvisation and smoother shooting.
Thor at the Bus Stop was next, and it was a completely different bag of potato chips. It was an expansion of a series of shorts that the directors had done in the past. The film, starting out with Thor, the Norse god of mythology, waiting for a city bus, proceeds to show the interconnectedness of the lives of an entire small-town cast of characters. As it jumps from scene to scene and new character to new character, the viewers can become a bit overwhelmed, but as the story goes on, all of the characters are shown to be connected together in a perfect web, ending with many of them riding the same bus as Thor, all getting off before him.
The film’s description talks about the film being set in a “Nevada suburb,” but what it fails to mention is that it was actually shot in Las Vegas. The cast was entirely local, as were the shots, the crew, and the bands used in the soundtrack. However, not an inch of neon was shown with the exception of one Las Vegas sign that can be seen out a bus window in one scene. Otherwise, unless you’re a local, you’d never be able to identify the town. However, since the showing was at CineVegas, many of the viewers had the unique pleasure of recognizing UNLV or their very own neighborhood.
The festival wrapped on Monday with some lower-key films, hardly any red carpets, and a drive-in screening on Fremont Street. The few brave filmmakers, press people, sponsors and locals that had stayed through until the end sat under the stars, watched one last film and sighed with relief. It had been a wonderful festival, but boy were we ready to sleep!
For more information and to view the shorts online, visit www.cinevegas.com.
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