Friday, April 15

Emery's 2022 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – April 9th

 Coda’s ongoing coverage of the 2022 Phoenix Film Festival & International Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival. I'll be using these posts to recap the films I've experienced as part of these festivals.


 

By Emery Snyder - @leeroy711



18 ½ - Directed by Dan Mirvish

 


The year is 1974. Connie (Scream & Reacher’s Willa Fitzgerald) is a White House transcriber working for the Office of Management & Budget when she stumbles upon the only known recording of the missing 18 ½ minute gap of the Nixon Tapes. Afraid and conflicted, she enlists the help of Paul (FIRST COW’s John Magaro), a New York Times reporter.

I was surprised at how good this film was, as it was barely on my radar at all. And I’m quite glad I made it to the screening. The sound design, cinematography and costumes are so postmodern of the 1970’s New Hollywood movement that the film almost comes off as meta. With long scenes of intelligently written and well executed dialogue that remind me of the works of Buck Henry combined with the technical sight and sound reminiscent of Francis Ford Coppola’s THE CONVERSATION (and similar subject matter), this film was going for something very specific. And I think it nailed it.

Fitzgerald and Magaro are both fantastic here. Their chemistry exudes a very specific charm. But the film also boasts a great supporting cast. I always love it when Richard Kind shows up, but Richard Kind with an eyepatch is even better. And Vondie Curtis-Hall is one of those insanely reliable ‘I’ve seen him in tons of stuff but can’t quite name anything’ actors that has the ability to steal any scene at any given time. This flick even has an all-star cast of voice talents recreating the infamous recordings. Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi and Jon Cryer all provide the film’s background soundtrack, so to speak.

Ultimately, this film is having a lot of fun with a subject matter that has turned out to be far more prescient in recent times. With the new reporting of the 7-hour gap in Trump’s cell records and “burner phones” being used during last year’s insurrection, I wonder what a movie with this type of energy will be like looking back at the end of our nation’s 45th Presidency. How long before we’re able to look back at today’s threats against democracy and rule of law with a whimsical quirk?... This is not a rhetorical question… I seriously need to mark it in my calendar and begin counting the days…

In summary, this a very clever and accomplished film that has a lot of fun with its material. I can see myself revisiting it in years to come.

 

 

HYPOCHONDRIAC – Directed by Addison Heimann

 


A young gay man’s life unravels as he begins losing control of his mind and body, all while the ghosts of his childhood trauma come back to haunt him.

Due to my own carelessness, this was the film that I ended up with when I lost my ticket to the much anticipated, MASSIVE TALENT screening… Honestly, I’m kind of glad. I was going to skip this film altogether. And I ended up completely loving it. And as it turned out to be my final screening of the festival, it was a great note to end on.

This was such an unsettling depiction of mental health issues. The director (present for the screening) stood up and told us before it started that it was based on his real mental breakdown. Then, as I recall, this was re-stated in one of the film’s opening title cards. What was to follow on the screen made these statements completely unnecessary. This film wears its heart on its sleeve so blatantly that it’s painfully obvious how deeply personal this story is to the storyteller. And this, is one of the most special and refreshing things that I can find in this medium that I love.

The characters here were well crafted and organic to the story’s setting. Our main, Will was portrayed phenomenally by Zach Villa. It’s his mental condition that is the film’s focal point and a large part of its success rests on his performance’s ability to switch in between hyper-expressive and subdued into concern as he internalizes his fears. The rest of the cast works well to either trigger or react to Will’s ever-changing condition while remaining careful not to steal the show. No, we the audience are here for Will. His headspace, and every beautiful and horrifying thing going on in it is ours to experience with him as this film crescendos into a kind of Cronenbergian mental body horror climax.

If this all sounds a bit too intense for you, I don’t blame you. But I also have to mention just how funny this film can be throughout. It’s actually hard to describe the overall tone of this film. It’s serious about a serious subject that you’re definitely supposed to be taking seriously. But it also has no problem taking breaks from time to time to snicker at itself or to just be goofy. I think this is a big part of why I felt it was so obviously personal to the filmmaker. Like an actual human, this film has tons of personality. And that personality is never afraid to splatter itself all over every inch of the frame.

 

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