Monday, April 15

2024 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – April 14th

 Coda’s ongoing coverage of the 2024 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

FLOURESECENT BEAST – Directed by Paul Osborne


A corporate office worker is sent on a clandestine mission from his executives. The details of his tasks are kept cryptic and vague. Blindly, he must follow the breadcrumbs of clues to discover the true nature of his assignment.

This film wasn’t even on my radar when I originally made my festival schedule. But it garnered considerable buzz from my fellow movie loving contemporaries, so I switch some things up and made it to its final screening. I’m so glad I did as it turned out to be one of the best films of this festival.

This is a film about capitalism’s destructive force on artistry. It centers around Nelson Shell (John T. Woods), a corporate pencil pusher that aspires to be a novelist but can never seem to find the time, inspiration or even the justification to work on his passion. As someone who would far rather be spending my time and energy discussing and writing about cinema, I also struggle with the fact that my necessities and the necessities of those who depend on me require gainful employment for about 40 hours a week. As Meg (Dawn Brody) says here, it’s “what I do when I don’t get to do what I do.”

Director Paul Osborne, who also penned the screenplay tells this allegory with equal parts reminiscent of the absurdity of BARTON FINK and the magical realism of THE HUDSUCKER PROXY. He shows a clear flair for detail in both set design as well as dialogue. The monologues and soliloquies are well thought and delivered prose that fit into and add to the heightened reality in which this film exists. His uses of montage and split screen were both clever and kept the pacing of the story at a fevered clip.

His pregnant spouse, Beth (Meg Cionni) was sort of a heightened version of a Stepford Wife. She’s prim and proper, but in the most robotic way you could imagine. I think you must take this as Nelson’s interpretation of her, based on the pressure he feels to provide for his family. I think this reading of that character makes the most sense considering the world we’re in. The executive, Mr. Hayden (Patrick Day) that sends him on his mission explains that Nelson is nothing more than a cog in the machine that keeps this world spinning (and spending). Mr. Hayden is essentially a stand in for corporate overlords as a monolithic entity, or possibly, capitalism itself. For this contextual reason, I came to see Beth as just another machine part, specifically installed to keep Nelson under pressure and on task. A different explanation of her character might veer deep into chauvinism. In the end, I think Beth’s individuality was just another casualty of corporate greed.

Ultimately, the thesis of this film is consistent. Ventures for profit distract from artistic endeavors. In fact, capitalism requires this distraction to survive. Nothing cuts into corporate profits like individuals’ ability of self-fulfillment. And artistic expression is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling ways to spend one’s time and energy.

It certainly shouldn’t be understated that a small-budget movie at a film festival is one of the few places left that you are going to see the expression of this truth.



THELMA – Directed by Josh Margolin

When 93-year-old Thelma Post (June Squib) gets scammed for $10,000, she sets out on a field trip across L.A.’s San Fernando Valley for payback.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one. It was light and airy and a great way to end the festival. Thelma is tired of being handled by her family with ‘kid gloves’ but also needs to recognize what changes have come with her age. The film picks up considerably when Richard Roundtree’s “Ben” is introduced and the two fly off on his scooter. The tension of every action set piece is slower and more difficult due to the characters’ age, but still supported by the types of cinematography and score you would see in a Mission Impossible movie (which is referenced heavily.) I’m not sure how much Squib did of her own stunts, but these pieces were a lot of fun.

The film takes breaks from the action to remind us to take the elderly seriously, but it thankfully never beats us over the head with it.

This turned out to be Rountree’s swan song and I think it’s a good note to end on. And it is also part of the resurgence of 90’s indy icon, Parker Posey. I’m way here for that.

Overall, this is the type of film that I hope ends up available to stream from one of those sites that we all subscribe to. I don’t know how likely I am to purchase a copy, but if it just pops up as a recommendation, I’d watch it again.



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