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It's a Wonderful Business: An Indie Brief
A little charisma goes a long way.
Many times a month, I receive email requests for reviews and ratings of various independent and underground films and shows. Sometimes I can catch up to them, sometimes they turn into catsup. This entry I call “An Indie Brief” because it’s just that: An independent fare briefing. Nothing too complicated, but hopefully fairly thoughtful enough. Enjoy.
It astonishes me to no end just how hard people - ordinary Joe Six-Packs - will go to make the next big thing in entertainment. Sure, the passion is impressive, and the ability to cull together resources is an effort not to be taken for granted, but if the end result makes for eye-rolling fodder and nothing more, then the notion of quitting when ahead comes to mind.
By no means am I suggesting that the makers of Daddy’s Divas, Indie Rooftop, and The Greek Oak Guardian should hang things up for good - the opposite, actually. Do and do and do again. That negative notion pops up from time to time in the audience, but don’t be discouraged, and don’t be disappointed, especially in yourself.
David Tittone is the star and creator of the web show Daddy’s Divas, of which I viewed the first three episodes. A Google search of his name reveals a filmmaker and a workout buddy in one package, and this carries over into his role in family television. He plays a newly widowed single father of one baby and two precocious and mischievous daughters, who intricately perform confusing and softened pranks on their teachers and their Grandmother. Every time they get into trouble, he shows up to either chuckle or look frustrated at the other adults for not understanding.
Tittone’s character is supposed to be an at-home personal trainer, and indeed the man is in shape, but his overall image belies his profession. Below the neck, he’s kind of ripped, or at least as much as a Dad bod can get. Above the neck, he looks like the middle manager of a Target, goofy and unassuming. The unintended juxtaposition made me laugh a little and even helped some of the intended jokes of the show, no offense to Tittone. His facial expressions aren’t particularly subtle and for the most part amount to guffaws and eyebrow acting (raised, lowered, exaggerated) but they do lend to the cheesy domestic affair of his show.
There are neighborhood bikers - some rough & tumble wannabes - who get their butts handed to them frequently by a young near-psychotic boy. At one point, the child rams his kiddie car at full speed into one of the bikers whose just trying to enjoy a drink by his mailbox. A drink of juice, I believe, but no matter, as he’s now concussed on the lawn.
Daddy’s Divas goes for some subversiveness but is never meant for real thorough viewing. This is the kind of show a parent might stream as the children come home from school, just to have it in the background until it’s time for Spongebob Squarepants. Now that’s subversive. The show feels awfully (not painfully) repetitive, but it’s also light and easygoing. Maybe the first season gets better as it moves along.
Another TV show, soon to be released to streaming sometime soon, is of a similar community tone, but vastly less polished. Indie Rooftop, a docu-series on Chicago musicians, shot on the rooftop of a downtown building, is both a concert performance piece and a talking head interview setup with individual musicians, for roughly twenty-minute episodes. Starring Fana Hues, Fany de la Chica, and Louis King in their respective segments, what I viewed of Indie Rooftop may not, hopefully not, be the final cut.
For a show that’s all about talent and music, the expectation is that the audio will be clean and the footage will be smooth. Instead, there’s lots of noise interference from the wind (it’s in Chicago of course), distortions and feedback from the microphones, and non-descript/uninteresting composition and movement of both the performances and the interviews.
Editing and pace are also a problem, as the show comes off as overstuffed and stretched too thin. There’s talent, but not behind the cameras, and not on this project it seems. It’s a shame that the musicians have to play as if they’re trying to make up for the amateur production that surrounds them, as the songs they perform could’ve been wonderfully registered under a different team. Instead, Indie Rooftop is but a high concept with a low bar.
The Green Oak Guardian
On the film side of things, The Green Oak Guardian returns this critic to the wholesomeness of daytime made-for-tv movies. Similar to Indie Rooftop in a few minor technical ways (poor stock effects and odd ADR) and not too unlike Daddy’s Divas in a childproof way, Green Oak Guardian is a romantic drama about family, creativity, and redemption, that would be perfect for the Hallmark Channel if it had a slightly bigger budget.
The movie is about the adult daughter of a comic book creator, who too is working on panels of her own. The father’s claim to fame, The Green Oak Guardian, will be made into a feature soon, and the lead star - who looks suspiciously like Nathan Fillion - has just arrived in small town U.S.A. to both rehab his playboy image and to ask the creator for his blessing on the project. The daughter is skeptical and annoyed, but sooner than later sparks start to fly and hearts grow a few sizes bigger, ala a certain Grinch.
Green Oak Guardian is no superhero film, though there are some costumes and wonderfully drawn comic books to showcase. There is genuine charm between all of the actors, making for a chemistry that overshadows any bumps on the post-production side of things. However, even with some lovely exchanges and deep eye-gazing, there’s this all too humble community filmmaking camaraderie that oversaturates the duration, which could stand for some cuts here and there.
Sweet to the point of sugar shock, The Green Oak Guardian is a surprise of a very small movie with big city ambitions. Drop the stock elements, invest in some original content, sprinkle it in, and there’s a better film to be found.
Burt Reynolds: The Last Interview
Finally, I arrive at Rick Pamplin’s latest, Burt Reynolds: The Last Interview. Readers may remember that, some time ago, I reviewed his previous effort (which featured clips from this interview I believe) to the level of a Sonny Corleone street thrashing. Pamplin the filmmaker came off as too smug for anyone’s taste, and too proud to be that way. Here, Pamplin the fan and movie buff is more reserved than before, or rather more tolerable if unfocused.
The documentary is what the title suggests: a final filmed interview of Burt Reynolds. At the top of the movie, there are thirty or so minutes of information on Burt’s acting classes and history with local Jupiter, Florida theaters, from friends and family who adored him. This is no propaganda piece, I should say here, nor is it too fluffy to be of genuine interest. It’s a dedication, more than anything.
Burt is interviewed by Pamplin about Hollywood filmmaking and independent budget sourcing, but the star is clearly more interested in discussing his teaching efforts, his anecdotes, and his experiences. In this way, Pamplin is not up to the task of keeping his subject on point. I can see his conflict though, as how do you guide an elderly celebrity to keep up with your line of questioning, especially when you’re an uber fan of his work? Pamplin succumbs to Burt time and time again, but not without getting some fine thoughts and funny jokes from the man. The Last Interview isn’t enlightening, but it is a decent chunk of gold to see shine.
Things end with Quentin Tarantino going over Burt Reynolds’ reading of his Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood script, and his offering up of Burt’s place in cinema history and how important his films were to Quentin. Rick Pamplin can’t help himself here from gushing over Tarantino, showing his fanboy over his filmmaker. The Last Interview is overly sentimental at moments, but it’s also a treasure to watch and live in. A little charisma does go a long way, and Burt had plenty to go around. 2.5/5
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