Special Report By Monica Sullivan
The third annual Indie Fest returns to San Francisco with a mixed bag of goodies from fledgling filmmakers who may be the cinematic leaders of the 21st century, ta-dah! Or not, ahem...:In the midst of a crowded indie fest, "The Auteur Theory" by Evan Oppenheimer might seem like a breath of fresh air. In the cold light of the following morning, though, Oppenheimer's threadbare conceit barely withstands the most indulgent scrutiny, unless you fondly place it in the there-are-worse-ways-to-spend-80-minutes division. At least, "The Auteur Theory" is preferable to twiddling your toenails in the lobby. Alan Cox plays George Sand, a documentary filmmaker from the B.B.C. who is even more clueless than Opal from the B.B.C. in Robert Altman's 1975 classic, "Nashville." George Sand takes nothing with a grain of salt, not even his own name. When budding filmmakers at an impoverished film festival become the victims of a serial killer, George Sand is determined to investigate! His pervasive cluelessness doesn't trouble him in the least & he even develops a major crush on one of the suspects, Rosemary Olson, played by Natasha Lyonne. He explains his desperate need for additional investigative funds to a bored (& very funny) panel of three judges, including the great Ian McNiece. Well-acted by an earnest cast (all apparently on wage deferments), "The Auteur Theory" works very hard to be very zany & very hip, &, very occasionally, Oppenheimer & company succeed. P.S.: If you wonder why Alan Cox looks so naggingly familiar, you might have seen him in "Mrs. Dalloway" or "The Odyssey" or "An Awfully Big Adventure" or even in 1985's "Young Sherlock Holmes", playing John Watson as a child.
"Standing on Fishes" (don't ask us what that title means) is not clever enough to be as clever as its creators want it to be. Bradford Tatum & Meredith Scott Lynn are talented, (especially Lynn) but a feature-length film is beyond their scope at this point. One cute sequence shows Lynn patiently explaining to a romantic rival why making out with someone else's boyfriend is SUCH a bad idea. Lynn & Lauren Fox play it arch & funny & this bit alone would have made a fine short subject. (That's how "Living In Oblivion" got its start.) But most of the script sounds like the last conversations its collaborators overheard before they recorded them verbatim, UNedited & UNinterpreted. Jason Priestley, Kelsey Grammer & Pamela Reed are also around, none of them well cast or well directed. It's a pity that so much sincere energy went into an unfocused effort like "Standing On Fishes." David Hedison's daughter Alexandra appears briefly opposite J./P.
"The Strange Case of Senor Computer" plays like it used to be longer than its current running time of 80m. The narrator is Ike, an equalized robot who tells the sad tale of life with his creator, Charles (Rick Ziegler). Charles, who resembles David Hyde Pierce with an unwashed & ragged hair cut, has an abysmal love life. So does Ike, although, being a robot, he has more of an excuse. Ike does get to participate in telephone sex with Marsha (Barbara Beville), who's more turned on by his voice than yours truly. Housekeeper Carlotta (Gladys Hans) vacuums around Ike, Linda the Nut Case (Lisa Goodman) hollers at Charles & director Tom Sawyer's narrative plods on to its dreary conclusion. The ever helpful Ike DOES warn us what that ending will be at the very start. A few sparks of humor land here & there, but all of them fail to ignite. Tom Sawyer loves vintage science fiction of the 1940's & 1950's, so he filmed Ike's story entirely in black & white as a tribute. Missing is the oomph that would have allowed "The Strange Case Of Senor Computer" to cast its own quirky spell. For more on Indie Fest 2001, check out the web site at sfindie.com.
© 2001 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 1/3/01
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