The fifth year of the LA Comedy Shorts Film Festival (LACSF) (no, I don’t know what happened to the second “F”) opened at the Downtown Independent on April 4, with this year’s theme “Get Lucky” – and I did. So did everyone else who attended. Once again, as in 2010 and 2011, they excreted my expectations. (Excreted, ewww.)
Thursday was “The Opening Act: Celebrity Screening (featuring Funny or Die)” – most of these films were not in the competition, but just darn funny. Although I noticed that the “professional”, not in competition, films were nowhere as entertaining as the festival entrants. Passion and enthusiasm can trump and be funnier than let’s-crank-another-one-out detachment. The competitors included Killing Vivian, Love and Germophobia, Rich Girl Problems, and Timmy Muldoon and the Search for the Shadow Eyes Bandit.
Killing Vivian, starring Missi Pyle, written and directed by Mandy Fabian, was inspired by an event in Fabian’s life. It asks the question, “What if someone was way too helpful when a neighbor was faced with putting down their pet dog?” There were some funny moments in this film, but it may have gone on a little long for the premise. The end titles were reassuring, however, letting us know that “No animals were harmed during the making of this movie, although some may have been offended.”
Love and Germophobia, written and directed by Tyler Spindel, pits a germaphobe boyfriend against his girlfriend who is in the hospital. How can he get the flowers to her without actually breathing the same air she does? Love and Germophobia had some of the most memorable and sympathetic characters of the evening, and the world’s worst boyfriend.
Rich Girl Problems, directed by Emily Halpern, was full of not very believable characters, none of whom was terribly sympathetic. The rich girl was perhaps the most sympathetic, but had the least screen time. And who can feel sorry for a rich girl because she has weird friends and whose only real problem is deciding whom she will run off with next?
Timmy Muldoon and the Search for the Shadow Eyes Bandit, written by Tony Yacenda, is a remarkable piece of filmmaking. Timmy is a little kid who decides to make a cop movie. We’ve all seen it: the beat cop obsessed with avenging the murder of his partner, but at odds with his captain and his wife. The film moves back and forth between the little kid’s perspective and Timmy suddenly in a world of adults. If you told me about this concept, I would have said that it would never have worked. I would have been wrong.
It is funny, engaging and charming. Even through it technically qualifies as farce – the audience’s suspension of disbelief is sacrificed for silly gags – you find yourself rooting for Timmy. I asked Yacenda during a Q&A after the film whether he envisioned this world of mixed adults and kids from the beginning or whether it evolved during the filming. He said that the objective didn’t change during the production. “We wanted to make a film with kids, as if the kids were making it, but with the highest production value we could afford.” Yacenda and his team have real genius and creativity. (And somehow they managed to get a cameo from Cuba Gooding, Jr.).
I’m looking forward to the remainder of this event. I’ve attended a lot of film festivals, and LACSF is consistently the most friendly, least pretentious and often the most educational for filmmakers. (And they have great parties.) It runs from April 4 through 7. Hurry. You may still be able to get tickets. If you missed it, definitely put it on your calendar for next year.