ATVA Reviews: Part 3 (Revenge of the 5th)

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Hello! I’m the new Head of Features for 2017/2018, and I look forward to making Air3 Features great again (sorry Kieran). It’s with great excitement I present the final batch of AirTV Awards reviews. If you want to see the films that have been reviewed in this article, or the other two articles, you can catch them at the MacRobert Arts Centre on the 15th of May at 7pm. Tickets are £7 and can be purchased from the MacRobert website or from the AirTV stall on campus.

Matthew Roud

It’s Not a Phase – James Holtom

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James Fitzsimons

I had two problems with James Holtom’s It’s Not a Phase – the sound and the length. Everyone either sounds plainly too quiet or is drowned out by the music played in the background. The length I wasn’t a fan of because it was a long time to sit and listen to people’s music tastes. It was nice idea to document how people’s music tastes and others perception of them have changed over the years but I feel this movie could have been 5 minutes shorter than its near 15-minute run time

2/5

Cara Boyle

This was an interesting one for me, and I liked how there was no script for the film. It was nice to see people’s real answers to the questions and it made me try and answer the questions in my own head, especially the vans vs converse! I liked the variety of answers and how honest everyone was.

3/5

Aaron Fincham

Firstly the sound design is appalling. The difference in volume levels between interviews, and the volume of the music is a simple task that’s failure sticks out as a massive thorn in my side as a viewer. Unfortunately a big part of this comes down to opinion. As the piece is about the opinions of individuals on a specific subject matter, part of the success of the film comes down to how interested the viewer is in the subject matter. I really wasn’t interested in the subject matter. It is possible to come back from that, but the people being interviewed were not engaging, didn’t have that spark of personality that can cause interest where there wouldn’t otherwise be. Other than these faults its well-made, but these issues drag it down from being seen as enjoyable and interesting.

2/5

Daniel Wright

James Holtom’s It’s Not a Phase may very well be the most interesting film in the 2017 ATVAs, and that’s primarily because it isn’t a film per se; I can’t review actors. I can’t review scenes. I can’t review script. Rather it’s a well put together montage of interviews of individuals in which they are asked about their youth, music taste, gig interest and anything else surrounding the ‘scene’ concerning punk, skater and rock genres of interest. Asking questions ranging from teenage hairstyles to favourite My Chemical Romance songs (it’s Teenagers in case anyone wondered), It’s Not a Phase deals with an extremely interesting area which a wide variety of people have experience with – especially if you grew up in the late 90s and early 00s. My main issue with Holtom’s film is definitely the sound quality of the interviews. The quality and volume differ a huge amount from interview to interview with some being incredibly low and barely understandable, whereas others are incredibly loud and require a quick reduction in volume. Sadly this makes many of the interviews very difficult to fully enjoy. However, in spite of this, you can tell that the subject matter is very important to James which makes the film feel far more personal than any other film in this year’s ATVAs which I can instantly respect and appreciate. The people interviewed are predominantly interesting to listen to, the subject matter will interest many people for different reasons and the importance of the topic to director James Holtom can be felt throughout. I started this film struggling to understand its existence but ended up enjoying it far more.

3/5

Cory Thomas

James Holtom did a great job on the interviews, and as the video progressed I became more and more interested in their stories. Furthermore, the concluding section is very well done. However, the film does not need to be fifteen minutes long to achieve its purpose and persistent sound issues prevented this from reaching its full potential.

2.5/5

Carys Lunn

It’s Not a Phase is a documentary exploring how former “scene kids”, notably goths, emos, look back on these phases, and what they feel about it now. The sound quality is frustratingly poor in some parts of this film, which is a shame. There are also some scenes where the framing looks quite awkward. The interviews were interesting, but the sound issues took away from their overall impact.

1/5

A Spoonful of Beans – Marco Di Giola

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James Fitzsimons

For the most part, the acting in this was great. Natural, believable and of a high quality. The choreography during the fight scene was brilliant, if a little quiet in the sound department, and the premise was enough to pique my interest. I loved the cinematography and the main character’s entire motivation of wanting some beans. Another fun but weird movie in this year’s ATVA’s that has only one flaw, the fight scene sound

4/5

Cara Boyle

I loved the opening, it gave a great Wild West feel to it. The fight scene was great, it was well thought out, choreographed really well and the camera work made it more dynamic. The scene where the water drops lead into a flashback was one of the highlights.

4/5

Aaron Fincham

This is an interesting one. A lot of the scenes have some really good ideas behind them, but just don’t pull of the execution. I feel like the entire project would have worked better as a comedy. An attempt was made to push the boat out and make some impressive scenes but limitations made it come across as a parody. A genuinely funny parody, but a parody all the same. Since I feel this wasn’t the intention then I’m not sure if this can be seen as a good thing. Most of the acting is done well and the dialogue works. The cinematography is done well and the cut-away flashbacks look professional. I don’t think that the change in aspect ratio works but I understand the thought behind it. There’s a lot that could have been done to improve the film but what’s there isn’t bad and makes for enjoyable viewing.

3/5

Daniel Wright

Marco Di Gioia’s A Spoonful of Beans is a film which I can not only appreciate, but which I can respect also. Heavily influenced by classic Westerns, the film tells the story of a failing restaurant and the arrival of a mysterious female chef with an interest in the leading restaurateur in town. A Spoonful of Beans overflows with style from the slow pans and intense zooms on characters eyes, to the cleverly thought out soundtrack, and to the use of tropes like split screens and flashbacks to make the watching of Di Gioia’s film a deeper and far more enjoyable experience. Marco Di Gioia’s film also contains what may be the most impressively choreographed and shot fight-scene I have seen in a student film. Overall, A Spoonful of Beans is a film, which respects its influences immensely and is greatly rewarded for it with fantastic cinematography and style that makes this a serious ATVA contender.

4.5/5

Cory Thomas

A quirky entry that I think the audience will fall in love with. The highlight of this film (other than its stunning cinematography) is the excellently choreographed fight scene, which put me to the edge of my seat.

4/5

Carys Lunn

I was so impressed by A Spoonful of Beans. It tells the story of a chef who wants revenge from their former boss. The script is brilliant, it is beautifully shot, very well edited, the acting by the whole cast is superb, and even has a well-choreographed fight scene. It is clear from this film that Marco Di Gioia has a passion for great storytelling which shines through. This film is definitely a standout and one of my favourites, I found the story very compelling.

5/5

Mystagogue – Jonathan Wilson

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James Fitzsimons

We do love our minimal dialogue this year, don’t we? Once again I didn’t really grasp what was going on in Jonathan Wilson’s Mystagogue. But in all other respects this is a good film. With the acting, sound and cinematography all on point, all I can say is that I was at a loss as to what the plot was. Maybe Wilson wanted us to create our own story behind it, or maybe he wanted the story kept a secret for himself. Maybe there are clues hidden within that I missed. All I know is the acting was there, the shots were there and the tension was ever present, so clearly Wilson did something right

3.5/5

Cara Boyle

Interesting that there was very little dialogue, but I liked that there was a mystery to it and while it wasn’t confusing to watch I kept guessing what was happening the whole way through. It had a cool supernatural atmosphere to it and I liked the cliff-hanger ending.

3/5

Aaron Fincham

I’m making the assumption that mystagogue is a clever play on the words mystery and synagogue. While I don’t have much to say on the synagogue aspect, the mystery part certainly plays into it. The entire film is just one big “?”. Every scene, the dialogue, the location, it all just carries a question mark above it. Fortunately this is one of those times in which the refusal to give exposition works for the benefit of the production. I feel that if I knew the context of the scenes I may judge it harsher, but since I don’t know the reasoning behind any of the occurrences I just have to take it as it is. In that way it is dramatic and mysterious. It sparks my curiosity and makes me want answers to the questions it raises. The production itself is very high quality and it all feels incredibly professional, with very strong cinematography and editing. The acting does the job but unfortunately falls flat at the stabbing scene, which is also the weakest point of editing. There are occurrences in which the editing appears to throw the characters out of position and this is most glaring during said scene. Other than this minor gripe though the entire production is a very well put together and intriguing piece of film.

4/5

Daniel Wright

As a showpiece for some impressive cinematography featuring stunning scenery and tracking shots, Mystagogue is a striking feat of camera and sound. As a film to sit down and watch, however, Jonathan Wilson’s Mystagogue left me feeling confused and unsatisfied in a less than pleasing fashion. Telling the story of a man being forced to enter the woods to find a mysterious deer statue, this film features barely any dialogue alongside a score that twists and turns as the film goes on. While Wilson’s film features some impressive scenes that made me wonder, I overall found myself bored by the proceedings of Mystagogue no matter how much I tried not to be. The film does what it does very well and manages to go somewhere in its mysterious plot, but the problem is that it doesn’t seem to go anywhere meaningful or important and leaves you feeling predominantly unfulfilled.

2.5/5

Cory Thomas

Just to start, Mystagogue has the best cinematography I have seen for an ATVA thus far, and it’s great that we have drone footage too. I actually wished that they had utilised it further. The film flows so beautifully and is hard to take your eyes off. With little dialogue, the actors still manage to turn in great physical performances.

5/5

Carys Lunn

Mystagogue is a gorgeous film full of intrigue. There is only one line of dialogue, so the story is told visually. The cinematography is very smooth and excellent overall, while the score is atmospheric and contributes to the impressive feel of the film. I found the narrative quite confusing however; as the ending is basically a cliffhanger, which leaves everything, open to interpretation. Overall though, Mystagogue is a hugely cinematic film and exceptionally well done.

4/5

Sanctuary – Callum Downs

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James Fitzsimons

Sanctuary by Callum Downs is the story of a hunted man awaiting rescue. Completely without dialogue (again) we are left to decipher the plot of this one ourselves. Thankfully it’s less difficult to understand than some of its other silent brethren. However, it is the extra pieces of information that I feel would have made this movie better. Things like, why is he being hunted, who is hunting him, and while the film is certainly stylistically pleasing, it suffers from a lack of a complete picture. Not to mention the silence that the film makes such ready use is only served to, at one point, question if my speakers were still turned on. The lack of dialogue I get, but the lack of any sound, be it background music, the swig of his bottle, the drawing on a cigarette, for 40 odd seconds drew me out of the whole experience.

2/5

Cara Boyle

I liked that it was black and white, and the suspense was brilliant. The music choice in this was one of my favourites as it really added to the scenes, and while I don’t want to spoil it there was more gore than I was anticipating and it was unnerving. I will say that telephone ring after that long silence nearly made me jump out of my seat!

3/5

Aaron Fincham

Sanctuary does one thing very well and another very poorly. Up until the finale, the entire film is just a build-up. It echoes Hitchcock in terms of how it goes about building suspense with unnerving music and little actually occurring beyond hints at a greater picture. Unlike Hitchcock though, there is no pay-off. The ending falls flat with poor acting from the killer, completely removing any sense of intimidation you should be feeling from a man about to meet another man, who’s sitting in the shower, with a hammer. The music also doesn’t mesh well with the scene. The scene deserves a grand finale of fast paced, blood curling music that feels unnerving as well as create a sense of panic. It may seem like I’m knit picking, but when a film exists solely for the point of reaching one scene, then the quality of the film largely hinges on that scene. This finale just does not hold up, which makes the entire film feel pointless despite its quality.

3/5

Daniel Wright

Black, white, tense and beautiful are all words that instantly come to mind when I think of Callum Down’s striking film Sanctuary. The film is a slow burn that builds to a tense climax as it follows a man (Andrew Pope) who awaits a phone call and is told to stay away from the windows by a friend. The black and white film has an established style which the director is clearly comfortable and well-versed in using; something which shows in the precise camera angles of which no shot is wasted or inserted without a thought as to why. The film builds tension effectively through the thoughtful performance of Andrew Pope and the music, which builds and cuts out as events occur. While the film is simple, it doesn’t necessarily require anything else though perhaps the noise of the typewriter and the ticking of the clock would have heightened the tension even further. The lighting team deserve a mention here as a major factor in the success of Sanctuary is the lighting, which creates contrasts of light and shadow that only serve to add to a film already overflowing with atmosphere. Sanctuary is a great short film and a definite contender for a host of ATVAs. Unless you really hate the black and white aesthetic or the slow build-up, you will enjoy this I can assure you.

5/5

Cory Thomas

There is some eeally fantastic cinematography in this piece, as always from Callum Downs, and some great music choice too. For my personal taste, however, I found the pacing a little too slow and was craving more information about our characters.

3/5

Carys Lunn

Sanctuary is a wonderful black and white film with a vintage 1950’s feel where a man receives a strange note, and then spends the rest of the film awaiting his fate. Visually this film is incredible, and the shots are very deliberate and well thought out. The lighting adds so much to the hugely dramatic effect. Callum Downs is an accomplished filmmaker who knows how to create a story using no dialogue at all which is very impressive. Andrew Pope is also very good in the film. Sanctuary is one of my favourites.

5/5

Case of the Unreturned Letter – Danny Flynn

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James Fitzsimons

Those accents boys, those were just awful. But (potentially offensive) accents aside, The Case of the Unreturned Letter showcases some good comedy and a consistent shattering of the fourth wall. Though the jokes fell flat sometimes and I felt the run time was longer than necessary, this was enjoyable and you could tell the actors had fun making it.

3/5

Cara Boyle

I loved this! For me personally it was so reminiscent of old Columbo episodes, and it was so entertaining to watch. I liked the Time Vagabonds poster it was nice to see that wee touch, and I hope there’s a sequel coming for this one.

4/5

Aaron Fincham

This is by no means perfect. Some of the jokes fall flat, the 4th wall breaking often comes across as cynical and the acting can be downright wooden at times. But god damn I love it. I found myself genuinely laughing at a lot of points and despite the sometimes awful acting I couldn’t help but be endeared to the characters and their personalities. The transitions of old film footage is a stroke of genius that not only helps to make the entire thing feel more professional and adds a contrast to the scenes which helps bring out the humour. As I said this is by no means perfect, but it just about gets into that sweet spot of so bad its good which in itself is an achievement. Everything in the film served a purpose either to the plot or to the humour, never leaving me frustrated or annoyed with the choices of the director. Despite the jokes about breaking the suspension of belief, I actually did get sucked into the world. I really wanted to watch another episode, see where it may go or what might happen next. The film recognises its pointlessness and actively relishes in it, giving it a charm that many of the biggest productions fail to achieve. The Case of the Unreturned Letter is a film that everyone involved should be proud to have been a part of and is definitely the strongest film out of all those that I have reviewed.

5/5

Daniel Wright

Featuring an excellent lead duo of Jack Buchanan and Rowen Rennie as Detectives Smothers and Dick, Danny Flynn’s The Case of the Unreturned Letter is a funny tribute and parody of classic detective noir films that respects its influences while not taking itself seriously in the slightest. Following the two failures of detectives in tracking down the sender of a letter, the film takes the audience to ‘Chicago’ through clever use of transitions and stock footage that manages to accept the budgetary and technical limitations of student films and use them to an advantage in making a funny film even funnier. The film has some well shot scenes alongside a wide array of straight and ridiculous humour that manage to play off each other well with most of the jokes hitting their mark and only a few falling flat. While voiceover of the characters inner thoughts and running gags work sometimes, they slightly overstay their welcome at times though the performances of the lead actors, as well as ATVA worthy supporting actors in Bede Batters and Kieran Daly, manage to make The Case of the Unreturned Letter a film that is well worth watching and possibly deserving of the return of Detectives Smothers and Dick in the future…

Making influence-heavy comedy parodies is dirty work, but somebody’s gotta’ do it and Danny Flynn does it well.

4.5/5

Cory Thomas

Some hilarious one-liners, intelligent use of stock footage and comical narrations are just a few of the great things about The Case Of The Unreturned Letter. Jack Buchanan and Rowen Rennie bounce off each other well, and the film is tightly edited. I might have made the opening act a little shorter, but other than that I was thoroughly entertained.

4/5

Carys Lunn

This is yet another black and white film! It tells the story of the worst detectives in Stirling, played by Rowan Rennie and Jack Buchanan, who are on a mission to return a letter to its sender. The film breaks the fourth wall a few times, and the two detectives overacting throughout the film is quite entertaining. The use of 1950’s stock footage brought the scenes to life, and the sets were nicely designed. The plot twist at the end was very comical. However, The Case of the Unreturned Letter felt a little too long for me, and dragged quite a bit in my opinion, but is still a good effort at comedy.

3/5

The ATVA’s is May 15 at 7pm in the Macrobert Arts Centre

Tickets are £7 and can be purchased online or via a stall in the atrium

http://macrobertartscentre.org/

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