Guerrilla Korner

HOLLYWOOD Outsider's art-bear movie critic, Edgar Allan Balzac, tackles movies from the independent scene. We are talking real indie films, not faux Miramax/Disney "independent" films. You'll have to drag your lazy ass down to your local film-fest to check out these monster flicks. Fish'n Chicks was an official selection of The 2002 Brentwood Film Festival & Toronto GTA Cinema Underground Movie Festival 2002.

Fish'n Chicks (2002)

Directed by Joseph E. De Leo

"Fish'n Chicks" is low ball, talky, homoerotic, student-film-grade schlock about a couple of drama queens who male-bond while fishing and trading "chick" stories on a Canadian lake. Some of the dialogue is funny but seems unintentionally so. Missing is a knowing sense of irony that could have been achieved with a little breathing room between hissy fits delivered by George (Mike Dufays) and Arnold (Mark Tyler). The ending has a twist that does nothing to salvage the preceding 29 minutes (30 minutes total running time).

Fish'N Chips

Most of this short takes place in a row boat which has the effect of completely paralyzing the action. Unfortunately, as it turns out, a sense of foreboding or suspense could have been drawn upon but was passed up by misplacing a revelation, think F.W. Murnau's "Sunrise" for how to create suspense in a confined space like a row boat. As Alfred Hitchcock said, 30 minutes of suspense is better than 3 seconds of surprise, or something like that, at any rate. Like an early Kevin Smith or Spike Lee film (who are thanked as "true teachers" in the end credits of "Fish'n Chicks"), the setting is merely a backdrop for the characters' chatter, and the results are more like a filmed play than a movie. There are a few sex scenes sprinkled in between the chin-music but even the sex is awkward and unimaginative. Following is an example of some of that funny dialogue that is actually funnier in ways that were not intended:

Fish'N Chicks
    Arnold: "For 12 hours these girls did shit to me, I wouldn't do to a farm animal."
    George: "Jesus, bro, are you going to see them again?"
    Arnold: "Nah, girls like that come and go faster than a garbage truck."
    George: "Can I get their number?"
    Arnold: "Only you would be taking sloppy seconds."

The funny dialogue doesn't stop there. It just keeps on coming:

    George: "This isn't about her, is it? This is about our friendship, right?... Arnold, we are fuckin' men... man, we are men! We should never let a piece of pussy fuck our shit."
    Arnold: "You're right. You're right."
    George: "We've got to look out for each other, the way they do among themselves."

"Fish'n Chicks" is a rookie effort, but that doesn't mean that the filmmaker and cast haven't gone through considerable trouble to get this project together. Like any movie of any size or budget, the foundation is the story. A shit-load of bad movies have sprung directly from weak scenarios (including my own stinky movies). Making a bad movie can be just as difficult as making a good one. Filmmaker Joseph E. De Leo needs to go back to the source of his inspiration; all those filmmakers thanked in his credits (Martin Scorsese; Francois Truffaut; Federico Fellini; Spike Lee; Tobe Hooper; Kevin Smith; John Cassavetes; and Russ Meyer). A careful examination of those filmmakers' early work shows that they all touched on themes that were close to their hearts (or penises as the case may be).

Fish'N Chicks

Also, these filmmakers made effective use of the rawness of their limited production values. In other words, if you've got lemons, make lemonade! Handheld camera work is the independent filmmaker's best friend. Experiment with extreme close-ups and establishing shots. Try to mix up the lighting schemes, play with the lights, their sources, and with shadow. Use foreground elements and background elements to break the story out of the claustrophobia of its frame (unless that is the point of a particular scene). THINK AND TELL A STORY VISUALLY! Most important, tell a story you care about but remain objective enough to control your audience's experience.

Another give-away rookie mistake is Joseph E. De Leo's overabundant appearance in the end credits. Next time he should consider just simply saying that his film is a "Joseph E. De Leo joint!" He isn't the first, and I'm sure he won't be the last to trip up on the art of authorship in the closing credits. Dude, let the editor, cinematographer (or director of photography, or cameraman, it's basically the same thing), and production manager (or production coordinator, or production supervisor, again, basically the same thing on a small shoot) have their own credits! It's a given that the director has his finger in all the pies of production. Let the other technicians have their share of credit. Hopefully, Mr. De Leo will take his experience on "Fish'n Chicks" and bring it to his next project. -- Rating: $1.11

Edgar Allan Balzac -- copyright 2003 Hollywood Outsider

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