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review added: 7/11/05



The Oracle Trio:
Spoonaur, Faded & The Standard v1.5

2004 (2005) - Oracle Films, LLC

review by Adam Jones of The Digital Bits

SpoonaurFadedThe Standard v1.5

Need a short break from the Hollywood Machine? Interested in seeing what young filmmakers are up to these days? I'm not talking about the pretentious tripe that seems to be funneling out of UCLA or NYU (or any film school for that matter), but the work from a pair of guys who are just plain passionate about movies - making movies - and the aesthetic of film itself. Producer/writer Brian Scott Robinson and writer/director Jordan Albertsen have formed a creative partnership that seems destined for success. Not only do they display a homespun talent for filmmaking (film students take note, if you please), but initiative and drive (wannabe actors and writers take note, if you please) that would shame the argument of how difficult it is to get into the business of filmmaking. Sure, you could argue that it's all about who you know, and then sit back and kick yourself for being right while enduring crap like The Ring Two or Napoleon Dynamite. Or you could say that within that sphere of connections there must be some talent as well, and then sit back and pat yourself on the back for being right while watching The Incredibles or Garden State. Robinson and Albertsen fall into the latter. Yes, they have connections and (gasp) even talent, but the bottom line is they want to make movies. Period. So allow me to introduce you, dear readers, to a trio of films produced, written, edited, directed... ah, hell, forget it. These guys MADE the films, okay? That much is clear. They're not going to be classics by any means or shown to aspiring film students with starry eyes longing for that big break. They do, however, serve a testament that young filmmakers are alive and kicking, and that they're work is demanding attention.

The first film, Spoonaur, is a teenage comedy involving a kid having issues with his girl's loyalty (and yes, Clerks fans, the movie title is a reference). There's a cynical edge to the comedy here, mostly slapstick, which only serves to further embarrass Ryan Spoonaur as the course of his day becomes progressively worse. If this situation sounds familiar, well, it goes to say the idea behind the film is hardly original (the film reminded me of Three 'O Clock High in particular), but it's the execution of the material that deserves mention. From a technical standpoint, there's a lot going on here. The film is loaded with clever shots that you don't typically find in short films. As a director, there is a confidence Albertsen exudes from behind the camera that makes up for the lack of an original script. The editing (by Robinson himself) is crisp, sustaining the energy needed for this type of comedy in a film that is only 18 minutes. Is it all that funny? Not really. The dialogue isn't particularly witty, however there are some cute moments that warrant a chuckle or two. Mostly, find yourself becoming absorbed with how the film is shot more than anything. Indeed, Albertsen himself doesn't really like the film, lovingly calling it "my piece of shit". You can tell the director is more interested in darker, more brooding films than this one. Which brings us to the next film, Faded.

This one finds Albertsen much more comfortable with the subject matter, shooting the film like a gritty documentary. Here, a group of kids get mixed up in a botched drug deal in which one of them is mortally wounded. In a desperate attempt to save his life, the kids race around town looking for help only to find themselves meeting a grisly demise. The urgency of the drama at hand is what makes this film engaging. Timing, which is crucial to this story, is executed with skill. The actors don't seem to be actors, but real people who don't know they're being caught on camera. While you're drawn into the characters' dilemma, you also find yourself glad not to be in their shoes. Far more serious and moving than Spoonaur, here Albertsen has found his niche cinematically in terms of storytelling and opens the floodgates for the final film featured in our little trilogy.

The Standard v1.5 is kind of the apex of the three films. Albertsen's talents as a director are on full throttle display here. It shows Robinson's dedication for producing something of considerable quality. And it just goes to show that they can inspire other young filmmakers to follow suit and avoid the head-clutching tedium of trying to get into the business. The short film merely scratches the surface of the feature length film being shot this summer, but if you think of it in terms of a test-run, you're doing the film a disservice. It stands just fine on its own. The Standard v1.5 gives us a glimpse into the life of a very disturbed youth, tormented by the pressures and anxieties everyone has experienced in high school. After a humiliating altercation with one of his peers, the student snaps and goes on a shooting spree through the school cafeteria. Where Bowling for Columbine took the satirical angle and Elephant snags the surrealistic approach, The Standard gets right up in your face and drops you in the middle of the storm. The desperation, confusion, and guilt of the students involved are handled with a sincere maturity that gives the film its dramatic power. The violence that unfolds is presented honestly, and therefore avoids being exploitive. Again, cynics may scoff at the much-covered premise, but I suspect they would be hard-pressed to be able to deliver such a short film that carries more emotional weight than a lavishly studio-produced feature (ahem, Alexander anyone?).

All things considered, these films are worth checking out. On disc, the video quality is good, if not great. Spoonaur and The Standard v1.5 were shot on 35mm, but something is lost in the transfer, and the picture isn't as clean as it should be. Soundwise, you have an excellent surround dynamic for both films. Faded, being shot on Super 16, suffers more, with the picture a little grainy in spots and the sound only in stereo. But hey, you make with what you have, right? Private screenings of Faded and The Standard v1.5 have been overwhelming. The public screening of Spoonaur last summer generated enough buzz to get people's attention. You can purchase any of these films on their website (www.oraclefilmsllc.com). Trailers for each film are available for viewing as well, should you feel a bit wary over buying blindly. Shameless advertising? Nah, shameless admiration.

Spoonaur

Film Rating: C
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/B


The disc features the original trailer and a making-of documentary.

Faded

Film Rating: B+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/B


The disc features the original trailer and interviews with the cast and crew.

The Standard v1.5

Film Rating: A
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A/D


The disc features the trailer only.

Adam Jones
adamjones@thedigitalbits.com
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