Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival – What A Blast!

Posted: September 27, 2009 in Miscellaneous
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Just returned from the 2nd day of the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival.  For those who say there is nothing to do in Birmingham, this event serves as Exhibit A showing that those folks are just plain wrong!  This was a ton of fun!  I thought this seemed like it would be a pretty good time, but it actually exceeded all of my expectations.  The festival is well organized and operated.  It was also fun to be handed an “official ballot” at each screening and get to pretend to be a snooty movie reviewer!   But of course what will make or break a movie festival is the quality of the movie lineup.  And in this case, the movie lineup was just outstanding!

On the ballot, movies were to be rated as being either excellent, good, fair, or poor.  I thought I would go through the movies that I saw, tell you what I thought about them, and the rating I gave each.


Courting Condi – This is a quirky little film that is part mockumentary, part legit documentary.  This framework is that this guy, Devin, has decided that Condoleezza Rice is the love of his life and he must win her over by first learning all he can about her and then finally attempting to actually meet her.  A “documentary” is being made by a film maker following his trip of discovery, as he travels to places that Condi has lived over her life.  In return, the filmmaker is going to help him meet Rice.  During this process, Devin also makes these ridiculous musical tributes to send to Condi (as they have music in common).  But just when you think this is just going to be a straight-up comedy, they start working in legit documentary segments that rips into Condoleezza Rice’s entire career.  The funny parts are funny, the hard hitting parts are extremely hard hitting.  As I said, it is quirky, but it works.

As a side note, Oscar winning song writer Carol Connors, who has a cameo appearance did a short Q&A after the showing.  A person asked if during a particular scene if her brownies were really burning.  I literally did a face palm, as to me this was so obviously scripted that the question was ridiculous (it was also something I shouldn’t have done as the person asking the question was actually sitting right next to me!).  Carol then claims that it was NOT scripted, and that other parts of her scene were also NOT scripted.  This eventually led to discussions of her political leanings, which are apparently Republican.  When asked about that, she claimed that the filmmakers did not know where the film was going when she signed on (and almost seemed to pushing the whole thing as pretty much legit, as  a true mission to learn about Condoleezza Rice.).  I found all of this absurd.  But whatever.

I gave this film an “excellent” rating.  But this was the first film, and I think my expectations were too low.  If I were to rate it now, I would give it a “good” rating.  It’s a solid film, but there were a ton of good films this year.

Courting Condi Official Website

Troll 2:

This movie is now my favorite “so bad it’s good” movie ever!  It is awesomely bad!  I had high hopes for this, but it was even better (or worse) than I could have ever dreamed!  A sequel to Troll (though in name only), it was once ranked as the worst movie ever made by IMDB users.

Some things I learned:

  • Do not eat things with green slimy stuff on it.  Wait, that’s something I already knew!  But apparently it is not the common sense that I thought it was!
  • If you want to keep people from eating something, and you only have 30 seconds to come up with an idea, then I guess you are not going to come up with anything better than taking a leak on all the food!
  • “And you can’t piss on hospitality!”
  • Dead grandpa’s are bad asses!
  • If you are ever attacked by goblins, get your hands on a bologna sandwich stat!

From the sounds of it, the festival organizers are considering making this film a Sidewalk regular.  I hope they do, as this is ripe for audience interaction that would likely come on repeated viewings.  This obviously was not up for competition, but was still rated.  I had a difficult time rating this film.  I mean, it certainly is not “good” in the traditional sense of the word.  But on the other hand, I was highly entertained.  Thinking that the organizers may use the ratings to help determine future lineups, I went with “excellent”.

The House Of The Devil:

This is a horror film that is basically a tribute to slasher type films made in the 1980’s (in fact, it is set in 198o’s).   It is technically well-made, and the acting is solid.  But I thought the plot was thin for its length.  I am sure that the filmmakers would argue that they were building suspense, but I would say they actually were just filming filler.  When the film does finally kick into gear, the action part of the movie seems extremely condensed to me.  And it all leads to an ending that manages to be both obvious and ridiculous at the same time.

I gave this film a “fair” rating.  It should be noted that based on audience reaction, though, that this film went over a lot better with most.  This film has actually been picked up by a distributor and is scheduled for limited release on October 30th.

The House Of The Devil Official Website

Dead Snow:

Two words:  Nazi zombies!  Another horror flick, but this one happened to be awesome!  The premise is pretty simple.  A bunch of med students are vacationing at a cabin in the mountains that used to be stomping grounds for the Nazis.  Well, now they are zombies and they are pissed!  Dead Snow is a Norwegian horror film that very much has an Evil Dead feel to it, which means it is right up my alley.  Plenty of both comedy and gore to go around!  This easily rated as “excellent”.  I highly recommend this film.

Dead Snow Official Website


Local Shorts #2:

This was a collection of short movies from Alabama filmmakers.

  • In Our Shoes – A short about the shoes people wear and what you can tell about a person from their shoes.  Pretty boring, rated it “fair”
  • Monarchs: Those Words, Those Frames – A short about a supposed up-and-coming band, The Monarchs.  The band didn’t stand out as anything special.  Rated it “fair”.
  • The Nurse – A short about a nurse who takes care of what appears to be a demon child.  Pretty neat, I rated it “good”.
  • Hanging By A Thread – A comedic short about a couple who are in counseling.  Pretty funny, I rated it “good”.
  • Limited Prospects – Really funny short about a woman who joins a speed dating service.  Rated it “excellent”.
  • Bennet’s Urn – Another really funny short about an 8 year old kid who has discovered that he is going to die.  Naturally, he requests a party!  (When one of his parents decide that a party is a bit morbid, Bennet correctly points out that is not as morbid as an 8 year old who has been told he only has two weeks to live!)  The best of the bunch (which of course means “excellent”);
  • A Map For This – An okay short about 4 couples going through life.  Can’t remember if I went “fair” or “good”, it was borderline.
  • The Hem Of  His Garment – This was a music video that had a lot of religious elements that were lost on me (in fact, I didn’t even get that it was religious until I saw Jesus in the credits and that a local church had made it).  I gave it a “fair” rating, but I have a feeling that if I saw it again, I would be embarrassed by what I missed as it went completely over my head.
  • Awaken – A short about the distribution of a flyer asking people to vote for Alex Filbert, in which those that receive this flyer mysteriously resort to violence.  It was interesting, I rated it as “good”.

Idiots & Angels:

This is an animated dark comedy made by the guy who was responsible for the MTV series Liquid Television, Bill Plympton.  The basic concept is that this jerk of a guy named Angel one day grows wings.  When these wings are discovered, he is made fun of.  He tries to have them removed, but to no avail.  Eventually he discovers he can fly, and wants to use this to be even more of a jerkwad.  But it turns out that the wings have a mind of their own, and it turns into a battle for Angel’s soul.  I have heard of Liquid Television, but had never watched.  So I didn’t know exactly what to expect.  But this was pretty funny.  Interesting that the film literally has no dialogue.  But through expressions and music, it works!  I gave this one a “good” rating.

Idiots & Angels Official Website


This is Chance Shirley’s follow-up to Hide And Creep. It was described elsewhere as a mix of Office Space and Alien, and that’s a pretty good description.  The Interplanetary Corporation has a base located on Mars, pretty much doing the mundane day-to-day activities that many of us do on our own jobs.  That is until some invaders show up!  And then the monsters!  A very nice mix of comedy, action, and horror!  Chance claims that the only thing he learned by making Hide And Creep is how to make Hide And Creep. But the results of this film seem to indicate otherwise.  This film is a whole lot more polished than his previous effort.   During the Q&A afterwards, a question was posed on how he made such a film for $40,000.  Chance did not confirm this $40,000 figure, but if he made this film for anywhere close to that, it is almost retarded that this film with its special effects is as good as it is.  I really hope one day this guy gets an actual budget, just to see what he and the people he knows can put together.  I highly recommend this film, with an “excellent” rating.

Interplanetary Official Website

I had intended to see Alabama Moon tonight.  But between being tired from the late hour that Dead Snow ended the previous night, needing to get something to eat with only about 15 minutes to do it, and seeing a line going literally all the way around the block for this film, I decided to call it a night.  Overall, the experience gets an A+.  This is something I am definitely going to do every year now, and I recommend that you do the same.  In the meantime, if you get a chance, go see Dead Snow and Interplanetary.  And if you are fan of good “bad movies”, check out Troll 2.


  1. Chance says:

    Hello! Glad you made it out to Interplanetary, and thanks for the kind words!

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