“Because, well, haven’t you ever wanted to kill Kevin Costner?” says Jeanne Kopeck, the director of the short film Killing Kevin, to the delight of the crowd in the sold-out theater at the Denver International Film Festival. DIFF chose her and four other directors’ offerings for one of two showcases of Colorado directors. A busy commercial director in her own production company, Kopeck made a funny but unevenly paced set of scenes with a surprise ending, a feature shared by many of these short films. Her film features a support group for people wishing Kevin Costner dead, including his former dialect coach, who is just about the end of his rope in his fruitless rage over the film star’s inability to do John F. Kennedy any more subtly than “pahk the cah in the Hahvahd Yahd” and “chowdah” or to sustain an English accent through an entire monologue. The writer and director ends it goofily with a reunion between Costner and his bodyguard (from the movie The Bodyguard).
White Noise, film student David Higgins’ entry, shows the devastation and shock in a family when a young man comes home to his family having learned he is dying of stomach cancer. The man and his wife never speak but stare into the middle distance or hover, caring but helpless. The kids come into his view, yammering and then veering off to torment each other further since Dad’s not reacting. The cinematographer, David Sands, gives the family a suburban sheen, like mannequins at a shopping mall, and the soundtrack backs the film’s emotional arc up to the sudden stop. Its director, David Higgins, demonstrates a great deal of technical skill but doesn’t quite close the deal and pull you in emotionally, perhaps because of the family’s weird plasticity.
Tiffany at Breakfast
Tiffany at Breakfast is a nicely presented slice of melodrama as tart as diner cherry pie. It too uses the device of telling a story without dialogue; all is acknowledged and negotiated without a word. The story follows the action at a diner where a gentleman enjoys his breakfast and receives an interesting proposition from a fellow lady diner. He consents first to spot her a cup of coffee. She bats her eyelashes and he springs for the pancake special, a danish, and so on until she’s stacked up a heap of plates. “Tiffany” closes with a fairy tale twist, a fillip that fulfills the earnest good nature embodied by the actors throughout the film.
Hempmento is Brad Stabio and Jeff Kosloski’s hilarious play on 2000’s Memento, Christopher Nolan’s time-tweaker film. Two potheads sit on a couch for the entirety of the film, toking up, eating Doritos, and trying to remember things, like how to remember things. “I know!” they cry, “I’ll take a Polaroid of it!” “Wait, what’s this? I have a picture in my hand!”
Another typical exchange goes like this: “We need tattoos.”
“Nah, I can’t afford the ink, man. I’m broke.”
“Wait a minute, maybe we could get markers and write stuff on ourselves to remember stuff!”
“Great idea! Hey, what’s this written on my arm? ‘Date with Patty!’”
“Whoa, dude, you already thought of it!”
As in Memento there’s also a girlfriend who may or may not be a true friend to these short-term memory-impaired oafs, and the story unravels in reverse time. This is one of the funniest of the Coloradoans’ short films in its dead-on spoof – even the closing disclaimer is hilarious. The filmmakers, also film school students, said they shot it in the proper time sequence – but director Stabio said he was grateful for all the help he got from his fellows with its continuity.
Herbie! follows a guy’s mundane interior monologue while he goes around being a psychotic killer. “Face it, you’re not good with people,” Herbie says to himself as he hacks at a woman’s closet door with a huge ax, reminiscent of the handyman in The Shining.
Keep it Local
I learned from a friend of the writer of Tiffany at Breakfast that he developed his screenplay in film school in Denver and won the school’s prize for best student screenplay, which enabled him to make this 9-minute film. From this story, the talent evident in this crop of short films, and seeing the crowds supporting many of these new and veteran directors, it’s clear that independent film support in Colorado is truly filling needs — in both providing new filmmakers with opportunities and in meeting audiences’ unflagging desires to see fresh perspectives not watered down for mass audiences. (Note to local folks, you can ensure the future of this burgeoning scene by voting this November to keep our tiny yet oh-so-rewarding cultural facilities tax!)