The Fort Worth Indie Film Showcase that took place this past week may have been the fifth one, but it was the first that I made it out to. Perhaps this is because it was moved to a convenient downtown location, the former AMC Sundance theater at 304 Houston St (and not 312 as Night & Day erroneously reported earlier). The Norris Conference Center had us sharing space with a wedding that took up the rooms on the top floor while the festival occupied a lower floor, but it didn’t feel cramped. The free samples of Noble Rey Brewing Co. beer in the tiny room designated as a hospitality suite didn’t hurt either.
The festival started out unpromisingly with Blur Circle, a Texas-set drama starring Cora Vander Broek as a mother who has spent two years searching for her missing son. The pokey pacing wasn’t as much of a drag as the substandard acting by the cast, especially the supporting players. The difference that acting experience can make was made clear in The 12 Lives of Sissy Carlyle, as April Billingsley (of TV’s The Walking Dead and Resurrection) did much to liven up this comedy about an antique store owner who alleviates the boredom of her life by writing in 12 separate journals about her excitement-filled fantasy lives as environmental vigilante, con artist, and cage fighter, among others. That premise would have been enough to sustain a movie, so I’m not sure why the filmmakers go off on tangents regarding Sissy’s romantic troubles and annoying friends. True, the budget limitations show, especially during Sissy’s fantasy of being a Russian cosmonaut, but this is where the movie should have concentrated its efforts.
Better stuff was on offer on Saturday, beginning with Up to Snuff, Mark Maxey’s documentary portrait of W.G. “Snuffy” Walden, the Texas guitar player who became an acclaimed Hollywood TV composer. (You’ve got his theme music from The West Wing running through your head right now.) Walden is a personable subject who admits to having been a mean drunk in his alcoholic days, as he recounts getting his guitar chops playing at The Cellar — the one in Houston, not the one in Fort Worth. A sprinkling of fellow musicians and actors from his shows pay tribute to him, and Tom Arnold tells a funny story about a t-shirt that Snuffy made him get, and, yes, it involves Roseanne.
Writer-director David Zelina and lead actor/co-writer Amy Shelton-White were on hand to promote their drama Cold Water, about an L.A. artist who returns to her childhood home outside Denver when she hears it’s about to be sold. The dysfunctional family drama may be boilerplate, but the film is still done up professionally and I’ve seen far worse stuff playing on thousands of screens.
That’s more than can be said for Yellow Scare, a yowling racial satire whose tone-deafness overwhelms the fact that a Latino actor is cast as Adolf Hitler. Still, the movie made me laugh out loud once, when idiot American secret agent Rex Steel (Samuel Platizky) takes away a child’s toy gun and gives him a real one, saying, “It’s in the Constitution. Everyone has to have a gun, or else the king of England can come into your bedroom and tickle you — to death!”