This week saw the debut of two student-produced films, “Half Court Shots” by Maxwell Lanman ’10 and “Everyone Who Has Ever Lived Here,” the senior thesis of Michael Nedelman ’08.
“Half Court Shots” runs like a YTV comedy, employing “The Office”-like situational humor and playing off social stereotypes to appeal to a student crowd. In contrast, “Everyone” feels polished and extremely well-made, exhibiting the benefits of a professional cast and passionate direction.
“Half Court Shots” unfolds in familiar sitcom style, following geeky “level 27 mage” Charlie Conroy (Joshua Silverstein ’10) as he attempts to woo the ladies with bromides and inflated bravado. Predictably enough, when his roommate’s beautiful sister Laura (Pippa Bianco ’11) moves into their apartment, Conroy scrambles to impress her and her sorority sisters by throwing a party. Situational humor ensues.
Silverstein carries much of the show’s comedy, delivering forced machismo and extensive “Lord of the Rings” references with panache. Silverstein’s flamboyance and the show’s abundant play on geek stereotypes start off strong, with Conroy preening before his fellow geeky friends and unwittingly delivering a string of cliched pick-up lines towards an athletic girl. After 20 minutes, however, the plot starts to drudge into predictable territory as the characters remain stagnantly stereotypical. The Weirdo Who Tries to Get the Girl. The Hot Girl Who Only Dates Jocks. The “World-Of-Warcraft” Geeky Sidekicks. Only Laura’s studious brother Jonathan (Stan Seiden ’10) feels real, but he merely serves as a foil to heighten Conroy’s outrageous behavior.
The panning handheld camera popularized by shows such as “The Office” often slows down “Half Court Shots.” Many scenes were filmed in one continuous panning shot from one angle, which added an element of “reality” but also felt laborious and dragged on scenes where more stringent editing would have tightened the pace and strengthened the humor’s punch. The constant zooming in an out of characters’ faces also creates a somewhat dizzying effect.
“Everyone Who Has Ever Lived Here” presents the drama of three consecutive residents of a New York apartment: Joseph, a Holocaust survivor penning his novel; his son Jason, an aspiring filmmaker; and Nirav, a pre-med student struggling with a budding romance and his traditional Indian family’s expectations to become a doctor.
The three stories unfold simultaneously in split-screen, with occasional sequences that present a single scene at once. Throughout most of the film, two of the scenes are muted, focusing attention to the one scene with audio. Initially, the three concurrent scenes create a disconcerting effect, and you don’t quite know what to feel, especially as you are just figuring out the characters and their stories. At one point, the screen shows a man lying on the ground after a heart-attack, two men undressing each other in bed, and one man unpacking in his apartment.
However, as the film progresses and unravels the tenants’ intertwining lives, the split-screen and masterful juxtaposition of scenes create mystery and drama. The individual scenes are shot beautifully and impressive if shown independently. While the simultaneous presentation of scenes occasionally detracts from an individual scene’s effectiveness, the film overall succeeds in balancing the scenes’ moods and visual impact to create a highly dramatic and aesthetic result. Mystery, romance, drama, edgy cinematography and superb acting, “Everyone Who Has Ever Lived Here” shows true vision and talent.