Wednesday 25 February 2015

Flight Fright (2015)

Director: Jim Politano
Stars: Gerald Dewey, Swizyzinna, London Kim, Doris Morgado, Tony Bafaloukas and Eddie Deezen
This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in 2015. Here's an index to my reviews of 2015 films.
This film was a submission to one of the IFP Phoenix film challenges in the 2014-15 season. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014-15 submissions.
Jim Politano really pulled out the stops for his 2015 Breakout Challenge short, partly because of lessons learned from an earlier film. Back in the 2012-13 season at Beat the Clock, Love Sucks won as audience favourite, deservedly because it's still one of the funniest IFP shorts I've seen. Within seconds, he made the audience laugh; within minutes, he'd offended every woman watching with panache; but he saved the day after the credits by bringing balance to the force. It was wonderful writing, but it couldn't have looked worse visually if he'd tried; without any decent equipment or any crew, it ended up in pixellated black and white. Screening in the IFP finals set at the Phoenix Film Festival against superb films like The Memory Ride, Screaming in Silence and La Lucha, it looked amateur. Flight Fright, by comparison, looks professional, at least once it was exported properly from the master copy. And I know how professionally it was done because, disclaimer, I was there as an extra watching it happen from inside the film.

Flight Fright may well be the first IFP Phoenix film challenge entry to be shot in Hollywood, because Jim booked Air Hollywood Studios for the day so he could shoot on an actual set. The smaller plane we shot on sits right next to the bigger one that was used for Airplane! and so many other films since, including Sharknado 2: The Second One. The cast and crew were predominantly sourced from Jim's previous film, the superb hard hitting science fiction short, The Class Analysis, and it surely wouldn't have taken the IFP judges long to vote Gerald Dewey and Swisyzinna best actor and actress respectively. They're the heart of the picture, even if neither is the most recognisable face on screen. No, that's not me; my left arm was once again my most prominent attribute. It's Eddie Deezen, who most may know from The Polar Express or the Grease movies, but I still remember from WarGames and Teenage Exorcist. He has a cameo sitting next to Jim's lovely wife, Karen, and I'm not saying any of this just so I can get into his next film. Honest.
What we hear of the story unfolds entirely within the plane, as it cruises above the ocean at 20,000 feet. Dewey and Swisyzinna are a couple named Gomez, bickering believably back and forth as he's afraid to fly and she can't believe it, given how tough he acts on solid ground. He's taken nerve meds to ease his anxiety but they're apparently having increasingly quirky side effects, as we see in a succession of shots of regular Politano jewel Tony Bafaloukas doing a succession of outrageous things on the wing outside his window. Both Dewey and Swisyzinna impressed me, and they dominate on screen, but I was even more impressed on set by Doris Morgado, playing the flight attendant to whom Mr Gomez explains, 'There's a man out on the wing having a barbecue!' She's racking up credits in Hollywood, in films as prominent as 2 Guns with Denzel Washington and Snitch with Dwayne Johnson, and I'll be working through a bunch of them ahead of her sure climb up the ladder to success. The rest of them are climbing too.

Of course, knowing Politano's penchant for classic sci-fi, both the good stuff and the truly godawful stuff, it won't be too surprising to discover that this has a consistent Twilight Zone sort of feel to it and he nails it pretty well. Bafaloukas, the inveterate improvising scenestealer from Love Sucks and The Sisters of St Mary's, does his level best to steal this one too but he's hindered by being stuck on the other side of the glass where we can't hear him. London Kim, like Dewey, Morgado and a bunch of extras, a key player in The Class Analysis, is excellent here too but doesn't get screen time enough to do justice to his role as the captain; Eddie Deezen gets much more in his cameo slot, with two memorable scenes with Morgado. Technically this is accomplished, the antithesis of Love Sucks, even if the version screened on the night was annoyingly dark; the strong score sadly not acknowledged in its five awards. It's really all about the idea though, which is what it is: funny and enjoyable but without the substance of The Class Analysis.

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