Directed by J.B. Ghuman Jr.
The message of Spork is clear and familiar. Learn to accept yourself and there is no place you won’t belong.
This film’s offbeat humor dredges up associations with John Waters’ early work and the cult classic Napoleon Dynamite. It’s all too easy to point out all the similarities between Napoleon and Spork – just take a look at the logline: a misunderstood youth (in Spork’s case, ostracized because she is a hermaphrodite) struggles with the cruelty and intolerance of his/her juvenile peers until a school dance competition offers the opportunity to win the respect and self-assurance he/she has needed all along.
But all comparison and commonality aside, Spork is an enjoyable film in its own right with something new and special to offer to a receptive audience. My mistake was to assume that because I could see early on where the film was heading I knew where it would take me. However, Writer/Director J.B. Ghuman made clichés work to his advantage, and just when I felt comfortable predicting the movie beat for beat, inevitably something unexpected happened and suddenly I found myself laughing at nearly every turn.
Dialogue throughout the film is snappy, unique, and character-specific. Every quirky character in this story has as peculiar and distinctive a way of speaking as they do a fresh way of perceiving the hyper-reality in which they reside. And don’t be fooled by their hip-hop lingo or southern drawls: no one in this movie is one-dimensional. When Spit, Spork’s trailer trash brother, sits down with his sibling and finally opens up about their deceased mother, he demonstrates a heartfelt empathy that his unwashed appearance might frequently belie, and every character, with only few exceptions, is afforded a similar chance to break out of their molds to impress and surprise us.
I’m in awe of the effort and responsibility this young cast invested in learning and portraying their roles. And while I would have to admit that in most cases the performances are uneven, they are nonetheless moving and often hilarious. The most challenging role Ghuman created is unquestionably Tootsie Roll, Spork’s wise-cracking, dance floor krumping, afro-sheen loving next door neighbor, and young actress Sydney Park put so much guts and gusto into the part that even the hardest of critics should find her hard to resist.
But let me be clear. This is a cult film and a mixed bag. It will thrill some and completely lose others. It may not be for everyone, and it’s not without rough patches. Some jokes feel forced. A few shots here and there indicate the limitations of a restricted budget and an amateur director. And yet within the first ten minutes it’s obvious why this movie claimed the Tribeca Film Festival Virtual Best Feature Award. It’s a crowd pleaser. If the viewer can only do as Spork’s peers must do for her/him and look past the film’s flaws and oddities (or perhaps even embrace them as part of the charm and camp), they’ll recognize a story abundant with heart and good for everyone.
Directed by Tarik Saleh
When I close my eyes and think back on Tarik Saleh’s film, I am instantly greeted by the globular eyes and strange proportions of the characters who inhabit Metropia. In that respect, I can say Metropia is a very memorable film. Animation-wise I can’t claim I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. Story-wise, however, it’s almost too familiar.
Metropia imagines a dystopic future perilously on the verge of depleting its oil resources, void of seasonal change, and hopelessly victim to a consumerist mentality. In this world we find Roger, an unlikely hero who leads a very run-of-the-mill life. Bald, boring Roger works an ordinary job, lives in a drab apartment, and has started to lose interest in sex with his wife. The only thing that sets Roger apart is an exceptional case of paranoia that motivates him to break the law by riding his bike to work and foregoing the Metro, a vast underground network of trains that has been extended in the future to connect all of Europe.
One night, as Roger sleeps, he hears a voice in his head that isn’t his own. This voice occurs with greater and greater frequency and starts to urge Roger towards normalcy. Finally, Roger decides to take the plunge and ride the Metro again, but this does nothing to normalize his life. On the train, Roger spots Nina, a beautiful but enigmatic actress/model he recognizes from commercials and the label on his shampoo bottle. As he stalks Nina, she leads him down many dark passageways and into a dangerous conspiracy greater and more threatening than anything Roger has ever conceived.
See this film for the striking visuals and haunting atmosphere, but keep in mind that the story is thin. I have to hand it to the filmmakers: their creation of a gloomy universe is extremely effective. They almost did their job too well; Metropia is a land so bleak and so grim the audience member won’t want to stay for very long. Luckily, it’s a short movie at just around ninety minutes, but the pace still feels sluggish at times. While I can certainly attest that Metropia will leave a distinct impression, I just can’t decide if the ultimate payoff was worth feeling that tense for that long.
- Kenneth Broadway