Planet Cult continues this week, with a look at another fairly recent film that‘s developed a cult following. This one’s for all of those who have skipped their lunch breaks to save for the next DVD/Blu-Ray, or for those who have spent hours tirelessly arguing about the nuances of any particular film. Cinemaniacs just can’t get enough, and Film Geek is a love letter to all who are part of the film culture.
Unlike most movies, I can still remember how it was that I first learned about James Westby’s Film Geek. Having a personal DVD/Blu-Ray library that contains something close to 700 titles, I sat in front of my desktop computer, browsing my DvdAf page, and wondered if I had some sort of problem. Well, I didn’t think I had a problem, just that I couldn’t stop myself from buying more films, even when I had more than enough to watch already. “It’s an addiction”, I wondered. Out of boredom, I googled “dvd addiction”, “film addiction”, “cinephile”, and things of that sort. I must have surfed the net for about thirty minutes, looking at massive dvd collections (Cinema Sickness, being one of them), and reading several stories about people who had spent hundreds of dollars for out of print titles. In a thread about DVD addiction, somewhere in cyberspace, someone mentioned Film Geek. I searched it up on IMDB, read the synopsis, and immediately ordered it. The rest, as they say, is history.
As a film enthusiast, I was naturally drawn to the movie. I found the entire premise of the film to be novel and it gave me the impression that, to a certain extent, I could relate. Film Geek is directed by James Westby and centers around Scotty Pelk (Melik Malkasian), a literal film geek who knows of nothing else except film. And maybe love. He works the local video rental store, Video Connections, and spends much of his day telling his customers about things like the advantages of watching ‘letterboxed’ films on VHS. Scotty literally breathes films, and even has his own website where he writes film reviews, ‘www.scottysfilmpage.com’. After losing his job at the rental store, Scotty eventually meets a girl named Niko who has similar interests; he catches her on the bus reading “The Films of David Cronenberg”. Though her interest in film is not as strong as Scotty’s, he proceeds to try to win her over.
Though it’s not as clever as Clerks, or as dramedic (dramatic/comedic) as Free Enterprise, Film Geek has a strong sense of awkward humor. And I don’t mean awkward humor in the Napoleon Dynamite sense. Critics have made the comparison before, and while I do dig Napoleon Dynamite, the characters in that film are just plain stupid, and as a result, they lend themselves to moments of awkward comedy. But that’s only because no one in real life could possibly be so daft. On the contrary, Film Geek is full of genuinely believable characters. Some may be likeable and others may not, but rest assured, the characters we come to know in this film are people we have known at one point of our lives or another.
As a result, the ‘awkward’ comedy in this film works, not because our characters have the I.Q of a doorknob, but because we have seen these people before and we know them, and because we have known and lived many of the moments we find in this film. Of course, the film’s awkward tone and comedy also comes by way of the Scotty Pelk character, who is both eccentric and disconnected from reality, as he filters much of his life’s experiences through film. It’s his way of coping with his problems.
The characters lend themselves to a script that may appear to be weak at some points, but is consistently natural and believable. The dialogue in this film is reactionary for the most part, not entirely stationary. Scotty Pelk is very expressive and adamant about his love for film, whether he’s trying to school people on the importance of Jean-Luc Godard, or just talking to Niko about the music he listens to: John Williams, Bernard Hermann, Howard Shore. Now, Film Geek isn’t the kind of comedy that will have you laughing out loud. At best, you’ll chuckle a bit every now and then, but the entire film is certainly entertaining, and Scotty Pelk always has something interesting to say. There are very few deadpan moments in this film. One scene that stood out for me in particular, was a scene where Scotty accompanies Niko to a local party. Naturally, Scotty’s knack for always talking about films makes him the social outcast here. However, he runs into two guys who are playing a name game in where they try to connect two actors who had never worked together through the many films they have starred in. Scotty joins the group and immediately stars busting out the names of films at light speed, as the trio grows drunker and drunker. Much of Film Geek is defined by unique moments such as this.
Although Film Geek was shot on a low budget, my criticisms of the film itself are few. The opening is a bit weak and a little too “quiet”, as I expected more energy from the characters at the start of the film. Also, the film was just too short. It would have been interesting to spend another ten to fifteen minutes in Scotty Pelk’s world. Nonetheless, the film’s ending is very satisfying and speaks for film geeks everywhere (especially for the contributors here on G33K-E). The entire film was shot digitally and using the 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Naturally, I would be bothered by this, but in the case of Film Geek, it works really well and suits the picture. The digital look of the film and its limited aspect ratio reminds me very much of the VHS days. This is consistent with the film itself, as Pelk’s Video Connections is full of nothing to rent but VHS tapes.
For the most part, Film Geek is a highly enjoyable film. Although the entire production feels a little low budget, it more than makes up for it with a solid script and a great unknown cast. If you, like Scotty Pelk, have an “encyclopedic knowledge of film”, then you’re definitely going to get a kick out of Film Geek.
Interested? Buy the DVD!: http://www.amazon.com/Film-Geek-Melik-Malkasian/dp/B000FTCF2C