Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Flashback: MYOPIC VISIONS Review

A recent conversation online reminded me about a gem of a short film collection I reviewed back in the day. The original review appears here, but below you'll find the one I touch up to fix some of the nagging flaws.

Chris Mancini is a comedian, writer and filmmaker. He’s recently put together a collection of his short film work entitled MYOPIC VISIONS.

The title is probably the only weak thing about the DVD. It is an obvious allusion to the name of his company, Myopic Productions, but it doesn’t do anything to hint at what you’re getting in this package. I certainly hope it doesn’t hold back this DVD from reaching its full potential audience, because it is truly an interesting and fun collection.

The older stuff on the DVD is pretty good, but one of the best functions is to show the growth. The Man Who Loved Doughnuts was definitely interesting, but tried to stretch the premise out for too long of a bit. Paul F. Thompkins is a very good bit of casting for it, though. The twist a little more than half way through the short was just bizarre enough to renew my interest after the humor of Thompkins’ overly enthused doughnut fan began to wear on me like it wore down the diner seated next to him.

MOPS was a bit hit-or-miss, with most falling on the “miss” side for me. What might play as the strongest bit to your average American audience was one street cleaner doing a Carrot Top riff with garbage as his props. The problem here (at least with this DVD) is your audience for a collection of shorts is NOT your average American audience. It would work great as a running skit on SNL or MadTV, though. Which, come to think of it, probably means my real problem with it is that it didn't play to the expectations I had going into a collection of short films.

SKINS is another story with Paul F. Thompkins, but his MR. SHOW castmate, Jay Johnston, steals the whole short. It is a bit where Thompkins is sort of a schlub who puts on a “skin” suit that makes him look like Johnston. It leads him to act with confidence and have a slick look about him. The conflict comes up when Thompkins decides he wants to try to sink or swim on his own…and Johnston, as the thrown away skin, fights to keep his life as his daily suit. This short is one of the best demonstrations of Mancini’s habit of trying to find humor in some way-out-there ideas, as well as some growth in finding ways to pull off the visuals believably (comparing the “skin” suit use here to the doughnuts in his earlier short). The casting is, also, very good here, as Mancini likely couldn’t have done better than Johnston, Thompkins, Kindler, and the actress who played Johnston’s girlfriend (who’s name escapes me).

HITCLOWN is a bit on the risky side, as it has almost no dialogue (and I mean nearly none…maybe 8 words total), and still dares to pull off a bit of film noir mixed with humor. Like the others, it takes a fairly off-the-wall premise and makes it work well. Jennifer Elise Cox (of THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE fame) and Jay Johnston play a clown and a hitman, respectively, that bump into each other, mix up bags, and somehow manage to adopt each others’ identities. Again, it is a great combination of writing, directing, and casting. The fact that it is in black and white really helps with the mood. I think Jay Johnston, in particular, does a great job conveying emotion without dialogue.

RAINBOW’S END has Cox returning to the cast and being joined by Dean Cameron, who you might just barely recognize from appearances in the Sheen/Estevez movie, MEN AT WORK, or in the Mark Harmon movie, SUMMER SCHOOL. Cameron’s work here shines the most, which is probably by design, since he’s the lead actor here. Once again, this short has a touch of the weird to it, but it is probably the most straight forward, somewhat-slapsticky comedy in the bunch. The best laughs all involve Dean’s character, directly or indirectly. He’s the ringleader of a group of small-time, unsuccessful, and at least slightly developmentally-challenged criminals. The possibly dumbest of the team happens upon a leprechaun played by Mark Povinelli, who is the only real challenge to Cameron for the attention of the viewer. The best moments in the short pit Mark and Dean directly against each other for good laughs (allowing even a repeated gag to probably get the same amount of laughs both times).

There are a few more bits on the DVD, but the above are more than enough to justify the purchase or rental, in my opinion. I’d love to see Mancini get a crack at doing another one of these things or a larger project.

(Chris Mancini has since gone on to start up ComicFilmNerdsDotCom.com. Give it a view when you get a chance)


  1. Cool! Thanks again for the review.

  2. Great to see Chris getting some recognition! Saw him live a couple months back when he was on Comics on Comics.


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