Well, "On the Lot" showed up on Monday looking like a completely different show from the one we saw last week, with a new format (more "American Idol" than "Project Runway"), a new host (the incredibly perky Adrianna Costa) and a new, glossier set (reminiscent of an awards show rather than a dank theater). Oh, right, and a new goal: to actually show us the contestants' films, rather than all the behind-the-scenes drama that went into making them.
Overall, this edition of "On the Lot" worked much better for me (though I wanted to duct-tape Costa's mouth shut on more than one occasion). Weirdly, its ratings were even worse than last week, but I hope people give the show another shot now that we're seeing more movies and less bickering. The downside of this new format is that we don't get to hear as much from the contestants — but each of the 18 gave a little introduction to themselves and why they're in the competition, letting me make the all-important snap judgments about them based on their personalities (like: Will, the dad; dislike: Kenny, the jerk).
Weirdly, the show had 24 contestants at the end of last week, but we hardly saw any footage of the final Hollywood Boot Camp challenge or the elimination that cut the field to 18. Were the results of that challenge too bad to show on TV, or what? However it happened, there were 18 left at the start of Monday's show. And what happens when you give 18 promising filmmakers the task to make a one-minute comedy short in a week? Lots of jokes about farting and pooping, as it turns out. To see what I thought of the films (which you can watch here), read more
Adam Stein (at right): Dance Man.
Synopsis: A man communicates with others only through interpretive dance.
My take: The film was cute, funny and well-shot in a kind of sitcom-y style. I really hated the narration, but overall, it was a good way to start off the night.
Judges' verdict: All three judges (Garry Marshall, Carrie Fisher and guest judge DJ Caruso of Disturbia) said positive things, with Garry even saying he'd hire Adam if he doesn't win the competition.
Carolina Zorrilla de San Martin: Deliver Me
Synopsis: A woman can't stop answering her cell phone long enough to give birth.
My take: Carolina talked about being a visual artist, and it really showed here — the film was beautiful, with two really different styles (one in the harsh light of a delivery room, one on a beach during a fantasy sequence).
Judges' verdict: Carolina was generally praised, with Garry complimenting her for being hip and using a cell phone, or something.
Andrew Hunt: Spaced Out
Synopsis: A cop stops a couple of drunk, puking aliens.
My take: You know, puking aliens aren't really my thing, but if you are, this is the film for you — the effects were pretty cool given the time constraints, and the aliens were weirdly adorable.
Judges' verdict: Carrie said she's usually not into vomiting but it worked here; Garry said the aliens were perfectly cast. (Yuk yuk yuk)
Kenny Luby (at left): Wack Alley Cab
Synopsis: I'm not really sure. Something about a cab driver who's, uh, wack?
My take: Kenny was one of the only contestants to make a bad impression on me last week, so I was predisposed to not liking this, but it really felt like a bad YouTube video, or maybe the kind of car dealership commercial you'd see on basic cable at 2 a.m. I honestly had no idea what he was going for.
Judges' verdict: Everyone was confused and agreed that this was probably a little too out there.
Hilary Weisman Graham: Bus #1
Synopsis: A woman has to pee on a long bus trip.
My take: Hilary was the opposite of Kenny, actually making a good impression on me last week. But I did not love this movie; I thought it was technically good but not very funny. And I know she has a 3-year-old, but really, a pee joke?
Judges' verdict: Everyone was disappointed to see a filmmaker as talented as Hilary reduced to a crass, juvenile joke and urged her to find better subject matter next time.
Marty Martin: The Big Bad Heist
Synopsis: A trailer for a heist film that looked like Kill Bill: The Funny Years
My take: Marty clearly already overestimates his importance in the world; how else to explain that he blatantly ignored the guidelines of the challenge and then attempted to spoof Tarantino in the process? This was fine, but obviously, it's easier to make a one-minute trailer than to tell a complete story.
Judges' verdict: I was surprised they were so easy on him for disregarding the rules. All of them said they'd rather have seen him actually attempt to tell a full story, but they could also see his potential.
Will Bigham (at right): Lucky Penny
Synopsis: A guy finds what he thinks will be a lucky penny, which turns his life into a disaster
My take: Will is the feel-good story of the competition for me, and I keep finding myself rooting for him. This was a cute movie, even though I think the story would have worked better as a cartoon than a live-action film.
Judges' verdict: All agreed that it was cute; DJ compared it to a Buster Keaton film.
Jess Brillhart: ...To Screw In a Lightbulb
Synopsis: A bunch of people party around a dim light bulb, failing to change it.
My take: I thought this was going to be a take-off on those "how many people does it take ...?" jokes, and if it was, I didn't get it; all I saw was a guy in a chicken suit and another guy eating oatmeal, and ... yeah, I was confused. Also, this was maybe the ugliest-looking film of the night.
Judges' verdict: Carrie said basically what I did, DJ said he didn't think Jess knew what story she was trying to tell, and Garry said it was hard to make a metaphor funny. I think he meant "cliche," not "metaphor," but whatever.
Mateen Kemet: Soft
Synopsis: A guy tries to be all tough and rob a little ol' lady — who turns out to be his grandma
My take: The film style was cool (I especially liked the guy putting pantyhose over his face instead of a ski mask, then getting a pantyhose-blurred view inside grandma's wallet), but the story didn't do much for me, and I thought the acting was particularly rough in this one.
Judges' verdict: The short was generally liked, though both Carrie and DJ commented that the friends taunting the would-be robber for being "soft" didn't seem all that tough themselves.
Claudia La Bianca (at left): Blind Date
Synopsis: A girl can't find her blind date, eats lots of olives instead, ends up farting in a coed bathroom (?), then finds the date.
My take: I liked it at first, with the girl looking for the right guy with the yellow shirt as a parade of guys in yellow shirts came into the bar. Really, it could have ended there for me; the whole weird bathroom scene just killed it.
Judges' take: Carrie said the farting made her uncomfortable; DJ said it just seemed cheap; Garry suggested maybe comedy isn't her thing.
Jason Epperson: Getta Room
Synopsis: A nerdy guy tries to be cool by shouting "get a room" — at all the wrong times.
My take: First off, this felt way longer than a minute, and not in a good way. Second, I thought the actor seemed less nerdy and more mentally challenged, taking the film to quite a darker level. I don't think Jason did that on purpose, really, but I don't know how he didn't realize how the actor was coming off.
Judges' take: Carrie said basically what I did, and she was so uncomfortable with the whole thing that she really didn't know what to say. Garry was the most charitable, saying this was a good concept, but Jason should have known better when he was giving his actor direction.
David May: File Size
Synopsis: A guy can't please his horrible, demanding bosses.
My take: Office humor almost never loses with me, but I didn't find this all that funny; I think that was more of a problem with the script than the direction, though. Visually, it seemed well-made.
Judges' verdict: All said they recognized David's talent, but he should challenge himself with better material, a better script or better actors next time.
Zach Lipovsky (at right): Danger Zone
Synopsis: Klutzy chemists set things on fire at their laboratory
My take: I loved the Rube Goldberg-style craziness, as test tubes knocked each other over like dominoes and set things on fire. The digital special effects weren't actually all that great, but given that he had a week to do it, I'm sold.
Judges' verdict: Apparently Zach shot the whole film in a single shot, no editing, which sounds very impressive. Carrie literally bowed down to him.
Trever James: A Golf Story
Synopsis: A young minigolf upstart accidentally hits the wrong ball at the world minigolf championship.
My take: I loved the structure and visual look of this movie (the sports announcers at the beginning; all the pastel plaid outfits) except for one thing: The golf course just looked like a normal golf course, no crazy windmill or castle or other minigolf-looking accessories in sight. Honestly, though, I still would have found it funny if it had just been about regular golf.
Judges' verdict: All three seemed to have missed the fact that it was minigolf, possibly because of the lack of tacky windmills, but they liked what he was trying to do.
Shalini Kantayya: Love in the Year 2007
Synopsis: A girl attempts to find love via self-help books and speed dating.
My take: There was a lot going on in a one-minute film, and not all of it was good; I thought the skinny-girl cookies and the singing anti-valentine and the speed dating all could have been funny on their own, but together it was both way too much and nothing we haven't seen before. The visual style was cool, though.
Judges' take: Shalini comes from documentaries and isn't used to doing humor, and the judges all seemed to recognize that. All three said it was at least moderately successful, though she should have tried for less derivative material and a stronger performance from her lead actress.
Phil Hawkins (at left): Please Hold
Synopsis: A woman gets put on hold by the police while her apartment is burgled.
My take: Yeah, this one wasn't exactly a laugh riot. It looked good and was a fairly strong concept, though.
Judges' verdict: All thought the story probably needed longer than a minute to tell properly, but they liked the cinematography.
Shira-Lee Shalit, Check Out
Synopsis: A woman thinks dirty things about the man in front of her at airport security
My take: I liked that Shira-Lee really thought about the film, taking a common experience (having to undress for airport security) and making it quirky, fun and even a little sexy. I liked the main character snapping back to attention when her butt set off the alarm on the wand, even though it makes no sense.
Judges' verdict: Carrie exclaimed that she'd finally gotten "one for the girls!" (and the camera immediately cut to a shot of Jess and Hilary. Awkward!) Garry was happy to see something sexy, and while I agree, Garry talking about sex made me feel a little icky.
Sam Friedlander: Replication Theory
Synopsis: If you want to claim that you didn't fart, you must replicate the sound your notebook (or whatever) made to prove it.
My take: OK, my first thought was "great, more fart jokes." But fart jokes that span the globe from Japanese businessmen to cavemen are actually kind of funny, as it turns out. I thought the airplane tangent was odd (the guy gets tackled by air marshals while trying to replicate a fart noise), but I guess it had to end somehow.
Judges' verdict: Carrie said Sam was bringing farting back; Garry liked the way he told a story with such range in such a short time.
Carrie: Danger Zone, Lucky Penny, Replication Theory
DJ: Dance Man, Spaced Out, Danger Zone
Garry: Dance Man, Danger Zone, Check Out
Danger Zone, Lucky Penny, Replication Theory
...To Screw in a Lightbulb, The Big Bad Heist, Getta Room
What did you think?
Photos courtesy of Fox