Mock and Roll

Release: Friday, November 30, 2018 (watch now on Amazon Prime) 

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Written by: Ben Bacharach-White; Mark Stewart

Directed by: Ben Bacharach-White

You don’t need to be a groupie to join in on the fun in Mock and Roll, a low-budget yet high-spirited independent film representing the Columbus, Ohio underground filmmaking scene and styled as a mockumentary that follows a broke, inexperienced but always optimistic parody cover band and their wacky attempts to secure the necessary funding and fanbase to earn a coveted spot at the South by Southwest Music Festival. At 84 minutes Mock and Roll is a breezy romp and features a creative use of limited locations and visual effects to give character to its small-town, big-dream ideas.

In an example of life imitating art, director Ben Bacharach-White has successfully steered his production into several film festivals nationwide, beginning with the Austin Revolution Film Festival where Mock and Roll was nominated in six categories including Best Comedy, Actor, Actress and Director. Along the circuit, which took the crew from Oklahoma to Florida to Michigan and back to their stomping grounds in Ohio, the film collected wins in Best Feature and Best Original Score.

Certainly, the more well-versed you are in the world of rock music the more primed you’re going to be for a geek out at the cameos made by British drummer Roger Earl (of Foghat), American singer/songwriter Michael Stanley, and the members of the Black Owls, a Cincinnati-based band once described as “David Byrne channeling Edgar Allen Poe fronting Steppenwolf,” and whose tunes these four friends are parodying.

The tricky part about the concept of a parody band is that their effectiveness tends to be predicated on having a working knowledge of lyrical content. If you know Cheap Trick, you’ll recognize their 1978 hit single ‘Surrender’ becoming ‘Bartender,’ but then it’s possible you might miss the references within those jokes — take for example ‘Tonight It’s You’ evolving into ‘Tonight It’s Who,’ a riff on a classic Abbott and Costello skit called ‘Who’s On First?’ And the comical rewrites of Black Owls lyrics are likely to go over the heads of anyone who doesn’t call Ohio home.

The band call themselves Liberty Mean, a pair of words lifted from a lyric from one of their idol’s songs that ends up taking on an amusing mystique when taken out of context. Liberty Mean are: Robin (Aditi Molly Bhanja), vocals/rhythm guitar; Rick (Chris Wolfe), lead guitar/backing vocals; Tom (Pakob Jarernpone), bass guitar and Bun (Andrew Yackel) on drums. The band’s antics and misadventures are captured by a documentarian, Sully (William Scarborough), while Comedy Central’s Alex Ortiz briefly appears as a whack-a-doodle doctor whose medical credentials may or may not be entirely legit. Additional supporting parts go to home-grown talent: KateLynn E. Newberry as Jan, Rick’s girlfriend/the band’s promoter; Melissa O’Brien as Bun’s scheming aunt Duckie and Michael Compton and Brian Bowman as two potential roadblocks to the band’s success, as “art collectors” Ray and Dante respectively.

The main cast form a lively bunch of well-meaning but utterly unprepared dreamers who first bomb out on a Kickstarter-like campaign when they ask for too much money. They visit a “friendly doctor” who promises cash rewards for their participation and things just get weird. Then it gets dangerous as they dip their toes into the world of shady art dealings at the behest of Bun and his aunt — a role originally drawn up to be played by a male but that which O’Brien successfully lobbied to have changed for a female, thus Aunt Duckie. Their lives and careers now in jeopardy, they must decide what they are willing and not willing to do to make the dream work.

Each of the performers brings a distinct personality to their parts, but I found two in particular really stood out. Between Yackel’s philosophizing and Wolfe’s brash confidence (culminating in a really awkward meet-and-greet with their heroes), these two are a lot of fun to watch. But Bhanja is also very likable as the unifying force and lead singer, while Jarernpone brings a cooler, more level-headed bass line to proceedings. The screenplay, a collaboration between Bacharach-White and Mark Stewart, isn’t without its own surprises, either. They find a clever way of reconciling the dream with reality, providing a denouement that is not only fitting of the circumstances but entertaining in its own right.

Mock and Roll is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Recommendation: Fans of rock music and independent filmmaking need to add to their playlist Mock and Roll, an inventive production that wears its passions on its sleeve. While I often found myself out of the loop in terms of the lyrics that were being parodied, there is plenty here to latch on to narratively and character-wise. But if you have indeed heard of the Black Owls, then surely this film will be a special treat. 

Rated: NR

Running Time: 84 mins.

Quoted: “Privilege is EARNED!!!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com; Mark Stewart 

Park City

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Release: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 (limited)

[iTunes]

Written by: Hannah Rosner; Julia Turner

Directed by: Hannah Rosner

Undoubtedly best viewed through the eyes of a filmmaker, Hannah Rosner’s mockumentary offers up a fairly fun adventure for those curious about behind-the-scenes action in the life of an aspiring indie film crew.

A mostly satisfying blend of documentary-style intimacy and mumblecore imperfection, Park City follows passionate director Joey (Joey Mireles), diva actress Jill (Jill Evyn), business-savvy producer Hannah (Hannah Rosner) and stoner/moral support/assistant Dave (David Hoffman) as they make their first trip to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah armed only with their first film Hearts and Cash, and a few dollars to their name.

Crammed into a Prius with her co-stars and camera equipment (iPhone(s), perhaps?) Rosner makes the most of a literal low overhead by intercutting footage of the adventure with interviews with the crew as they describe the experience before, during and after. The crux of Park City arrives when, after a successful evening of “mingling” with some of the movers and shakers and partying down with the more accessible crowd (that was more the successful part), Hannah and Joey are rudely awakened by the discovery that their only copy of Hearts and Cash has disappeared.

With mere hours before their screening, they attempt to rationalize last night’s events and possibly track down the film reel. Naturally there are obvious suspects in fellow filmmakers, and Jill’s self-centeredness makes her a candidate as well. Meanwhile, Dave’s eyes have glazed over in the fog of marijuana and he doesn’t seem to be bothered by the developments. With frustration mounting and time running out, will the team’s first attempt at getting exposure end up blowing up in their face? Is a generally bad experience ultimately still good experience?

In posing these questions this low-key, relatively amateurish misadventure doesn’t aspire to reinventing the reel. It aims for crowd-pleasing, if not the general public then a specific group of like-minded individuals. Then again, and in spite of an ostensibly exclusive subject and a starlet who seems intent on portraying performers in an unflattering light (Evyn ironically might be the best actor on display as she is good at getting on your nerves), Rosner is knowingly winking at anyone who has taken those first, scary steps in pursuing a life goal. Okay, so perhaps this generalization overloads the film’s quota of cliché, but I’d like to think Rosner’s work isn’t as pretentious as some are likely to write it off as.

While it’s difficult to overlook the shaky acting and occasional technical difficulties — audio seems to be spotty in places and it’s more than likely this film was shot using an iPhone — Park City is an experience worth soaking up.

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3-0Recommendation: Park City might be aimed more for those plugged into the industry but there’s enough here to recommend to anyone with a general interest in film and the filmmaking process. The mockumentary has its moments of weakness (what film doesn’t?) but Rosner manages to overcome many of them by offering fun and interesting twists along the way. Think The Hangover on a much more modest budget, and with less set destruction, less vulgarity and definitely less Mike Tyson.

Rated: NR

Running Time: 86 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com; http://www.ptsnob.com