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By Mark Bell | June 6, 2007

First off, let’s talk about the obvious: this week’s “On the Lot” is not last week’s “On the Lot.” After another week of poor ratings, the folks at Fox decided to re-calibrate the show, turning it into a single hour showcase of five short films as opposed to two hour episodes every week. Now, shorts will be voted for as soon as they finish screening, and any eliminations will be announced during the next week’s screening episode. Will this save the show, or just make its poor ratings impact on the network less damaging? We’ll have to see when the numbers come in, but for right now let’s see how the fall-out from last week’s eliminations play into this week’s episodes.

Obviously, Fox wants to get through their commitment to the show as quickly as possible. With only fifteen filmmakers left, and five filmmakers facing off weekly with only one winner per week, we’ll be down to a final three in just three weeks. Then, say goodbye to “On the Lot”…

The Three Eliminated…
Last week, America voted and… screwed the pooch as far as being a barometer for good filmmaking. The three worst films and filmmakers from Week One (Kenny Luby’s “Wack Alley Cab”, Jessica Brillhart’s “…To Screw in a Lightbulb” and Marty Martin’s “The Big Bad Heist”) made it through, and instead three filmmakers (Claudia La Bianca, Phil Hawkins and Carolina Zorilla De San Martin) less deserving of being tossed got their walking papers. I guess it wouldn’t be so embarassing as a country if the three bad films that didn’t get eliminated were just matters of opinion, that they were on par with the rest and it turned into whatever floats your personal boat but… that wasn’t the case here. “Wack Alley Cab” and “…To Screw in a Lightbulb” were practically incomprehensible. Everyone I talked to, from family members to fellow critics to other filmmakers to the judges on the damn show thought those films sucked. America, if you’re voting on filmmaker potential, you’re too kind. Do me a favor and pull your head out of your collective a***s before this series ends in cinematic shame. But enough about spilled milk that can’t be cleaned up, let’s take a look at this week’s episode.

The Judges…
Carrie Fisher and Garry Marshall are back, but who’s that sitting next to them? Is it? No, couldn’t be, he’s got a big movie coming out and… IT IS! It’s Michael “Transformers” Bay! As if the weekend’s MTV Movie Awards wasn’t enough of a longform “Transformers” advertisement, looks like “On the Lot” is going to take up some blockbuster shilling slack. Hopefully the shorts have explosions in them, otherwise I can’t imagine what kind of criticism Bay could honestly offer them, since going “Boom!” is the only thing he knows how to do well. Anyway, on to the shorts…

The Shorts…
The filmmakers were given the guidelines of creating a three minute short in only five days, and this is what they came up with:

“Broken Pipe Dreams” Directed by Sam Friedlander
Who washes their hands next to an engagement ring they haven’t even handed over yet? Dug the idea that it’s man against toilet with an action movie feel, but for the most part it was too convoluted in its execution, with too many shots of the dog, cute or no, to really impress. I actually did agree with Michael Bay, needed to be tighter, a two minute short in a three minute format.

“Teri” Directed by Trever James
Another blind date short… and not a good one. For a short named “Teri,” you’d think it would actually focus on a character named Teri as opposed to a number of different people, fears or no. Mildly confusing, way too saccharine for my tastes. Once again, found myself agreeing with Michael Bay. Two for two, Michael… two for two…

“The First Time I Met the Finkelsteins” Directed by Hilary Graham
I’m not fond of the idea, this ranks up there with blind dates for lazy situations to mine for comedy, but it did make me laugh once or twice by being so off-color. Didn’t really have a point though, no real character development… more of a scene in a bigger film than a complete short film.

“Dough: The Musical” Directed by Adam Stein
Adam likes him some dancing. Two for two there, Stein. All in all, really enjoyed it, especially the two characters having such different motivations and needs. Fun short film.

“Laughing Out Loud: A Comic Journey” Directed by Shalini Kantayya
Ugh, a mockumentary… with a title that is WAY too long. For a comic journey, not many laughs except the canned ones in the short. First time I tonight I disagreed with Bay, as visually it was cliched, from the stereotypical shots of steaming man-hole covers to the press line before the final show. It may be a visual style, but it’s sure as Hell not an original one.

Final Thoughts…
I got my a*s handed to me with last week’s predictions, which sent me into a downward spiral of Red Bull and Jagermeister while I tried to figure out if I had lost touch with the world, so I hesitate making a prediction this week. Still, for me, this week was all about “Dough: The Musical.” Told a full story, covered a lot of visual ground and was extremely accomplished in lyrics, dancing, singing and acting for such a short shooting time. I apologize to Adam Stein now if my endorsement sends his film down the shitter, where it can hang with the engagement ring from “Broken Pipe Dreams” and Hilary Graham’s career.

Until next week… maybe, who knows what changes Fox will make between now and then…

– Mark Bell, Editor-in-a-Bakery

Got your own opinion about this week’s screening episode? Are you one of the filmmakers? Join in the conversation at the Official “On the Lot” Discussion Thread.

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