Cinetopia Film Festival Movie Reviews - OJ: The Musical + Buzzard

I bring to you the last two of my movie reviews for the Cinetopia International Film Festival 2014, the first film fest I had the pleasure of attending.

For these two movies, I wanted to write reviews even though they were my least favorite of the festival. Both still have good things to recommend about them, but overall I wasn't a fan of either, though I will say they are both so off-the-wall that they are still stuck in my head, two weeks later, especially Buzzard, which was filmed in Grand Rapids, MI.

Official synopsis: (OJ: The Musical)
Every small town has that one son who has made it big, and for Orrville, Ohio, that son is Eugene Olivier. From grade school pageants to high school plays and on to the bright lights of New York City, Eugene has made a name for himself in the world of theater. Literally, just for himself. OJ: The Musical follows Eugene as he recruits hometown friends and sets up funding for his musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Othello.” Whether he’s courting his high school sweetheart, showing up nude to rehearsals, or showering in his driveway, Eugene displays the one quality that everyone notices first: he’s insane. Now this one man’s madness is about to be another man’s musical — about O.J. Simpson’s murder trial. With a hilarious ensemble and pitch-perfect direction, OJ: The Musical is one comedy that’ll fit you like a glove. A bloody, bloody glove.

The main reason I wanted to see this film was because Larisa Oleynik is in it, and she's in two of my favorite movies and TV shows (10 Things I Hate About You and The Secret World of Alex Mack). She's also been guest-starring on Pretty Little Liars lately. Unfortunately, the mostly mostly focuses on Eugene (Jordan Kenneth Kamp) and how wacky he and the show is.

I will say that their choice to do a musical about O.J. Simpson definitely intrigued me, which was another reason I wanted to see this film, but overall I was disappointed with it. For me, the laughs were few and far between, but at the end of the movie they do perform the musical, and that part was great.

There was also a Q&A after the screening (at the State Theater) with Owiso Odera, who plays Orlando, but unfortunately I didn't have time to stay for it.

I also learned a valuable lesson from Twitter about this movie, and maybe this makes me a bad person, but I kind of laughed when I saw this tweet:

[Back story: I had tweeted this post out to some of the movies in the post that I had seen and enjoyed - but then another director tagged Jeff Rosenberg in it. I usually don't tag directors/films on Twitter when my reviews of their movies aren't positive.]

I will say that I love Twitter for how accessible everyone is on it, though - I responded to the tweet and had a nice chat with OJ: The Musical's director. He's a nice guy and I wish him well with the movie.

OJ: The Musical is currently out on VOD ($3.99 to rent on Amazon or $14.99 to buy), and has a runtime of 90 minutes. 2 stars out of 5.

The other film I saw at Cinetopia that wasn't my favorite was Buzzard. What was very cool, however, was that a lot of the main cast members plus the director showed up for a Q&A after the show (one of the perks I loved about this film fest!), and it was a lot of fun to see the main character, Marty (played by Joshua Burge) in "real life."

Official synopsis:
Marty, a temp employee at a bank in Grand Rapids spends most of his working hours plotting petty scams. He responds poorly when assigned some actual work by his boss but soon takes interest in the chore, when he realizes this new assignment could earn him some money on the side. Naive about how this process works, he’s frightened to learn that his boss will soon see the evidence of his crime. Paranoid, he flees his apartment and hides in his co-worker’s basement. Here he abuses his reluctant host’s hospitality for a while, before fleeing to Detroit with nothing but forged checks, a grotesquely modified Nintendo Power Glove and a vile temper. Premiering at SXSW 2014, Buzzard is a guerilla-style, bitingly funny look at one man’s personal rebellion against the established American order. Fittingly described by SXSW as, “Albert Camus meets Freddy Krueger.”


This film has been compared to Office Space, and I agree that the first part of the movie is very similar to that. Marty works as a temp in an office, and hates his job; he tried to make some money on the side by cashing checks that aren't made out to him. One of his coworkers, Derek, is a loser who, at age 30-something, still lives with his father, and after things go south, Marty tries to hide at Derek's place for a while.

One of the funniest scenes in this movie was a Pac-Man-esque type scene between Marty and Derek (Joel Potrykus, also the director of Buzzard), where Derek is lying face down on a treadmill and Bugles (chips) are on the treadmill being directed towards his mouth. Eventually, there are too many Bugles, and the coworker screams at him to stop the pace. It's bizarre and off-the-wall and just WORKS.

There's another scene, though, where Marty is in a hotel room - one of the nicer hotels in Detroit, possibly Motor City Casino, I believe - and eating a plate of spaghetti from room service. The camera stays on him for 5+ minutes, as he eats and eats and eats this spaghetti (see pic above), and it's a super awkward scene. In the Q&A, the director (Potrykus) said that this wasn't supposed to be such a long scene, but that they kept filming, and eventually (probably because of its awkwardness) it was kept that way for the movie.

The movie also takes a dark turn near the end, which I didn't see coming. I'd almost like to rewatch this film some day to see if maybe I like it better the second time - since I'm still thinking about it, it probably deserves a rewatch at some point.

This film is really hard to rate, but I'd give it 2.5 out of 5 stars. It may be destined to become a cult favorite like Office Space eventually did, but unfortunately I was told that it won't be out in wide distribution until early 2015. You may be able to catch it at a film festival, though; follow its Facebook page for updates.

Buzzard has a runtime of 97 minutes. 2.5 stars out of 5.

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