As a film critic, my passion for cinema is ultimately expressed at the Nashville Film Festival. Year after year, this event never fails to captivate my senses and invigorate my love for the art of filmmaking. With each film I watch and every conversation I engage in with fellow movie lovers, my appreciation for the diverse world of cinema deepens. The festival’s ability to curate an eclectic selection of films, from thought-provoking documentaries to heartwarming dramas and chilling horrors, ensures that every visit is an enriching experience.
This year, a few films were on my radar.
PENCILS VS PIXELS
During my freshman year of college, I harbored a profound aspiration to dive headfirst into the world of animation. If sketching doodles in the margins of my class notebooks was an art form, I fancied myself a modern-day Picasso. My inspiration for this creative pursuit was deeply rooted in the Disney Renaissance era of the late ’80s and early ’90s, a period that left an indelible mark on my artistic soul. Although my life’s journey eventually led me down a different career path, my passion for the world of animation never waned.
Enter Pencils Vs Pixels, a documentary directed by Bay Dariz and narrated by Ming-Na Wen, renowned for her portrayal of Mulan. This cinematic gem offers a captivating exploration of the evolution of 2D animation, from its heyday during the Disney Renaissance, to the vibrant landscape of today. Pencils Vs Pixels provides a platform for the unsung heroes behind the magic, giving voice to the legendary artists who meticulously crafted every frame of those beloved classics.
While I relished the opportunity to glean insights into the making of timeless masterpieces like Snow White and Pinocchio, I couldn’t help but feel that Pencils Vs Pixels leaned more toward paying homage to Walt Disney himself, rather than shedding light on the dedicated artists who tirelessly brought his visionary creations to life. Having delved into numerous documentaries about Walt Disney, I was hoping for a fresh perspective — one that would spotlight the true unsung heroes: the pencil-wielding visionaries. Nevertheless, Pencils Vs Pixels serves as a captivating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the intricate journey of 2D animation’s evolution, celebrating the art form’s enduring magic.
ALL THE WRONG INGREDIENTS
I must admit, cooking competition shows have never been my cup of tea. Series like Hell’s Kitchen, Top Chef and Nailed It have occasionally graced my screen, but I’ve never quite found myself engrossed in them. For me, the real competition lies in savoring the delectable dishes, not in the culinary showdowns. However, what truly piques my interest in these shows are the human stories that unfold behind the scenes. I yearn to discover the contestants’ authentic selves, beyond the personas the shows construct. I’m curious about how they navigate the intricate balance between their culinary passions, and the demands of their work, family, and friendships.
All The Wrong Ingredients is a comical narrative that follows the turbulent life of Ben Fitzgerald (Joshua Trevilcock), a struggling cook on the brink of despair who faces the dire threat of being blacklisted in the culinary world. In a moment of reckoning, something within him snaps, leading to an unexpected partnership with an imaginary friend (Jonathan Bouvier).
As the boundaries of reality blur, Ben and his spectral companion embark on a culinary competition, believing it to be their ticket to redemption. Yet, as Ben’s relentless pursuit of victory consumes him, he inadvertently neglects the other facets of his life. The weight of existence begins to bear down on him, prompting a soul-searching quest to discern what truly brings happiness and fulfillment. In the midst of chaos, Ben must determine whether he possesses all the right ingredients for the life he envisions.
The film intrigues me. Trevilcock and Bouvier have a chemistry on screen where one could really see them as being two sides of the same person. Some of the scenes are chaotic, having the pair donning ninja robes, katanas and even hazmat suits as they work to uncover the keys to Ben’s culinary revitalization. And just as quick as the chaos ensues, we have extremely heartfelt moments between Ben and his family members, showing the level of neglect he had been placing on them. All in all, director Nicholas Livanos has made All the Wrong Ingredients an extremely fun and charming film guaranteed to connect with most audience viewers.
You knew that it was only going to be a matter of time before the horror genre clawed its way into this list.
The Unraveling is a spine-chilling journey into the enigmatic realms of parallel universes. Mary Dunn (Sarah Zanotti), finds herself trapped in a disorienting world following a devastating car accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury. In this surreal reality, Mary grapples with an unsettling conviction: that her husband Grayson (Sam Brooks), is not her true spouse. Her descent into a fractured perception of reality takes an even darker turn when mysterious phone calls from a man claiming to be the “real Grayson” send her spiraling into psychosis. Amidst the chaos, a sinister apparition begins to haunt her every step, further blurring the line between reality and nightmare. As if her world couldn’t become any more tumultuous, the revelation of her pregnancy propels her down a harrowing and treacherous path.
Kudos to director Kd Amond for crafting The Unraveling into a film that lives up to its title. Mary’s world crumbles before the audience’s eyes, leaving both her and viewers questioning the authenticity of her experiences — whether they stem from a parallel dimensional shift or are mere constructs of her damaged psyche. Such narratives that challenge the boundaries of reality and perception have always intrigued me, and The Unraveling excels in keeping its audience on the edge of their seats, fostering an atmosphere of pervasive uncertainty. Unlike films such as Beau Is Afraid, which tend to veer into the realm of the exaggerated, The Unraveling opts for a more grounded approach within a quasi-reality, a choice that significantly enhances its impact.
Amidst the multitude of promising selections at this year’s Nashville Film Festival, I’ve found myself narrowing down my choices to these picks, along with a handful of intriguing horror shorts. For those eager to explore these and other exceptional films, mark your calendars for the virtual cinema experience, running from Monday, October 2nd to the 8th, 2023. You can access the full list of films. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to indulge in a week of outstanding cinema. Trust me; you won’t be disappointed.