Tilting at Skyscrapers (2011)

Description (from the IMDb):
When a gamer is overcome by his obsession, his neighbor must shepherd him home.

Frank Stasio as Don, Jeff Elam as Billy, Eric Vesbit as Phil

Special Features:
None (Online Screener)

Written by Frank Stasio
Directed by Benjamin Pitts

I like video games, I’d consider myself a gamer, but not a hardcore gamer.  I have known people that are hardcore gamers.  I used to manage a video store and one day one of my employees just didn’t show up.  I was a bit concerned about him, as he was pretty reliable for a 19-or-so guy, so I called his house.  He answers.  I ask: “so, are you coming to work today?  You were supposed to be here an hour ago and I’ve not heard anything from you.” “No.” “Why not?  Are you sick?” “No, Halo 2 came out at midnight last night.  I’m not coming to work today.” “You know that a no call no show means you’re fired, right?” “Ok.”  Then he hung up and went back to what I imagined he had been doing for the last 10 hours straight.  Don is that kind of gamer.

TILTING AT SKYSCRAPERS is a fun little short revolving around the moment where Don has gamed himself stupid.  By the disarray presented, it is obvious that he has done nothing but sit his ass in front of a screen for at least as long as my employee had been, but more likely he’s been glued there for days.  At TaS starts, it is nearing 3:45 in the morning, and Don’s brain just broke.  His neighbor Billy has come knocking, to tell Don that it’s way too late to have his TV up so loud.  Don, whose brain has previously left the building, thinks Billy is his Colonel, and is ready to go on a mission.  Don, armed with his assault rifle (a plunger with a flashlight attached) his com unit (a telephone handset duct taped to his head), and other various “equipment,” heads out on his mission to take out the hot missile (office building) down the street.

Don’s brain just broke.

TaS is a fun little premise that has a lot going for it.  There are good visual gags – especially in the juxtaposition between Don’s world and the real world – some decent dialogue (though I don’t understand why they felt the need to go for the family-friendly “fricking,” that word always makes me think “this was written by a 15-year-old who wants to swear but can’t get away with it”), and you have got to love the Nintendo-themed closing music for the film.  Well, if you had a NES, you do.  There are some stumbling blocks too though.  The film is uploaded in 360P, so it is not the crispest picture out there by far.  I don’t know if the film was shot SD or HD, but the presentation is squarely SD and the image quality, while not bad, is not the best.  I did enjoy the cinematography a lot; at first I was afraid it was going to be “too stylish,” especially with the near vertical shot of Don losing his mind, but overall it was fun without being too much.  I was really happy to see a use of the Snorri-Cam type of shot, which is one of my favorite visual devices and it does not get worked into the no-budget realm very often.  There were a lot of shots that would have benefited from either a steadi-cam type of unit (you can make one that will work pretty well for about $30) or a tripod, especially in the apartment; the “shake” was giving me fit and bringing to mind BLAIR WITCH style shooting, which always makes my stomach churn.

Billy prepares to set off Don’s “thermal device”

The sound overall is pretty well done, as is the acting.  There are a few spots where Stasio takes it too far, out of the comedy realm and into the realm of full-on cheese, but overall his performance is on.  Elam is delightfully dry as Billy, and a good foil to the eccentric performance of Stasio.  Vesbit, as Phil, doesn’t really have to do very much, but he does slip in a few good looks that go a long way.  As far as the sound goes, the dialogue is well recorded without detracting from the film, and the score has some nice moments in it as well.

Overall I really enjoyed TaS.  This is a film about a gamer that can be appreciated by a much wider audience than just other people that like video games.  It has some great gags, some nice and campy effects, and over all is just an easy-to-like little movie.

Overall 7 / 10

TaS on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1959588/

TaS site: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tilting-at-Skyscrapers/110624069062972

Tilting at Skyscrapers (2011)
(No Poster Available)

Tilting at Skyscrapers from Frank Stasio on Vimeo.

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