Simon’s Quest

There are at least 16,000 awkward things about dating, especially those early dates.  One of the most awkward — and one of the most likely to show up in questions to online advice columnists — is figuring out when to share a potentially sensitive fact about yourself.  After all, there can be a fine line between letting the other person get to know you better and completely oversharing, and depending on the subject some of these conversations can be horrifying.  It’s one thing to explain that you have an uncle who’s convinced there are aliens living in his rosebushes, and quite another to have to admit that you’re a werewolf, as happens in Simon’s Quest.

Simon (Johnny Pozzi) was a regular guy until one night and one bite turned him into a werewolf.  He isn’t alone, at least, even though James (James Tison), the guy who turned him, vanished immediately thereafter.  No, this is a world with plenty of monsters around, vampires and demons as well as werewolves, though they generally prefer to be called the afflicted rather than monsters.  But Simon hasn’t had the nerve to date since he was turned, and Gwen (Talley Gale) and Robert (Lucas Brahme) want to change that.

Robert, Gwen, and Simon play games and talk Castlevania.

It’s a nice thought but they aren’t really all that helpful, since their main focus is on making a documentary about Simon’s life as a werewolf.  They get him on Tinder and act as cheerleaders, but I’d be more than nervous enough about dating without two people watching (and recording) my every move.  But he gets a match with a guy with the unlikely name of Skyye, and Simon tentatively starts trying to get other aspects of his life back together as well.  He joins a support group for the afflicted, and with help from the group’s new leader, Pat (Timothy J. Cox), takes his first steps towards becoming part of the world again.  But there are plenty of things waiting to trip him up along the way, and telling Skyye the whole truth might not even be the worst one.

With a solid script and capable directing from Marley Jaeger, it’s a wonderful mix of drama, humor, a touch of fantasy, and a dash of riotous satire — Axe Alucard (Anibal Nobel), monster hunter, is wildly over the top, as is Liz (Liz Days), the former support group leader, though honestly the demon in the group (Krystal K.C. Wilson) seems pretty nice.  But Simon’s Quest also has plenty of genuinely touching moments, as Simon is constantly torn between his own deep loneliness and the very real chance that he might wake up the morning after the full moon to discover that he’s shredded the person he cares about most in the world.  We all worry about hurting the ones we love sometimes, just not usually quite so literally.

Pat counseling the afflicted.

There are obvious parallels between the plight of the monsters — sorry, afflicted — and the similar situations often faced by the LGBTQ community in the not too distant past.  And it still isn’t all that easy to be anything other than mainstream in all your life choices, even these days.  But this parallel is handled just as discreetly as the monsters are, without a drop of blood or a single sharp, shining fang appearing on-screen.  It’s the quiet, gentle Simon and his very ungentle curse that will capture the audience, and rightly so.  In these internet days it’s easy to forget that every bit of suffering you hear about has a human face attached — even if once a month that face might turn fanged and furry — and this compelling short film reminds us brilliantly of that.

Who Is Elmore Dean?

Elmore at breakfast. An absolutely normal day, nothing to see here.

There are few people who have truly risen to the top of their professions. For every athlete laden with awards and trophies, there are thousands of others who never made it past high school glory, and for every Roger Ebert there are a myriad of movie critics like me, who no one has ever heard of. In Who Is Elmore Dean?, the title character (Timothy J. Cox) has undeniably made it big — he’s a somewhat reclusive songwriter about to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Mail Time

Ted doing a magic trick. Note that there's absolutely nothing up his sleeves.

There are plenty of jokes about mail carriers out there and how cushy their job is, but it isn’t necessarily all that great. There’s the walking and the weather, not to mention dogs and rude people. And in some cases there’s also the other side of the coin. At my day job I often see the mail carrier arrive, and my co-worker loves to corner him with badly-told stories about her dog and long conversations about the weather. Like the poor guy doesn’t already have everyone asking if it’s cold (or hot) enough for him.

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The Watchers

John finally gets a call, but not the one he's been hoping for.

We’ve all had that feeling now and then, that indefinable certainty that someone’s looking at us. Sometimes we’re right about it, sometimes wrong, but in either case the feeling doesn’t last and we go about our day. In The Watchers, though, John (Jeff Moffitt) is having more of a problem with that feeling than usual. Everywhere he turns, he insists there’s someone watching him and it’s bothering him so much he’s making emergency calls to his psychiatrist Dr. Orwell (Timothy J. Cox).

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Solutions

It's so touching to see a kid out on his first stakeout with his dad.

Every generation thinks they’re living at the worst possible time for dirty politics and shocking scandals, but of course politics has always been a dirty business and these days it just seems worse because it spreads all over the internet in five seconds and then you can’t get away from it. Still, I have to admit that this last year or so probably has been particularly unpleasant and not just because it seems to be everywhere all the time. In Solutions, though, politics are even dirtier than usual.

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To Be Alone

William in the lonely, lonely woods.

There’s something particularly numbing about being alone when you aren’t used to it. William (Timothy J. Cox) certainly isn’t used to it, as he moves aimlessly about his large, empty house in the woods. He wears a wedding ring but there’s no sign of his wife anywhere. He fills his time with sleep, religious television shows, his Bible, and pointless building projects. Or perhaps what he’s building isn’t so pointless after all.

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Psychic Murder

Mickey ready to pounce, while Puma looks faintly amused.

Of all the difficult gigs there are in the entertainment world, one of the toughest has to be stand-up comedy. I once heard a comic making fun of his own profession (as many of them do), talking about how people usually don’t even know who’s performing at the local comedy club; they just go there because they want to go out. You hardly ever see people doing that with movies at the theatre. Granted, I did that once but those were special circumstances, and it really isn’t the norm.

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Trouble

The headmaster lectures Issac. Sorry kid, but you just don't have any character.

In the hallowed halls of St. Sebastian’s Quiet Academy for Disreputable Youth, things are indeed quiet, probably because no one’s allowed to do anything. The boys drift mournfully around, attend ‘classes’ where they act out doubtful morality plays, and are forced to wear identical outfits of tan pants and light blue shirts. One character plays music on a boom box and I was shocked they allowed such goings-on. If the kids only wore darker clothes it would be like there was constantly a funeral in progress.

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Over Coffee

Carla and boss-man Rice. Note the look of vague terror in her eyes.

If you work in an office, half the fun is keeping track of the gossip that goes around — or if you’re more like me, the gossip is actually the single biggest problem about working in an office. Who’s got the time to keep track of all that anyway? But in the workplace featured in Over Coffee, everyone knows one thing for sure: that Andrew (Erik Potempa) has a crush on Carla (Jocelyn DeBoer). David (Michael Oberholtzer) likes to tease Andrew about it, but then David’s kind of a jerk.

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Dirty Books

Woodward meets with Deep Throat. I mean, David meets with Owens.

I hadn’t really thought about it before, but there probably aren’t an awful lot of paper and ink school newspapers anymore. Mind you, I went to school in a town so small that the school’s paper was also the town’s paper, but it does seem a shame to lose the actual newsprint. Online writing is great (I’d better say that, right?), but there is also something irreplaceable about holding a book or a newspaper in your hands.

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