The anticipation was palpable as the screen darkened and RIT’s film, third in the line-up, began to play. The crowded auditorium at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts expected good things from the Dave Sluberski-advised collegiate team, comprised of Christina Lodato, Marie Chantal Massuh, Harlan Doolittle, and Meghan Connolly. As soon as actor Mat Cantore appeared with hitched-up shorts and a taxidermed skunk (named “Trembles”) by his side, it was clear the school was going to deliver.
“We’re weird; we’ve always thought of stuff like this,” said one of the students after the film, called “Chet’s Pet,” had shown. Cantore is the titular character, a lost cause trying to get into the movies with his (dead) pet skunk, though the theater has a “no-pets” clause. He goes home and complains to his grandmother, played exuberantly by Soozie Lubert, a woman who can’t seem to stop dancing. Cynthia Wilber, who nabbed the Best Actress award handed out by the jury, plays the “hussy” next door, a woman Chet’s grandmother warns him about. Wilber’s hussy, though, shows Chet unconditional acceptance, and thinks that the dead skunk, Trembles, is a very nice little doggie.
As the judges deliberated – Actor Michael Gaston, and Film Directors Gregory Orr and Craig Macneill – the audience was balloted for their favorite short film completed in the 24 hour time frame. Aside from RIT’s “Chet’s Pet,” Team Syracuse had concocted “One Man’s Palace,” a silent-film throwback; Team Hobart & William Smith crafted “Me Too,” a film about the lengths one man is willing to go to preserve his family’s integrity; Team Marist busted out with “The Wild,” a Pulp-Fiction-esque, caper-gone-bad flick, and Team Purchase delivered “COASTING,” the story of a man reconciling his post-Olympic years.
The jury award for Best Film and the Audience Choice both went to RIT for “Chet’s Pet,” with Cynthia Wilber winning Best Actress for her deft portrayal of Chet’s unlikely-but-perfect match. Christian Rozakis took the Best Actor award, appearing in “The Wild” as a young criminal, gut-shot and drinking Bourbon, munching on his dialog and furrowing his brow with movie star appeal. The RIT students had all the right stuff – inserted close-ups of a finger pressing Play on the boombox before Lubert gets her groove on, shots of Trembles waiting patiently outside of the movie theater, and the timbre of perfect visual comedy – like the hussy’s husband (played by Chris Lafountain in a delightful performance) lurking in the background and spying on his wayward wife. One judge, Actor Michael Gaston, noted that the actors in the film seemed to find the right comedic notes between overacting and subtlety.
Check back with the blog later this week to see the films in their entirety, and to learn more about this past weekend’s 2012 SiLP competition, the Lake Placid Film Forum screenings and Panel Discussion, and the exciting events planned for the near future.