Let Them Chirp Awhile: On DemandJanuary 19, 2010

Let Them Chirp Awhile: On Demand


On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews to hot movies on demand. This week, "Let Them Chirp Awhile" from FilmBuff on Time Warner Movies On Demand and Comcast TV.
New to the FilmBuff (a division of Cinetic Media) VOD channel programming (that has included such diverse indie titles as docu "The Carter," about Lil Wayne, Richard Linklater's "Slacker" and Rob Epstein's "The Times of Harvey Milk") comes "Let Them Chirp Awhile," the 2007 debut feature from (then) 23 year-old Jonathan Blitstein. "Chirp" is a 90-minute low-budget film shot with donated film stock and a 'family, friends and Mastercard' approach to post-NYU filmmaking.
The film centers around two work-challenged, late twenties daydreamers: Bobby (Justin Rice) and Scott (Brendan Sexton III). Bobby can't write a page but he has grand ideas. Scott listens to music but struggles to write his own. Along the way, Bobby loses a dog he was dogsitting and has to find a replacement. Scott leaks Bobby's idea to a hack playwright and it is used in a showcase. Scott breaks up with his girlfriend Michelle (Laura Breckenridge) and Bobby shares a romantic moment with her, ruining the chances of his own budding relationship with another woman. They have problems but one gets the feeling Bobby and Scott will be friends forever.


Let Them Chirp Awhile - Hot New Movies On Demand


The film was reportedly shot mostly in the East Village in eighteen days for about $99,000 and despite the collapse of the director from exhaustion, was completed using very few takes and copious prayers to the film gods. Mr. Blitstein's laudable aim was to come out of the Tisch gate galloping and quickly complete what normally takes film students a decade (if ever) to pull off (a feature that goes to festivals and gets some form of distribution).
Indie filmmaking on this level is a challenge (understatement) and it's usually finished only with the assistance of many miracles so it's hard to punish the film for technical problems -- but the viewer needs to know they will be encountering continuity, sound and visual issues not seen in larger budget films. People who watch indie film - from Cassavetes "Faces" to Kevin Smith's "Clerks" and the unfairly derided "mumblecore" movies, don't seem to have a problem with this. The artistic content of the film, respectfully, should always be discussed as any film would, regardless of the budget.
Mr. Blitstein as multi-hyphenate (writer, director, producer, editor) worked with what he knew here (the main character, like himself, hails from Illinois, went to school in Manhattan and is trying to write film by drawing from the intellectual classics). It's not right to pigeon-hole (pigeon? chirp?) but such young talent sometimes draw from their influences in a manner distracting to seasoned viewers looking for a more "original" experience. For them, over the course of the film, a few too many Woody Allen-isms might be noted (along with his spectrum of influences) in dialogue (Cole Porter, Bergman, Fellini, etc.), score (romantic strings and jazz) and at one point even the mannerisms of Mr. Rice (awkward clearing of the throat). That aside, the more objective weaknesses of the film fall to the script (they always do) which is filled with characters spouting opinions but lacks effective, deeper character development through dramatic situations (Ex: the lead's most dramatic moments come at the expense of losing a friend's dog.)
The film lands squarely on the shoulders of the cast who succeed for the most part in sustaining cinematic presence, even if their motivations (and plot lines) are at times unclear. Seeing Brandon Sexton III evokes positive memories for any Todd Solondz fan and Justin Rice has a Dylan-esque quality that gives him legitimacy as a bohemian artist (though he was better utilized in the 'mumblecore' classic "Mutual Appreciation.") Notable for fans is also the presence of Zach Galligan (the boy from the original "Gremlins" films, all grow'd up now) as the effectively douchy hack playwright, Hart.
Let Them Chirp Awhile - Hot Movies On Demand
The end of the film switches to Bergman-esque black and white (probably the most satisfying aesthetic in the piece - which might have been a better choice throughout) and gives the viewer a moment to reflect on where the director might go next. He has a penchant for intellectualism (Arthur Miller, Fountainhead, Melville, Dickens - and nearly all in the same sentence), the surreal (people in bird suits chatting in the beginning - where the title comes from), inane goofy-comic bits (mostly involving dogs) and sheer fantasy (an attractive American Apparel employee actually notices then takes time enough to care about a male customer long enough to start a relationship.)
It's important to mention that FilmBuff acts as agents for films like "Chirp" rather than acquiring total rights so that the filmmakers (according to FilmBuff) can get a more direct line to consumer revenue during a window of time. (All the better to pay off those pesky credit cards.) Get 'em while they're hot and support the cause.
Original music by Giulio Carmassi, cinematography by Andrew Shulkind. Color & B&W.
Sean McPhillips is a new contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. He is a former vice president of acquisitions for Miramax Films (During Harvey's reign). He is a current writer/director for NY-based Secret Hideout Films


Look for "Let Them Chirp Awhile" in your VOD listings by name or under the Movies > Genre > Independent folder on Time Warner Movies On Demand and Comcast TV.
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