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Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire

Rated [R], 90 minutes
Starring Derick Martini, Christa Miller, Steven Martini, Rosemarie Addeo, Bill Henderson
Screenplay by Kevin Jordan, Derick Martini, Steven Martini
Directed by Kevin Jordan

IN SHORT: For the arthouse

Every once in a while we stumble upon a movie that we recommend to film students and would be film makers, 'cuz they're the ones who can benefit most by watching 'em. Case in point this time is Smiling Fish and Goat On Fire, a film which has an incredibly satisfying ending yet takes forever to get there, choosing to go heavy on subtle character development on top of a thin slice of life story. the reason that we're reco'ing the flick to those with aspirations is that film makers Kevin Jordan, Derick Martini and Steven Martini put the whole pie together in twelve days with a $40,000 budget -- lobster dinners not included (Jordan's dad owns a restaurant. It's good to have a top notch connection for the catering <g>) -- and the finished product yields a professional looking result.

Smiling Fish... is the kind of work that you do to show at film festivals to get noticed and, perhaps, raise money for a "bigger" project. But it is far more polished than many of the indie flicks that I sit through, with a decent story hampered only by passing grade performances. The best part is found in the support story, which means I'd best start explaining stuff.

"Smiling Fish" and "Goat on Fire" are nicknames for each other used by two twentysomething brothers, Chris (Derick Martini) and Tony (Steve Martini). The names are briefly mentioned at the beginning and end of the flick and for the life of me I couldn't tell you which one was which or why. That's how fast the info flies by. As you might imagine, one brother is staid (that's Chris, an accountant) and one is wild (Tony, a would be actor and definite ladies man). Both have girlfriends and both are facing that "where do we go from here" time of their life which, naturally, leaves them both single and confused about the natures of love, life and commitment.

Being responsible, Chris' boss assigns him the task of looking after Clive Winters (Bill Henderson), the boss' 80 year old uncle. Clive, an eccentric type, has built a tent in the middle of the workforce floor, lining its inside bookshelves with pictures of his departed wife, Rebecca. Clive is an engaging sort, and while he confides one deep dark secret to Chris (no, we're not telling) he also provides shaman like guidance on the Nature of Love.

This is more than useful when Chris meets Anna (Rosemarie Addeo), a beautiful Italian woman who trains animals for movie use, and Tony meets Kathy (Christa Miller of The Drew Carey Show) who shepherd's her eight year daughter around to auditions. Both are simple stories acted simply. The fireworks, as it were, all come from Henderson's performance as Uncle Clive. The real life jazz musician, who character was a soundman on black-only films back in the 40s, sparkles. His character has more background and development than all the other characters combined and, were this much effort put into those leads, we'd probably be raving about the flick.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Smiling Fish an Goat on Fire, he would have paid...


The average rating for an arthouse flick. Those who prefer the arthouse circuit to "mainstream" flicks will not be disappointed. Those who want to make films and swear off because of the cost, reread the first paragraph.

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