Flickhead
DVD Review
By Ray Young

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Film Geek

If you’re reading this review, this film is probably about YOU.

Edited, written and directed by James Westby. Produced by Byrd McDonald. Music by Jason Wells. With Melik Malkasian, Tyler Gannon, Matt Morris, Michelle Garner. 77 minutes. Originally released in 2005 by First Run Features.

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    So there’s this irritating nerd rattling off useless movie trivia, the fan without a life, an otherwise clueless dork harboring an obsessive-compulsive disorder fueled by the movies, unable to extend any part of himself to the real world. He can’t cope, he can’t get laid, he can’t fathom a job outside of jockeying the checkout counter at a video store—and even there he blows it by haranguing the civilians about letterbox versus pan-and-scan and the sin of lumping John Carpenter’s The Thing in with the horror movies when any fool can tell you that it’s science fiction.
    To criticize the character of Scotty Pelk in Film Geek would be as easy as shooting ducks in a barrel, but in the final analysis he’s a mirror image of what lies behind my own façade of normalcy. A funhouse mirror perhaps, but an apt reflection nonetheless. When not at work or home spanking the monkey, the Loser (mind the capital ‘L’) is either watching movies or reviewing them for his Loser webpage. I confess: it’s woefully too close to home—a Geek Tragedy, if you will.
    A barebones production with obvious technical limitations but crafted out of love and dedication, Film Geek taps into the fantasy-based reality that movies nurture through their actors, themes, editing, and photography which so many of us carry from the theater into everyday life, subconsciously or not. At the same time, writer-director James Westby is in tune with the callousness of the outside world and its numbing effect on a vulnerable, friendless but goodhearted junkie hooked on cinema.

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Above: Melik Malkasian and Tyler Gannon in Film Geek
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    The subject has been approached before, sometimes better, sometimes worse, from the Bogart infatuation of Play it Again, Sam (1972) to the celebrity-drunk felons of King of Comedy (1983), the ardent tyke in Cinema Paradiso (1989) to the adult children hypnotized by the legend of William Shatner in Free Enterprise (1998), and sobering (and often embarrassing) documentaries like Cinemania (2002) and Trekkies (1997).
    If these films reveal anything, it’s that we’re a media-driven culture with movies at our center, and Film Geek’s Scotty Pelk works as a caricature of our mania. Played by Melik Malkasian, he’s utterly bewitched and two sandwiches short of a picnic, simultaneously annoying and comical, but with an understanding of nagging loneliness that makes the character all the more poignant and tangible. It’s easy to forgive the script’s flawed image of him as thoroughly indiscriminate in his tastes (seemingly everything ever filmed is ‘great’); while the choices in Scotty’s on-screen ‘best of’ movie lists are imbued with that modish nihilism that appears to be inherent to anyone who came of age after the 1970s.
    When he’s ignored by his video store co-workers, blown off by his sexy neighbor or bullied by testosterone-heavy boors, Malkasian’s eyes project a bruised innocence that should be familiar to anyone who’s been in his quandary. But more touching is the tender romance that develops between Scotty and an artist played by Tyler Gannon, a gifted performer who uses just the right mixture of youthful purity and feigned cool to create a believable love interest for someone so outré. Their chance meeting on a bus over a book on David Cronenberg, and an awkward dinner date capped off blissfully at a Buñuel film, are wise and affecting passages.
    Filmed in and around Portland, Oregon, the picture captures the flavor of the area’s small business district and its bohemian subculture, and the depressing single-room apartment which constitutes Scotty’s myopic universe. Clocking in at an economic seventy-two minutes, Film Geek moves briskly from scene to scene—but the rapid pace unfortunately can’t support a climax and denouement requiring a little more buildup than payoff. But that’s a minor quibble for a film with such fervor and deft comic timing, to say nothing of the parallel lines it draws with my own Pelk-ish existence.