By Jason Schock
Sunday in Los Angeles and on flat television screens everywhere, Americans celebrated the greatest movies and movie makers of 2014 with the 87th Academy Awards.
The greatest, at least according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a giant corporation comprised of some 6,000 actors, directors, writers, technicians and producers. Membership is by invitation only and the Academy never publicly discloses the identity of its members.
The popular vote of those 6,000 or so decides where Oscar will or will not call home. It’s not an issue of how many tickets were sold. Unlike, say, a Senate seat, Oscars aren’t for sale. “Birdman” took the Oscar for Best Picture (as well as Original Screenplay and Best Directing) because the movie makers liked it. It didn’t boom at the box office, as is generally the case with the Academy, which has a history of choosing the artsy-fartsys over the blockbusters. Neither “Birdman” or any of the other big winners Sunday had grossed $40 million before now. A nice chunk of money, no doubt, but $40 million doesn’t get you in the top 80 films of 2014, in terms of dough.
The movies that moved moolah? Guardians of the Galaxy ($334 million), Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 ($317 million), Captain America, Lego Movie, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Maleficent, X-Men, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Godzilla all cleared $200 million by New Year’s Day.
Get the picture? Not that there aren’t great flicks in there, in my opinion there are, but each and every one of them either at best enhanced or at worst replaced the story with computer-generated spectacle.
Simply put, CG may dominate the industry, but the art remains in the story.
That much Brent Scott Maze knows. The Falls City native and junior Film & New Media Major at the University of Nebraska’s Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film has already accumulated a cool collection of expensive recording toys, 4K Super 35mm camcorder included. And, he’ll tell you, it’s all garbage without a great story.
That kind of thinking may or may not sell to his peers in Generation Z, but it’s certainly translating among folks who know film. Maze’s latest work, titled Ambulance, is an Official Selection of the 10th annual Omaha Film Festival March 11-15. The movie will be screened between 7:45 and 9:22 p.m. Saturday, March 14, at Village Pointe Theatre (304 N. 174th St.). Tickets to see Ambulance and eight other short films during the block, cost $8 and are available at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1314588
Those familiar with Brent or his taste in music and movies – those, perhaps, who saw Delirium Trigger, played and replayed at the FC Library & Arts Center a couple years ago – will not be suprised to learn that Ambulance, a “neon noir suspense thriller,” is dark, quite literally and otherwise. It was shot almost entirely at night, in the alley between 18th and 19th and Harlan and Stone Streets (one scene was filmed from 6 a.m. until noon at The Would Eye Bar & Grill), over a weekend in June 2014. The story picks up after a man (played by Tyler Sells, another Falls City native and UNL student) has been violently beaten and left for dead. The victim, a wealthy playboy we learn, finds a passerby – that’s not to say he finds help – and they wait for the ambulance to arrive. It follows the conversations and interactions between the two men.
“Ambulance is a film about Karma,” Maze said. “It’s about the balancing of actions and reactions within and across the lives of every living person. Everything is connected in one way or another; the repercussions of our actions reach far beyond what we see. Even the smallest things we do can cause a tidal wave of hardship down the line in another person’s life.
“But sometimes, like our main protagonist in Ambulance, those negative actions can cause so many waves that they all eventually come crashing back to you, and you have to endure the consequences.”
Maze and a total crew of 13, started shooting at 10 p.m. Friday and worked through the weekend, for the most part. In addition to Sells, the cast also includes Falls City natives Nick Mackey, Molly Chapple and Jesse Weinert.
“We churned out a lot of stuff – didn’t get much sleep,” he said.
The recently turned 21-year-old wrote, directed and produced the film, which by no coincidence evokes the “Master of Suspense” himself, Alfred Hitchcock.
“I have always found it extremely fascinating that he could use one location and only a handful of actors to create an elaborate, suspenseful story that keeps you on the edge of your seat,” Maze said.
Such minimalistic structure relies heavily, then, on the music – the film features a song by a hard rock band from Nashville that Brent met on a Warped Tour stop in Kansas City – and, of course, a great story. Ambulance, a Hitchcockesque pyschological movie with conversation as its foundation, filmed in its entirety 100 yards away from this chair and visible as I type these words, is accompanied by the music of The Hollywood Kills. You can’t buy irony, either.