Notes from Melanie (2019) – Stuckmann’s Meta Yet Self-aware Short

For me, Chris Stuckmann is one of my favorite critics and inspired me a lot to review a film. He is also one of the critics who make me love cinema. I learned a lot from him how to criticize films and see a film from another perspective. Most importantly, he is one of the most influential people on this website and for me as well. While sometimes I disagree with some of his reviews in several films, that’s how you feel to love a film; you don’t see the film based on how people say it is but how you feel about the film.

In his new and second short film, Stuckmann crafted a story about a screenwriter’s complaints in writing mockbuster films. Joe Link (Mason Heidger) is a well-known screenwriter for all of his bad ripoffs of blockbuster movies. Just writing a new screenwriter for his next movie, Melanie Banks (KateLynn E. Newberry) gave him feedback and a response on how the first draft of the first script worked.

This is my first time reviewing a short film because in most of the short films, mainly, we don’t have enough things or sentences to talk about. Unlike the feature film where I gave a lot of reviews, what the director wants to say and other aspects, it’s hard for me, for the first time, to criticize a short movie. Short films can also have a mixed subjective feeling especially when it is very easy to watch it repeatedly because it’s just a short movie. But, for me, short films also make me think that everyone can be proud, can stand up, can convey their voices only through short films.

In the end, we enjoy what we did for everyone. Likewise with Chris Stuckmann. Following his success of “Auditorium 6”, “Notes from Melanie” is more like a personal film for the director himself or perhaps most of the filmmaking in general. The protagonist is trying to write a story for the next big film. While on the other side, his friend or colleague tried to give him a new idea besides just doing what he had made in his previous films. This film has a lot of surfaces, it doesn’t tell about two characters talk about their revelation or recognized.

From these processes, the protagonist learns a lot from why people want to do what he wants to do even though we try so hard. But, we just can’t because there are so many obstacles to get over. We see many examples of this protagonist such as Tommy Wiseau and Ed Wood. Both directors have a high passion for filmmaking. It’s just that there is something it cannot be owned by these two people. Because at the end of the day, everything needs a process, not just talent, and so on.

The protagonist is self-aware when he realizes that his film isn’t just enough to make people talk again and again. It’s more like a story about fear, wound, feeling betrayed by ourselves, and wanting to achieve it even though we know we can’t. He didn’t leave a sign of anything in all of his movies. And this is what the conflict comes from, not coming from a conversation between the two characters here. It reminds me of a conversation from my friends about what people who have dedicated their lives to film actually think. In our perspective, we all know all of that is just film. But, for them, it’s not just a film. It’s a living enough to ourselves because we love it. We are desperate to seek an achievement because people around us think that you cannot achieve it.

At the end of the day, we all know Stuckmann was Stuckmannizing us until this day. It reminds me of why I wrote a thesis about literature and film in my college and so did the reviews. I saw this film from Stuckmann’s perspective, remembering that his love and passion for filmmaking made me think of what he had been through all this time. This movie, besides the theme of the movie, is about mockbusters, has some fun, comical moments, and references. It’s has a poignant approach to the story, like John Flickinger a.k.a. The FLICK Pick played as all the protagonists in those mockbuster films. One of my favorites is the fake critics’ sentence to all of those movies.

The chemistry between the two leads was well-acted and well-worked. Even though the writing doesn’t have anything from who are these people or else, just looking at the two characters, I know what they went through and how their relationship is too. This is what it comes to both actors as well especially KateLynn E. Newberry as Melanie. It feels like she works in a lot of ways that put emotion and power to just one scene especially the one-take face to face between characters. She acts as the most aware of the protagonist yet I also like Mason Heidger as this innocent yet optimistic screenwriter guy who didn’t see his position now.

Most of the jokes are self-aware of its themes and elements. While the script didn’t have enough characters, the direction was a little bit off to me. It reminds me of when I become a cinematographer in my campus final assignment, prefers the shot all the sequence into a smartphone, and put them into one shot. But, it’s still better than that movie I shot one year ago. The mockbuster sequence isn’t a bad thing because it’s intentionally directed to the film. The cheap computer-generated are hilarious, the cinematography was mostly good in specific parts, and the performance is well-acted.

This is a metafilm and so self-aware of the theme. On the other hand, “Notes from Melanie” is more like a personal experience to the director himself. The parallel story between the mockbuster sequence is the best; especially the Flickinger performance cringed yet hilarious at the same time. For the decent criticism, the script is just not written so deeply to the characters. Regardless of which, this is a great image to Chris Stuckmann’s writing and directing. After this movie also, I want to appreciate the films in the future. Just keep it up, dude.

3 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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