OMG, I’m a Robot?!: Review

OMG, I’m a Robot?!:
Review

And…we…have…LIFTOFF! The Drive-in Zeppelin is taking to the skies once again to continue its noble mission of cinematic cynicism! But, of course, you knew that already because you’ve met Airman Glock—our newest contributor—and read his Nerve and Battle Beyond the Stars reviews!

Well, naturally your beloved Airman Xley refuses to be outdone by the newbie, so I’m going to get straight to the point and start my share of the Other Worlds Austin 2016 recap. This year’s festival—like its predecessors—was full of laughs, tears and, of course, plenty of sci-fi and horror thrills. Most importantly, however, it was full of a host of truly passionate film fans the likes of which I’m privileged to have acquainted myself with over four exceptional days.

Included in the latter are those individuals most worthy of my gushing praise—the OWA team themselves. These hardworking individuals have outdone themselves year after year by putting together an event that I truly look forward to and for that, I cannot thank them enough. It’s one thing to curate quality programming; it’s another thing entirely to successfully pack a theatre with a diverse and energetic crowd, day after day, screening after screening.

So to all of my fellow audience members and my OWA family—I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making Other Worlds Austin 2016 an unforgettable experience (especially that cute girl that was in line behind me for Virtual Revolution) Hellllllooooooooooooooo Nurse! I didn’t strike up a conversation because you know—I’m a spineless craven. One of these days though…

Anywho, without further ado, the review of arguably the funniest film of the festival—OMG, I’m a Robot?! and its accompanying short film Indigo.

And…we…have…LIFTOFF! The Drive-in Zeppelin is taking to the skies once again to continue its noble mission of cinematic cynicism! But, of course, you knew that already because you’ve met Airman Glock—our newest contributor—and read his Nerve and Battle Beyond the Stars reviews!

Well, naturally your beloved Airman Xley refuses to be outdone by the newbie, so I’m going to get straight to the point and start my share of the Other Worlds Austin 2016 recap. This year’s festival—like its predecessors—was full of laughs, tears and, of course, plenty of sci-fi and horror thrills. Most importantly, however, it was full of a host of truly passionate film fans the likes of which I’m privileged to have acquainted myself with over four exceptional days.

Included in the latter are those individuals most worthy of my gushing praise—the OWA team themselves. These hardworking individuals have outdone themselves year after year by putting together an event that I truly look forward to and for that, I cannot thank them enough. It’s one thing to curate quality programming; it’s another thing entirely to successfully pack a theatre with a diverse and energetic crowd, day after day, screening after screening.

So to all of my fellow audience members and my OWA family—I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making Other Worlds Austin 2016 an unforgettable experience (especially that cute girl that was in line behind me for Virtual Revolution) Hellllllooooooooooooooo Nurse! I didn’t strike up a conversation because you know—I’m a spineless craven. One of these days though…

Anywho, without further ado, the review of arguably the funniest film of the festival—OMG, I’m a Robot?! and its accompanying short film Indigo.

And…we…have…LIFTOFF! The Drive-in Zeppelin is taking to the skies once again to continue its noble mission of cinematic cynicism! But, of course, you knew that already because you’ve met Airman Glock—our newest contributor—and read his Nerve and Battle Beyond the Stars reviews!

Well, naturally your beloved Airman Xley refuses to be outdone by the newbie, so I’m going to get straight to the point and start my share of the Other Worlds Austin 2016 recap. This year’s festival—like its predecessors—was full of laughs, tears and, of course, plenty of sci-fi and horror thrills. Most importantly, however, it was full of a host of truly passionate film fans the likes of which I’m privileged to have acquainted myself with over four exceptional days.

Included in the latter are those individuals most worthy of my gushing praise—the OWA team themselves. These hardworking individuals have outdone themselves year after year by putting together an event that I truly look forward to and for that, I cannot thank them enough. It’s one thing to curate quality programming; it’s another thing entirely to successfully pack a theatre with a diverse and energetic crowd, day after day, screening after screening.

So to all of my fellow audience members and my OWA family—I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making Other Worlds Austin 2016 an unforgettable experience (especially that cute girl that was in line behind me for Virtual Revolution) Hellllllooooooooooooooo Nurse! I didn’t strike up a conversation because you know—I’m a spineless craven. One of these days though…

Anywho, without further ado, the review of arguably the funniest film of the festival—OMG, I’m a Robot?! and its accompanying short film Indigo.

So I had pretty high expectations for this film given that in years past the OWA festival has screened uproariously funny films like Night of the Living Deb and Space Milkshake. Fortunately, those expectations were spectacularly exceeded as you’ll soon find out.

OMG, I’m a robot?! is the story of Danny (Yotam Ishay)—an overly sensitive guy who is prone to shedding tears while watching Home Alone. Against all logic, Danny is dating the mesmerizingly beautiful Noa (Hili Yalon) though their relationship soon dissolves. Heartbroken, Danny spends eight months wallowing in depression.

Despite attempts by a friendly janitor (whose character name escapes me at the moment) to set him up with a well-endowed neighbor, Danny tries to kill himself by slitting his wrists. Unfortunately—as Danny soon discovers—it is quite difficult to commit suicide if you are, in fact, an indestructible robot capable of shooting laser beams out of your hands.

With new found confidence (and who wouldn’t feel more confident after such a discovery) Danny tries to get back in touch with Noa to prove his worthiness though he soon learns she didn’t simply walk out on him—she was kidnapped! Danny then teams up with his macho boss (Tzahi Grad) and Robo Joseph (Rob Schneider, yes that Rob Schneider), a small Jewish robot with a lot of “chutzpah,” to save her. What follows is a zany adventure involving robot ninjas, laser battles, and, of course, a gun that’s shaped like a Menorah.

The OWA synopsis labels the film as a “play at pure escapism,” and I couldn’t agree more with the description. In their feature debut, directors Tal Goldberg and Gal Zelezniak have superbly crafted a lighthearted yet extremely pointed commentary on a nation in conflict. I am not intimately familiar with recent Israeli history, so I will not attempt to draw parallels to the film. That being said, there is much more to OMG, I’m a Robot?! than an abundance of laughs.

While we’re on the subject of humor, I feel inclined to offer credit where credit it due—namely to Yotam Ishay for making the entire film with his performance as the overly sensitive Danny. The supporting characters are all charming and serve their purpose (particularly Robo Joseph), but Danny is just endearingly meek. I’m also a bit jealous of a few of his nerdy apartment decorations, including a Logan’s Run poster presumably written in Hebrew. (Just FYI dear reader, my birthday is coming up soon, and I love movie memorabilia).

It’s going to be a stretch for me to find any serious fault with this movie though it does suffer from a few pacing issues. There are a few segments that could stand to be trimmed a bit and the film as a whole probably would have benefitted from a bigger budget, but hey, who cares? It was still great! Indeed, the only legitimate criticism I have is that the female characters could have been given more to do, but again—the film isn’t really about them. It’s about Danny discovering he’s a robot without sacrificing his sensitivity. Oh, and laser battles. And a sassy Jewish R2D2.

The Bottom Line:

OMG, I’m a Robot?! was—in a word—simply delightful for so many reasons. There were plenty of laughs, but more importantly, there was plenty of heart as well.  It was also the perfect opening night film for yet another unforgettable Other Worlds Austin Sci-Fi Film Festival. I’m not sure how kosher it is to laugh at a laser gun shaped like a Menorah though. You heard me!

Anyways, I adored the film, and I’m sure you will as well. Additionally, it was just acquired by Devilworks—a genre distributor who picked up some other previous OWA films like The Answer and Time Lapse—so keep an eye out for OMG, I’m a Robot?!  on some of the more popular streaming services if you miss it on the festival circuit.

Indigo (Short): Review

Indigo (Short):
Review

Now, while OMG, I’m a Robot?! was a great opening night feature, it didn’t quite occupy my thoughts the rest of the festival as much as its accompanying short film Indigo. I’ll be talking about a lot of amazing Other Worlds Austin films over the coming weeks, but this one, in particular, I’m keen to extol for its beauty and poignancy.

Directed and written by Jody Wilson, Indigo is the story of Takumi (Kohei Shinozaki)—a boy charged with an intergalactic destiny whose one earthly desire is to be with his neighbor Yoshimi (Elizabeth Davison) in their small Northern Japanese city of Kushiro. Yoshimi is the daughter of a fisherman and a 14-year-old Russian prostitute. By all accounts, she is your average Japanese teenager and a generally sweet and popular girl. To Takumi, however, Yoshimi is the star in his daily dreams and fantasies.

Aside from the few blissful encounters with Yoshimi, Takumi’s only respite from bullying and depression is a toy robot named Doka he acquired after being orphaned as a child. It is Doka who reveals that Takumi is actually heir to the throne of a planet orbiting the star Sirius B though, on Earth, the boy is treated as an outcast and is diagnosed with a myriad of mental illnesses and debilitating social behaviors. Together, Doka and Takumi train for the young prince’s eventual return to his homeworld.

 

Now, while OMG, I’m a Robot?! was a great opening night feature, it didn’t quite occupy my thoughts the rest of the festival as much as its accompanying short film Indigo. I’ll be talking about a lot of amazing Other Worlds Austin films over the coming weeks, but this one, in particular, I’m keen to extol for its beauty and poignancy.

Directed and written by Jody Wilson, Indigo is the story of Takumi (Kohei Shinozaki)—a boy charged with an intergalactic destiny whose one earthly desire is to be with his neighbor Yoshimi (Elizabeth Davison) in their small Northern Japanese city of Kushiro. Yoshimi is the daughter of a fisherman and a 14-year-old Russian prostitute. By all accounts, she is your average Japanese teenager and a generally sweet and popular girl. To Takumi, however, Yoshimi is the star in his daily dreams and fantasies.

Aside from the few blissful encounters with Yoshimi, Takumi’s only respite from bullying and depression is a toy robot named Doka he acquired after being orphaned as a child. It is Doka who reveals that Takumi is actually heir to the throne of a planet orbiting the star Sirius B though, on Earth, the boy is treated as an outcast and is diagnosed with a myriad of mental illnesses and debilitating social behaviors. Together, Doka and Takumi train for the young prince’s eventual return to his homeworld.

Now, while OMG, I’m a Robot?! was a great opening night feature, it didn’t quite occupy my thoughts the rest of the festival as much as its accompanying short film Indigo. I’ll be talking about a lot of amazing Other Worlds Austin films over the coming weeks, but this one, in particular, I’m keen to extol for its beauty and poignancy.

Directed and written by Jody Wilson, Indigo is the story of Takumi (Kohei Shinozaki)—a boy charged with an intergalactic destiny whose one earthly desire is to be with his neighbor Yoshimi (Elizabeth Davison) in their small Northern Japanese city of Kushiro. Yoshimi is the daughter of a fisherman and a 14-year-old Russian prostitute. By all accounts, she is your average Japanese teenager and a generally sweet and popular girl. To Takumi, however, Yoshimi is the star in his daily dreams and fantasies.

Aside from the few blissful encounters with Yoshimi, Takumi’s only respite from bullying and depression is a toy robot named Doka he acquired after being orphaned as a child. It is Doka who reveals that Takumi is actually heir to the throne of a planet orbiting the star Sirius B though, on Earth, the boy is treated as an outcast and is diagnosed with a myriad of mental illnesses and debilitating social behaviors. Together, Doka and Takumi train for the young prince’s eventual return to his homeworld.

To say I loved Indigo is a bit of an understatement as my appreciation for this twenty minute short stretches far beyond simple admiration and entertainment. The film itself is darkly sentimental in its exploration of indigo children, mental illness, and spirituality and one that continues to haunt you well after the credits have rolled. As a frequent victim of unrequited love (I’m talking to you Girl of My Dreams #37), I personally identified with Takumi’s struggle on an emotional level, though I must confess, my only claim to royalty is being a royal pain in the ass if someone disagrees with me on movies.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Indigo, however, is that director Jody Wilson set out to shoot a Japanese language film even though—in her own words—her understanding of the language is limited to “Kon’nichiwa watashinonamaeha jodydesu.” So rather than focusing on the diction of her actors, Wilson is able to zero in on the emotional deliveries of each line and each scene. The end result is a film that is stylistically reminiscent of manga and other graphic novels, certainly, but more importantly one that captures the emotional essence of a truly Japanese story.

The Bottom Line:

Out of dozens of amazing shorts, Indigo was perhaps the most memorable short film of the 2016 Other Worlds Sci-Fi festival. I fear it may not earn the coveted Audience Award though as there was some serious competition from the other shorts. Here’s hoping I’m wrong (I’ll update once I know the results). Regardless of its final rank, however, the film deserves special praise for its truly beautiful yet haunting plot and exceptional performances. 

Is there enough of a story for director Jody Wilson to entertain thoughts of turning it into a feature film? Probably, though personally I think it works perfectly as a short film. Either way, Indigo should be watched, and rewatched, and rewatched once more for good measure. It’s smart and exceptional filmmaking at its finest. Also ROBOTS!

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