Week Two of the Phoenix Film Festival

The second week of the Phoenix Film Festival was filled with some real gems. I saw more incredible Copper Wing Award competition films, meaning they were up for awards consideration in several categories such as the one selected by the audience as their favorite. I also saw some Centerpiece films. They’re not shown to win awards but rather for word of mouth or to have you tell people about their movie before it comes out. This boosts the potential of all films seen at the festival.

One I liked very much was called “TUESDAY,” that starred Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It was insanely beautiful for the type of story it was telling. This narrative is the story of a mother having a difficult time letting go of her very ill daughter. She’ll do whatever it takes to keep her, but can one really run from the inescapable and inevitable death that comes for us all? She’ll try and see if her daughter, Tuesday, can be the exception.


Another was called “THELMA,” this year’s choice for the closing night feature. It was marvelous. It’s about Thelma, played by June Squibb. Not wanting to be put in the category of aging family members that are usually put out to pasture to die alone in a facility for such things, Thelma, at ninety-one, decides she has a wrong to right and she’ll do it to prove she can. She wants to be independent, which was something she had never been until the death of her husband a few years prior.

The movie is funny and sweet, with sprinkles of heavy and dark. The message couldn’t be clearer: Listen to the aging. Perhaps they know what’s best for them. Let them make the decision of when they need more care. The movie also starred Richard Roundtree, who, sadly, didn’t get to see its release.



Moving on to Competition Films. I was quite torn with these two… my favorites of the entire festival. I paced back and forth on which was the best, unable to sleep, knowing I wanted to pick my favorite for the audience award. It was between “FLUORESCENT BEAST” and “GUACAMOLE YESTERDAYS.” I will remain tight-lipped about who I went with. Regardless, they’re so good that I guarantee you’ll be seeing them both on a streaming platform or at your local theater soon.


“Fluorescent Beast” is about a man named Nelson Shell, played by John T. Woods. Nelson is haunted by the load he carries. He’s at work, under the bulbs, working practically day and night. He wants and needs time to write but never gets any. The film is somewhat comical but mostly dramatic and mysterious in the sense that you feel you’ve “stepped into the Twilight Zone” while watching this play out. It also stars Patrick Day, who was superb in his role. Woods and Day have incredible range. In a panel at the festival, writer/director Paul Osborne said he likes to rehearse, so if there are any hiccups, the actors can jump right back into any scene and be ready to go. They’ll know the blocking and be prepared. It’s good for the film, and it’s good for them. Asked about rehearsing, he answered, “We do several rehearsal sessions before production starts. Unless an actor prefers not to, but most do. I find, especially when you need to shoot quickly, it’s quite valuable in ensuring deeper, richer performances.”


Whatever his method is, it seems to be working because his films are always entertaining. The performances he gets from his actors were truly the best I saw this year. Patrick Day shines as the frightening, peculiar and creepy Mr. Hayden. John T. Woods brought on the emotion as a nervous, cautioned man trying to navigate what Hayden wants from him. The poor man just wants to do what he’s passionate about, but the opportunities never arise. The movie and Shell take you on a thrill ride, and I mean that literally. The poor man can barely tell which way is up. He’s confronted with a mind-blowing mission, meeting people who are as confused as he is along the way. Not until the end will you “get it.”


Paul’s script is so well structured and written that, much like Shell, you can barely see what’s coming around the corner. This is a good thing in a mystery, so I’d say Paul did his job.  My advice? Don’t try to figure it out! Just go with the flow and enjoy the tale that’s presented.


The other competition film that had me thrown for a loop was “Guacamole Yesterdays,” directed by Jordan Noel and written by Hudson Phillips. It’s produced by Michelle Moreland along with Hudson Phillips. Wow! I don’t know if there’s much more to say about this movie. Just… wow! The story begins with the first date between Ames (Sophie Edwards) and Franklin (Randy Havens). It’s a very good date as, when Ames ends up at Franklin’s house later, she feels comfortable enough to change the time on his clock when he’s not looking. Little gestures like this are what made the film so special. They’re so cozy with one another you’d think they had known each other for years.


Franklin is a stand-up comedian. Knowing this, Ames asks him to perform a set for her. He’s not into it. With the wit he has when he speaks, it isn’t necessary to ask him to comply. He’s just naturally funny. That said, she won’t let it go. She seems to be testing him on how far she can go with getting what she wants. Yep! She gets her way. When he’s done, she admits it was awkward.


The dialogue and the performances are a delight, and you can’t help but fall in love right along with these two.

Havens was perfect for the role, and you’ll be continuously laughing at the lines he spews forth. He’s gifted, is all I’m trying to say. Sophie Edwards is no slouch. She counters him shot for shot and holds her own. Though he demands your attention, she grabs it from him just as easily.

What comes next is heart-wrenching. I don’t want to give it away except to say it includes some heavy therapy scenes for her… and substantial scriptwriting to go with it. Both of which are handled well.


The couple goes through a terrible separation and Ames begins to see a therapist, played by Adetinpo Thomas. The therapist is helping out this mess of a woman who can’t make it on her own. The therapist has new technology that can help Ames go back and see her old memories controlling those which she remembers. This allows her to cope with what they are, the goal being to move on from them. While doing this, she forgets the truth of what transpired in her life and who she now is.


Like all film festivals, it was so fun seeing friends, both old and new. Paul Osborne from “Fluorescent Beast” and his past wins at the Phoenix Film Festival, was a treasure. He attended with actors he often works with, such as Patrick Day and Blayne Weaver, who’s also in “Fluorescent Beast.” These talented people were a pleasure to see.

Getting to know Melanie Starks, a producer of Osborne’s project, was good fun. So was picking the brain of producer Michelle Moreland from “Guacamole Yesterdays.” She had the biggest heart—you know how they’re grown down there in the South! She had plenty of stories to tell and was terribly interesting to listen to.


I had a great time bothering the volunteers whom I love. Getting and giving tickets back to Tessa Carney was the highlight of each day and attempting to stay quiet in the hallway was a challenge and a joy at the same time.

During the award ceremony, I got a bit sad.
Another year has come and gone, I wasn’t ready for it to pass.
Hey! That kinda rhymed!!


If you haven’t attended the Phoenix Film Festival, do so next year because it’ll be year Twenty-Five! I’m sure they’re already cooking up something special for the filmmakers and for those of us who attend. I, for one, cannot wait to see what that will be.

tmc.io contributor: ShariK.Green tmc
I'm the Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager for tmc.io. I write, direct and produce short films with my production company, Good Stew Productions. Though it's difficult to answer this question when asked, I'd say my favorite movie is “The Big Chill.” I enjoy photography, poetry, and hiking and I adore animals, especially elephants. I live in Arizona and feel it's an outstanding and inspirational place to live.

What's your take?

Free movie screenings and more.
Watch movies with friends.


No comments yet