Wade on Birmingham

Sidewalk 2007: Something sacred


Chance Shirley, co-director of “Hide and Creep” and co-founder of Birmingham-based Crewless Productions, caught a screening of “The Ten” in New York and offers this review.

the ten“The Ten” will be of special interest to fans of “The State,” the MTV sketch comedy show that launched the careers of a group of actors, writers and directors who would go on to work on a variety of television shows and movies, including “Stella,” “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Reno 911!”

The film will open next week’s Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival.


Given the film’s roots, it’s not surprising that “The Ten” plays out like something of a sketch show for the big screen. It consists of 10 short films, each based (sometimes tenuously) on one of the Ten Commandments. This connection, along with characters who appear in multiple segments, gives it a bit more cohesiveness than the average anthology movie.

Paul Rudd (“Knocked Up”), who has played roles in several of “The State” gang’s projects, serves as the Rod Serling-esque host of the piece. He appears in interstitials, introducing each of the 10 short films. In another twist on the usual anthology formula, Rudd’s character Jeff is both host and character in a story.

Over the course of the interstitials, he goes through relationships with women played by Famke Janssen (“X-Men: The Last Stand”) and Jessica Alba (“Good Luck Chuck”). Bonus points to director David Wain for getting a good performance out of Alba, who’s been terrible in most every other role I’ve seen her play. Rudd and Janssen turn in solid performances, as usual.

the ten

Oliver Platt gets into leather in ‘The Ten.’

Even though “The Ten” manages to rise above several trappings of the anthology genre (assuming anthology is a genre), it does fall prey to inconsistency. A few of the pieces didn’t really work for me, like one where a man becomes a celebrity after (barely) surviving a fall from an airplane. And some of the better concepts are dragged out for too long.

But even the weaker entries have their entertaining moments. I wasn’t crazy about the concept behind the short that featured Oliver Platt (“The Bronx Is Burning”), but I appreciated the fact that Platt worked so hard to make the best of his role.

None of the segments go for realism, and a few are downright surreal. I found the stranger shorts to be the most enjoyable, particularly an animated segment about a hippo and a pack of evil, horny dogs, and a segment about a love triangle among male inmates.

It is definitely not a movie for the youngsters. The previously mentioned love triangle segment alone features enough prison rape and language to earn the R rating.

Personally, I was impressed that someone could make a very funny short film that included such a horrible act. As outrageous as the movie becomes, its message is actually conservative, right in line with the Ten Commandments. Killing is bad. Stealing is bad. And not much good will come of coveting your neighbor’s wife.

I was also impressed that “The Ten” had been selected as the opening film of the festival. Compared to past years’ openers (“Sweet Home Alabama,” “Silver City”), I think “The Ten” is the best yet. Given the film’s content, it might also be the most controversial.

But “The Ten” is exactly the kind of movie I like to see at a festival. It’s really “independent” — there’s no way a major studio, or probably even a minor one, would produce an anthology film that includes a segment where a woman leaves her husband for a ventriloquist’s dummy. And more important, it’s really entertaining.

chance shirleyChance Shirley is directing his next feature, sci-fi horror comedy, “Interplanetary,” with behind-the-scenes updates on his blog, Everybody on Mars Is Dead. He’ll also serve as moderator for “The Blood and Guts of Comedy” panel at 4 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Playhouse, 1816 Third Ave. N., just across the street from the Alabama Theatre.

“The Ten” will screen at 8 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Alabama Theatre.


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Action! Complete Sidewalk 2007 coverage.

1 Yip for “Sidewalk 2007: Something sacred”

  1. Wade on Birmingham
    Friday, September 28, 2007, 9:20 am

    Sidewalk 2007: The last roundup

    Wanna see a movie this weekend? How about 150 of them?
    The ninth annual Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival starts tonight, with the biblical comedic romp, “The Ten.”
    So what’s the story on this year’s festival? More previews, mor…

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