The 3rd Annual PS Awards: A Look Back at Eight Fabulous Indie Flicks From 2015 – By Philip Smolen


Welcome fellow Rogue Cinemaniacs to the 3rd annual PS awards. That’s where this humble movie maven gets to select his favorite indie flicks that he’s reviewed during the previous year and tell everyone about them one more time. And this year’s list has everything; from space pirate fantasies to family comedies. The PS list is here to remind you to not forget about these wonderful films, but to search them out either at a local festival or perhaps on demand. They each represent a rich and satisfying cinematic experience.

Indie cinema is so incredible because nowhere else is the movie landscape so varied and diverse. Hollywood is restricted by its metrics and must try and produce movies that always make money. But indie cinema totally serves the creative spirit. And each of the folks behind these flicks stayed true to their dreams and made the films that were important to them. So here are eight fabulous indie movies (listed alphabetically) that I had the pleasure of watching in 2015 and that I heartily recommend to you.



“Bethlehem” is a sassy Christmas masterpiece. It’s the story of siblings Michael (Michael Malone) and Bridget (Melissa Revels) Early who come to their mother’s (Cindy Maples) house for the annual holiday dinner. They both don’t want to be there because they don’t want the family to know how screwed up their lives are. So they argue, kvetch and plot all in a vain attempt to get through the day. But the kids decide to play nice for their mom so she can pretend that their family is normal. Filled with howlingly funny one-liners and delightfully zany characters, “Bethlehem” is a perfect rowdy Christmas comedy that also has a soul. It’s a wonderfully entertaining film that continually surprises and pleases.

For my review of “Bethlehem”, please go to:

For more information on “Bethlehem”, please visit:



Kind of like a demented version of “Arsenic and Old Lace” (1944), “Between Friends” tells the delightful story of Rose (Darlene Johnson) and Ida (Linda Gustafson), two old friends who are being bullied by their former landlord’s son Edwin (Gunther Gullickson). The fiendish Edwin wants to throw Rose and Ida out of their apartments even though they have a life-long lease. Pushed to their limit, the two senior ladies decide to fight back and decide to do away with Edwin. The only problem is that they are both good-hearted souls and don’t how to do it. “Between Friends” is a charming 11 minute short that features wonderful performances by Darlene Johnson and Linda Gustafson. Writer/director Scott deftly balances the humor and the horror that Rose and Ida find themselves in. This film kept me smiling from beginning to end. It’ll do the same for you.

For my review of “Between Friends”, please go to:
For more information on “Between Friends”, please visit:



Another exquisitely beautiful short film, “Come Away With Me” tells the achingly sad story of Ann (Ellen Gerstein) who comes to her 50th high school reunion in the hopes of rekindling her romance with her sweetheart Michael (Charlie Robinson) only to find out that he’s suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and doesn’t remember her. Patiently, Ann sits with Michael and tries to get him to remember. This is a beautifully acted short with stunning performances from both Ellen Gerstein and Charlie Robinson. It is an amazing achievement that hauntingly recounts the regret some people have over their choices in life. Fierce and unforgettable, “Come Away With Me” is stunning achievement for cinematic shorts.

For my review of “Come Away With Me”, please go to:

For more information on “Come Away With Me”, please visit:



“Evergreen” is a terrific sci-fi romance short about two people who have been blessed with immortality. The couple (Aaron Courteau and Emily Fradenburgh) have experienced everything that life has to offer, so now after several hundred years, they’ve decided to up the stakes and try and kill each other. The film is initially confusing because you’re not sure what the couple is up to. It’s only later that you realize what’s going on and I found that revelation very satisfying. Director Zuehlke fills the screen with lovely images that convey the feelings these two special beings have for one another. Different and enchanting, “Evergreen” is a startling and amazing sci-fi short. It succeeds in creating a world that we’ve never seen before.

For my review of “Evergreen”, please go to:

For more information on “Evergreen”, please visit:



Someone really needs to figure out what writer/director Mikel J. Wisler is drinking these days because whatever it is, it should be made available to everyone. “Parallel” is another great short film from Wisler that tells the story of two star-crossed lovers whose feelings for each other cross even the gulfs of time and space. It’s about a physicist (Juan C. Rodriques) whose work on discovering the Hicks Bosun allows him to communicate with other universes. When he finally establishes communication, he falls in love with the beautiful scientist (Kate Paulsen) from that universe even though they know that they can never be together. “Parallel” is beautiful and poetic and unlike any short film I’ve ever seen. It’s both entertaining and emotionally satisfying.

For my review of “Parallel”, please go to:

For more information on “Parallel”, please visit:



The only words that properly describe this witty and enjoyable look at futuristic pirates are “a ton of fun.” Mike Donis and his associates have concocted a wild and wacky story about an honest scalawag named Pete Winning (Donis) who fights an evil queen for possession of a map that can help the downtrodden avoid the radioactive areas of the post apocalyptic Earth. “Pete Winning” successfully spoofs pirate movies, old time serials and sci-fi epics without breaking into a sweat. The film’s dialogue is arch and kitschy and it’s obvious that everyone is in on the joke. It’s also clear that the wonderful cast (including Donis, Saffron Cassady and Shawn Devlin) are having a great time spoofing all of the clichés from their favorite flicks. “Pete Winning and the Pirates” is sure to have you grinning from ear to ear.

For my review of “Pete Winning and the Pirates”, please go to:

For more information on “Pete Winning and the Pirates”, please visit:



A winning look at family love. Mark Dessauer plays a befuddled dad who finally realizes that his oldest daughter is a lesbian. She then announces to her family that she’s getting married which further confuses Dessauer. But love and compassion win out and Dad realizes that all he really wants is for his daughter to be happy. This is a marvelous movie that allows its characters to have dignity and presents their dilemma realistically and honestly. There is no preaching and no taking sides. There are just real characters who have real emotions and who are complex and fallible. The cast is wonderful and there are great performances here from Dessauer, Cindy Maples, Roni Jonah and Megan Lynette Hunt. “A Wedding Like That” is a thought provoking look at a hot button topic that is short on clichés but long on intelligence and integrity.

For my review of “A Wedding Like That”, please go to:

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“Who Are You People” is a documentary of rare vision and scope. It’s about the making of the classic Steven Spielberg sci-fi flick “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977) but told from an entirely different perspective. Instead of interviewing the Hollywood personnel who were involved, director Robinson focuses his story on how the everyday citizens of Mobile, Alabama contributed to the making of the film. Columbia Pictures rented a closed down air base in Mobile that had monstrous aircraft hangers that were perfect for building movie sets. Columbia also hired hundreds of Mobile citizens to work on the film which was a tremendous boost to the local economy. These everyday people tell incredible stories that are funny, warm and charming. “Who Are You People” is an engaging look at how regular Joes and Janes helped create a classic sci-fi flick. It’s a satisfying documentary that reaches incredible heights.

For my review of “Who Are You People”, please go to:

To read an interview with director Jonathan Robinson, please visit:

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