Yosemite | Essential Independents FF

It has begun, this week Palace Cinemas launched a new festival in Australia’s cinema scene with an annual event designed to showcase the past, present and future of independent cinema from the U.S – Essential Independents: American Cinema. The first movie from the festival we reviewed was CRAZY ABOUT TIFFANY’S and now I present to you the second, YOSEMITE, kind of starring James Franco.

The Essential Independents Film Festival is screening exclusively at Palace Cinemas and runs from May 18 – June 1. YOSEMITE has an 18+ Festival rating and runs for 80mins. Hit up their website for session details…………all the best………..JK.


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YOSEMITE is based on A CALIFORNIA CHILDHOOD, a short story from prolific actor, director, author and momentary star of this movie, James Franco, it is inspired by a passion for STAND BY ME and I have to be honest, it is bloody dreadful. The first twenty minutes are brilliant, with Phil (Franco), Chris (Everett Meckler) and Alex (Troy Tinnirello) on a small holiday to Yosemite National Park together where it is revealed that Phil and the wife are having difficult times. I squealed with delight, the movie is set around the same time I stayed in Yosemite and they were staying in my favourite hotel, The Ahwahnee Hotel (renamed due to a legal dispute to Majestic Yosemite Hotel on March 1, 2016). It looked exactly as it did when we were there and memories of love and longing to be back in Yosemite overwhelmed me, that plus the cinematography and era the film captured through cinematography (was it shot in 16mm?) had me expecting this to be one of my favourite movies of the year. But then the first twenty minutes of the movie became a metaphor for the rest of the movie, three of us will start on a journey, we will get lost and just wander around aimlessly, we will see something or two that is exciting but overall nothing will be explained and eventually we will come to an unexplained and uneventful end.

From this small family outing, when it is over, that’s it, we never see James Franco again, at all, goodbye – it was like he had an obligation or did the scenes for a friend and then pissed off to go make something else mediocre.


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His kids hang around in the movie but you will only ever really see the elder one, Chris (Everett Meckler), the rest of the movie is kind of about him and two other boys going through puberty and making the change from adolescent to young man, you do see little Alex playing on a driveway in a later scene but his importance of the first twenty minutes meant absolute zip. The movie is then a crisscross of different stories relating to the boys that are never fully realised and poorly executed for the most part, and it is here where the film tries to desperately grasp at elements of STAND BY ME, just poorly. Chris now has a new “dad,” his mum is never present (that I can remember) and his new dad is kind of like a biker who hangs around the outside dirty pool of their home? I could be way off on that but that is the lasting impression, it literally was a continuity issue for me, where was Franco? Why was he no longer in the movie? I know him and the wife were rocky but I didn’t know it was enough to remove him from the rest of the scenes.

Then there is Joe (Alec Mansky), who has the better story in the movie, he was the guy I felt for, his brother has recently died and he is incredibly depressed, however his friends treat him like shit and, well he hates them anyway, so shoplifts a comic book to be caught by the store owner, he is saved by a nice man who pays for the comic book but turns out to be either a great friend to Joe or more potentially a pedophile in waiting? Joe just keeps visiting him, and they read comics and drink soft-drink (soda) together. Said pedophile man Henry (Henry Hopper) appears to enjoy Joe’s company a bit too much but the movie never explores this and for some reason Joe all of a sudden decides not to visit Henry because his other mate, Ted (Calum John) has THE DARK CRYSTAL (one of the best movies of all time) on VHS and that is the end of that.


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Ted (Calum John), from memory, lives with his parents but you pretty much never see the mother, the father has discovered the new information highway and is constantly on the DOS PC late into the night when Ted wakes up and they have some uninteresting conversations, Ted’s dad is basically the first person who became dissociated with reality due to the internet. Ted’s cat has also gone missing and it appears the humans are building too much and encroaching into the forests and local environment, the same environment shared by the mountain lion who is visiting the neighbourhood and no doubt slaughtering all the domestic animals, is the mountain lion a metaphor here for the beginning of adulthood? The end of innocence? Who knows – I stopped caring by this stage.

I also found a shower scene of a ten year old child very odd and out of place, I mean what was the purpose of it? There was also more than one scene where the camera had a need to film boys’ feet? In my notes I wrote “WTF is with the shots of kids feet?” haha. These two scenes paired with the potentiaphile in the movie confused me. Was the entire movie there to show that now the children are growing and becoming more independent on their own that the world is all dangerous, as shown with a disassociating parent, a disappeared parent (and supposed headlining actor), a dead brother, a dead cat, bullying, a mountain lion, a pedophile? By this stage the movie was lost in its plot and moving slowly and then just like that it ended in a typical arthouse movie ending, with little to no closure i.e. work it out for yourself. But before that happens, a STAND BY ME scene, a gun in the hands of young boys is needed, a scene which separates the friends from the real friends, a scene that really wasn’t necessary, and really, they end that part of the story with Joe spray panting “Ted is a Faggot” on a wall, I think I told the screen to fuck off at that.

Oddly a lot of critics on Rotten Tomatoes saw way more than I did in this movie because a lot of them are raving about the film, no doubt because of its lack of explanation and schizophrenic plot development, something the most pompous of critics would gush over, for me, I missed it all, not for me, the end.


2 Pops



 is the owner and editor of Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. He loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. All the social media links to the right and up will allow you to abuse, troll or stalk him :).

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.


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