America On-line - Critics’ Choice

NOTHING - * * * *

Critic: Brandon Judell

Each time you take your seat in a movie theater part of you is praying, "Lord, let this film at least be passably entertaining. A 90-minute segment of my life may not seem like much when taken with your eternity thingumagig, but I ain't got that many hour-and-halves left." Well, Evan Aaronson is God's answer to our prayers.

Like an Albert Brooks who can't misfire, like a West Coast suburban, post-pubescent Woody Allen, like a Sartre on laughing gas, Aaronson has created a film that will have you floored. Under the guise of naive chutzpah, he explores the history and purpose of film (" give a lasting form to a moment in time") and the neuroticism involved in filmmaking ("You don't have a life of your own. You steal bits and pieces from your friends. That's not art. That's theft, Evan."). On this chaotic trek, we're also informed about the life, loves, yearnings and hemorrhoid problems of young Mr. Aaronson.

A younger version of Mitchell ("Streamers," "The Wedding Banquet") Lowenstein, Aaronson is two years out of New York University's film school when he starts exposing his pathetic plight to us. He got a job filming weddings, but at the last reception he missed the couple kissing. "There's come a point where my life stopped making sense," he acknowledges.

Born on the day men landed on the moon, a psychic informs Aaronson, he arrived "in the age of unanswered questions only to be brought into the age of unquestioned answers." Maybe by making this film about himself, he'll ground his life, get some justification for his existence, and also prove to his Dad that springing for his college tuition wasn't such a bad idea.




Emotional support for this project though isn't immediately forthcoming. His friend Jason even asks as he's being filmed, "You're making a film about yourself?...Evan, who wants to see a documentary about a spoiled, Jewish, rich kid from the Valley?...Documentaries should be about black kids from Watts...You're not interesting enough."

It does seem nothing is going on in Aaronson's life, but the determined director then shares a fable with us about two birds: A sparrow asks a dove how much a snowflake weighs. "Nothing more than nothing," the dove replies. Then how come a whole bunch of snowflakes together can break my branch, the sparrow queries.

Like snow, Aaronson's nothings start adding up...hilariously. With his camera always on, we watch his annoyed family celebrate Thanksgiving, his mom's 50th birthday, and the advent of daylight savings. He goes to Costa Rica and we observe him eating airplane food and being ignored by the girl he went to visit. There are car breakdowns in Mexico, Jehovah Witness forays into his California apartment, funerals, and supportive grandparents. Then there's his dog Lucy, who besides having an identity problem from being a mixed breed, is confused by the fact she's being raised by a species totally unlike her own.

Sprinkled throughout "Nothing," there are literally hundreds of moments that are so beautifully structured, so surprisingly set up, and about so much more than they appear to be at face value, you wind up being awed that Aaronson, in his relative youth, is so totally in control of the medium. He knows how to milk every visual sometimes with a disparate remark, an off-the-wall observation, or a wit so sharp you're taken aback. His editing sense is flawless. His personality delightfully flawed. It's the perfect commingling.

Currently without a distributor, but making the festival circuit, "Nothing" won a top prize at the Moomba International Film Festival in Australia, was the hit of the New York Underground Film Festival, and out of 300 submissions to the Sundance Film Festival, it was among the top 25 considered for the final selection. That it didn't make the final cut was Sundance's loss--and in the end our own. Let's hope some film company wakes up and sees what a something "Nothing" really is.


CityPaper, Balitmore’s Free Alternative Weekly.

"A documentary isn’t supposed to be about some spoiled Jewish rich kid from the Valley," says a friend of Evan Aaronson at the beginning of Nothing, Aaronson’s 90-minute film about himself -- a spoiled Jewish rich kid from Los Angeles. "Make it about some poor Black kid from Watts or a quadriplegic from Vietnam... You’re just not that interesting." But what else is a 23 year old N.Y.U. film grad with no prospects and the stigma of being fired from his lowly wedding videographer gig to do but to turn the camera on himself, his dog Lucy, his dysfunctional family, his antagonistic friends, and all the unattainable women who have rejected him, in an attempt to sort it all out? Raised in an "age of unanswered questions" (He was born the day Man landed on the moon), Aaronson attempts to come to terms with some pretty pressing concerns of his own. Deftly editing footage of a cheesy made-for-TV documentary about Man’s Origins with home movies, interviews, and audio tapes of unauthorized phone conversations ("I’m not recording this call. Why would I do that?"), Aaronson embarks on a hilarious slacker’s Sherman’s March through Costa Rica, Mexico, New York, and LA, in addition to that proverbial "inward journey" of the soul, just to prove that he existed. After all, a tree falling in a forest when no one’s around to hear it may not make a sound, but Aaronson reasons, "If someone were there with a camcorder when the tree fell down, it would have gotten on TV and therefore been talked about and preserved for eternity". In that sense, Nothing lasts forever. This toast of the New York Underground Film Festival makes its Baltimore debut in two screenings at the Mansion Theater, where the H.O.M.E. Group will present its Monthly Independent Open Film & Video screening in between at 9:00 p.m. The Mansion Theater, 4201 York Rd. (corner of York & 42nd St.) (410) 435-3604, $2

(Tom Warner)


HELLO JULIE (Short Film) Review -

This flick is another perfect e-mail postcard. It's an over-the-top gem that takes goofiness to the utmost extreme. We've all rehearsed our pickup lines in the mirror, perfecting the nuance with which to open a dating pitch, but few of us have screwed it up this badly. I don't know who the actor is (unfortunately he's not credited--maybe it's director Evan Aaronson), but he's got some seriously hilarious dimensions that should be developed. I can see an interesting one-man act in this guy's future. Hello Julie is another shining example of a simple idea that doesn't take one baby step beyond its means. Fire up your modem and dial up this flick. - Busch -


NORMAN'S PENIS (Short Film) Review -

Norman's Penis takes a one-line dick joke and weaves it into a hilarious little boner of a flick that is far too funny to describe. Evan Aaronson is a hilariously irreverent filmmaker who clearly derives glee from his adolescent hijinks, without giving a flying f**k what people think. Hey, people probably called Trey Parker of South Park fame an immature ignoramus too, and look at all the bazillions he's made. One of the last remaining American taboos is (ahem) exposed here in all its erect glory. But why is it that our country just can't deal with the male organ? It's as if there's some potent power in the penis that, if exposed, will cause rioting in the streets. Show all the titties you want, but hell and damnation will follow if you show the Johnson. Keep it up, Evan! I'm pulling for you.
- Busch -