Martin’s ‘She Sings to Birds’ short, but exquisite; forget ‘Freddy’s’

She Sings To Birds
Written by Cape Cod Wave

Steven J. Martin is back for another visit with the Hyannis Film Festival.

The former Cape Codder – also a former student of mine – now lives and makes films in Japan. He has returned several times in recent years for screenings of his work at the local fest. Last July, he presented his autobiographical feature drama “Killing the Muse.” This time, he’ll attend the festival for a showing of his new 42-minute “She Sings to Birds” at noon Sunday, Nov. 5.

The festival is running Friday, Nov. 3, through Sunday, Nov. 5, with movies featuring, according to the poster, “Stories of fear, passion, love and joy – with a spotlight on neurodiversity, autism, and mental wellbeing.”

Along with Martin and other filmmakers at the screenings, actress Judith Ivey (“Brighton Beach Memoirs”) will be on hand for a screening at 2 p.m. Sunday of Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking,” for which Ivey earned deserved acclaim. All screenings will be held at 529 Main St.

(More information: hyannisfilmfestival.com.)

She Sings To Birds

Nana Akuzawa, right, appears with Naoko Takagi in “She Sings to Birds.” (Orgel Theatre)

With “She Sings to Birds,” Martin, as always, digs deep.

In it, Martin regular Nana Akuzawa – a sublime, expressive performer who has become one of my favorite actresses – plays Megomi, the new caretaker of the elderly Michiko (Naoko Takagi). Michiko, who has Alzheimer’s disease, seems in her own world and doesn’t talk to other people; she only makes sounds. Michiko’s busy, embittered daughter, Sara (Naoki Kondo), refers to her mother as “the old woman” and says, “She sits, poops and talks nonsense.” When Megomi says she thinks Michiko is actually singing to the birds outside her window, Sara scoffs; she’s given up on her mother.

The film is largely about connection – in this case, between Megomi and Michiko, and Megomi and Sara. Megomi and Sara bond as they sit and talk in a casual, yet meaningful way, and when Sara, a chef, helps Megomi put together a meal. Megomi tries to connect with Michiko by talking, with kindness, to her client even if she’s not sure if her words are getting through. She also appears to connect with Michiko, perhaps more effectively, with tender gestures such as a hand on the shoulder.

Human connection, Martin suggests, comes with shared experience, openness and compassion toward each other, love. We’re all caretakers, if we choose to be.

This is the filmmaker’s most accessible film (at least of the ones I’ve seen), but it still doesn’t spoon-feed anything to the moviegoer. That’s not Martin’s style, and it’s one of the reasons his films are so compelling. He – along with his three superb actresses – takes us into the world of Megomi, Michiko and Sara, and leaves it up to us to make of it what we will.

There’s a lot to take in, and it’s moving and profound. **** (out of four)

Mascot mayhem

Imagine Chuck E. Cheese as a serial killer

I kind of like the idea. The animatronic pizza-joint mascot going on a murder spree? Could be hilariously twisted.

But not if it’s anything like “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (PG-13, 110 minutes, in theaters and streaming on Peacock). Based on a popular video game franchise, it involves a group of animatronic pizza-joint mascots who kill. Intended (apparently) as a horror flick, it’s not scary, and, despite the absurdity of the story, it’s not funny. It’s barely anything at all.

Josh Hutcherson, of “The Hunger Games” fame, plays Mike Schmidt, a young guy with a spotty work history because of his anger issues. After he loses his job as a mall security guard for pummeling a guy over a misunderstanding, he takes on a position as a night watchman at an abandoned family restaurant, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza (which seems an awful lot like a rundown Chuck E. Cheese).

Five Nights At Freddy's

Beware the mascots in “Five Nights at Freddy’s.” (Universal Pictures)

In its present condition, Freddy Fazbear’s is a creepy place. Alone in the dark, Mike falls asleep on the job and has nightmares about his childhood. He relives seeing his brother kidnapped, never to be heard from again and presumed dead. Meanwhile, while awake, Mike encounters the abandoned, towering mascot critters, hears things go bump in the night and experiences the occasional jump scare.

Mike’s problems don’t end there. He’s the guardian of his little sister (Piper Rubio), but a mean aunt (Mary Stuart Masterson!) is doing her conniving best to get custody of the girl. He also has babysitting issues, which means he has to bring Kid Sis to work. If you’re thinking, “That can’t be good,” you’re right.

But it’s not good in another sense, too. “Freddy’s” (unlike the mascots) never comes to life. It just trudges along, a generic slog that forgets to be fun. *½ (out of four)

** Click here for  Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **

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Tim Miller

Tim Miller, Movie Critic

Tim Miller is co-president of the Boston Society of Film Critics and a Tomatometer-approved critic. He teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.

About the author

Cape Cod Wave

Cape Cod Wave is an online magazine covering the character and culture of Cape Cod. We feature long-form journalism, slices of Cape Cod life, scenic slide shows, and music videos of local bands playing original music.

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