I’ve seen four Cinevegas movies so far — Paul Dinello ‘s Strangers with Candy on Friday night, and then John Maringouin‘s Running Stumbled, Eva Aridjis‘s The Favor and Gregory Berkin and Jack Sheehan‘s Skin City on Saturday. The Aradjis film, a low-budget domestic drama about a nice, dweeby middle-aged guy taking a stab at fatherhood with the son of a deceased girlfriend, is the only one that passed muster. It feels, at times, a little too plain and earnest in the manner of an ABC afterschool special (that ancient series never stops getting evoked), but it has a pared-down simplicity and a corresponding emotional directness that worked (for me). Next time out Aradjis needs to add a bit more texture and stylistic pizazz. Strangers with Candy is a John Waters-influenced over-the-top hipster-degenerate comedy of manners…a kind of film that works for a certain type of audience (i.e., people who get off on feeling hip in a facile way) but which leave guys like me going, “Hmmm.” Thinkfilm will be releasing this sometimes amusing comedy, which first showed at Sundance 2005, on 6.28 (limited). The less said about Running Stumbled, the better. Most of us (I hope, I trust) have a breaking point when it comes to watching grainy video footage of aging, sickly, potty-mouthed low-lifes hanging around their stinky ranch home and drawling and smoking cigarette after cigarette after cigarette. The doc is obviously about buried trauma, but I couldn’t stand it after an hour or so. (The smell of those stinky Marlboros began to make me sick.) Skin City is strictly a Vegas chamber-of-commerce film, made by and intended for the locals. It’s supposed to be a cautionary piece about the Vegas sex industry having an unhealthy influence on the culture, and perhaps even getting to the point where it may be discouraging tourism. (Laughable.) It’s basically not hip or smart enough — the graphics and the tone and the attitudes of the talking heads combine in a perfect storm of mediocrity. The movie lacks irony, humor and is more than a little dull. And to think I saw this thing instead of The Squishy Chair, which is what I’ve been calling the Duplass Brothers’ The Puffy Chair . (I can’t seem to make myself remember the latter.) I was about to see The Puffy Chair when I saw Cinetic’s John Sloss sitting in the audience prior to the Skin City showing, and I wondered, “Why is Sloss at this thing?” An instinct told me to stay and watch it (maybe Sloss knows somethign I don’t) so I did….mistake! Today there’s an Outlaw Cinema Panel (at 1 pm), a debating-society film called Thanks to Gravity, Abel Ferrara‘s Mary, and two film I don’t know much about — G.I. Jesus and 5 UP and 2 Down.