In sharp contrast to the Shorts Program I, which was mainly comedy, the majority of Shorts Program III takes a more serious and dramatic turn with films about a search and rescue for children buried alive and a young man fighting the urge to commit a murder. The two comedies in the group were Love Birds, and then my favorite by far: the 4 minute clay animation, Marcel the Shell with Shoes on. Does drama mix well with short film?
Read on for the reviews.
The eight short films included in the program are:
- After You Left, Jef Taylor
- Love Birds, Brian Lye
- Crazy Beats Strong Every Time, Moon Molson
- Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate
- Little Brother, Callum Cooper
- Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight, Eliza Hittman
- Stopover, Ioana Uricaru
- Shikasha, Isamu Hirabayashi
After You Left is an honest and rather realistic depiction of what it’s like to be in love with someone and get dumped in Brooklyn. One of the things this film does really well is show how your entire life can be completely overturned when you go from being in a serious relationship to being single. He no longer knows how to interact with their friends, who don’t seem comfortable around him. This film is a little too emo for me, but it has its moments.
Love Birds was a little weird. It tells the love story of a pair of birds (naked humans with feathers on them, living in a giant nest outside). The comedy is in how similar their courtship, interaction, and problems are to the human experience. It’s very silly and I wasn’t sure if I liked it very much at first, but it has a great ending that totally redeems it.
Crazy Beats Strong Every Time deals with issues of masculinity, morality, peer pressure, and patricide. A young man refuses to let his drunk ex-stepfather be left in an apartment hallway and, though he has no idea where he lives. In trying to do the right thing, while at the same time conforming to the attitude of his group of friends, the hero finds his anger toward his ex-stepfather growing to the point of homicidal, then suicidal thoughts.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes on has been available on Youtube since October 2010. It’s a brief conversation with a tiny, anthropomorphized shell about his life. The voice work is inspired and the writing is witty and perfectly timed. I’m excited to see it get to Sundance because it deserves this kind of recognition from the film industry. I certainly want to see more of Fleischer-Camp and Slate’s creations take to the screen.
Little Brother got jipped. Our screening had some technical difficulties with the sound, so it played all the way through in silence. It was also very confusing because, as far as I could tell, it was about a deaf teenager who takes care of his disabled brother. The opening scene shows him turning off (or on) his hearing aid, so for the first 5 minutes, I thought it was meant to be a silent film. It’s a shame; I will try to see it another time and write a proper review.
Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight is a film that follows a Russian teenage girl on a night of clubbing with her friend. At the heart of it, the film is about a young woman learning that there are different forms of responsibility and coming to understand that there are things she must do that come before what she wants to do. This film didn’t do much for me because it felt flat. The acting was good, but I didn’t identify as much as I think I might have with the girl’s journey.
Stopover fell a little short as a story about trust and the kindness of strangers. A woman has her wallet stolen while en route to America from Europe. She doesn’t want to involve the police for some reason and is in a state of utter desperation when a man overhears her talking Romanian to her husband. He asks her if he can help her and she explains the situation; he disappears for a while, then returns her wallet. I think the only problem with this film was that the point it was making was too weak.
Shikasha is not a horror film, but rather seems like the a still-life epilogue to a horror film. Two children are buried alive in Japan. The rescue crew digs numerous holes looking for them. Though you’d think there would be an intense sense of urgency, instead there is more of a somber and slow pace to the film, suggesting that none of the rescuers expect to find the children alive. This film, though it has very little plot, has some truly beautiful shots and does a good job of creating a dark and saddening ambiance.
Call me narrow-minded, but I like my short films two ways: scary or funny (preferably both!). I have a hard time going through the emotional cycle of a properly done drama in less than an hour. By the time my mood is adjusted for the film, it’s over and I haven’t finished my mental process. It’s hard for me to get invested in characters and their journeys in a short amount of time. So although many of these films were very well made, well written, and well acted in, I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much as the comedies.