Friday, September 16, 2011

FRIENEMIES (DC Shorts Festival)

Directed by: Anthony Brenneman
Length: 14 mins
Source: DC Shorts

Of all of the shorts shown at the free lunch showing last Thursday, "Frienemies" is the only film that has stayed with me. Perhaps it's because every girl my age has had a "frienemy" wreak havoc in her life, but what made the film resonating to me was how real it felt. From the costumes to the hair to the dialogue, the entire story felt like it was plucked out of an average high school in middle America.

"Frienemies" tells the story of two childhood friends, Tanya and Isabel, who have seemingly grown apart since attending high school. When Tanya, who has now become a part of the popular clique, asks Isabel to attend a party with her and a few of the popular boys, Isabel thinks that finally their friendship is mending. Once they're at the party, Isabel realizes that Tanya had no intentions of being friends again when she yells at Isabel for not drinking and hooking up with one of the boys. (SPOILER) As revenge, Isabel takes a picture of Tanya, passed out naked on top of one of the boys with one of the boys' phones. The "sext" gets sent around school and Tanya loses her status as a popular girl. One of the boys is arrested and charged with child pornography and statutory rape, while the other is suspended from school. Because all of her "friends" desert her, Tanya leans on Isabel for friendship, not realizing that Isabel caused the controversy in the first place.

At certain parts I thought the acting was a bit wooden and the premise unoriginal, like a old "7th Heaven" episode, but overall I enjoyed the film. The script was well written and it showed through the acting; when confronting Isabel at the party, Tanya scoffs at Isablel's tears and coldly sneers, "We're not friends." They're such simple words, but they're ones that are commonly exchanged between teenage girls. I appreciated the flat-ironed hair, Isabel's obvious discomfort and tugging at her party clothes, and the awkward silences between Tanya and Isabel - all were elements that made the story believable and the film real.

Stanley Pickle

Stanley Pickle
Victoria Mather
2010, about 15 minutes

The embedded video is a trailer for Stanley Pickle, the full short is unavailable online.
I have an issue with Stanley Pickle. Its an issue that I think a lot of films share with Stanley Pickle. I find that Stanley Pickle does not recognize how insane its own characters are. The film treats what is arguably criminal insane as some sort of twee charm.
The main character in this film has taken all of the people in his life who have died (we can only hope that they died of natural causes), emptied out their organs and reanimated them as clockwork automatons to do imitations of what they did in life. if a real person was caught doing this, they would immediately be carted off to an asylum.
On some level, the filmmaker understands this, and Stanley does take on a certain evil tone at points. But all of these are clearly intended to be sight gags more than acknowledgement of how insane the entire proceeding is.
Over the course of the film, Stanley becomes obsessed with a strange girl but refused to contact her. Then he reanimates her dead pet and it attacks her. Then he decides to leave the little world of insanity he's built for himself. And this is all portrayed as a simple coming of age story.
It's a shame that this film has this problem, since their are several strong points in the film. The style of filming, which the director describes as animation, is a kind of live-action stop-motion. It is extremely cool and fits the world of the short well. But the entire thing is ruined by its refusal to make its tone match the insanity of its protagonist.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Directed by Chris Blaine and Ben Blaine
2011, 2 minutes
Source: DC Shorts Festival

The entire two minute scene of 0507 takes place in an engaged couple's apartment. They are watching TV when the woman realizes that the guy needed to e-mail the venue to book it for the specific weekend they want to get married. He assures her that he did remember. As she gets up to go to the bathroom he asks to check his e-mail on her iPhone (implying to the audience he forgot). There's only one problem: the iPhone's password (her birthday). The rest of the two minutes is him trying to remember her birthday, when she finally comes out to announce that it was yesterday. The light-bulb clicks, he exclaims "AHA!" and the film ends, leaving the audience in hysterics.

What I really appreciated about the film was that, in only two minutes, the film was able to get across what they intended to and do it with humor. The audience was able to relate to the film because most understand the stereotype of the extremely forgetful boyfriend. I chose to write about this because I thought it really exemplified the art of making a short film effectively.

The film is entertaining because I can relate to a boyfriend not remembering my birthday or anything else for that matter. I find that a movie is much more enjoyable when it connects with the audience. Not that dramas with a good message aren't enjoyable, but there is less suspension of disbelief when it comes to a film that you automatically empathize with.


After my very interesting night trying to get back home from my DC shorts viewing in time to post this, I finally was able to sit down and really think about which film was my true favorite of the night. I had a very close tie between Sudden Death! and Der Eisangler (The Icefisher).

So for my post I have decided on Der Eisangler, really only because someone already talked about the hilarious Sudden Death!. I was very skeptical as Der Eisangler began because it was already in German with English subtitles, but as soon as the movie started I was intrigued. The movie opens to find a very young boy named Jonas sitting in the back of a car driven by his Mother. They are headed down a freshly shoveled street, but the rest of the area around them is blanketed within at least a foot of snow and ice. As they arrive at the destination, a beat up trailer home owned by Jonas' Father, we see the bickering begin between the two parents almost instantly. The little boy, whose innocence just radiates through his adorable face and deep eyes, just stares at them until his Mom leaves and he can ask his Dad about going ice fishing. His Dad tells him tomorrow morning they will go and that he should never, ever go ice fishing alone (instant red flag). So that night while they laid in bed together, the Dad reads the little boy a story. This story is basically about a Fisherman, His Wife, and an Enchanted fish. The Fisherman tells his Wife of the Enchanted fish he threw back into the water after she begins to yell at him for not bringing any fish home. After she hears of the wish, she orders her husband back to the water to make a wish to the fish. He reluctantly goes back and sure enough the fish grants her wish of a bigger house. As the story goes on, the wife is never happy and continues to order her husband back to the lake to make more wishes, each one granted. The story ends after one or two wishes for the night, because Jonas falls asleep.
The next morning, Jonas wakes up before his Father, took the story book, and ripped the picture of the Fish out of it. Then he took the fishing gear and headed out to the ice. He finally found a spot to his suiting and as he chipped away at the ice, he said the poem asking for the fish to come to him and grant his wish for his parents to fall back in love with one another. I won't spoil the ending, but I will say that there was about an 82.7% chance I was crying at the end.

I really enjoyed this film because not only did it absolutely break my heart, but the actual set up of the film was immaculate. The director has such beautiful scenes with the massive amounts of white snow as the backdrop and doesn't try too hard with the contrast of color throughout the film. The simple color contrast of a little boy in his brown coat tugging fishing supplies behind him is already so beautiful in one frame alone that I was very relieved she didn't try and throw in some sort of loud, bright color. The other amazing set up that I loved was that since the story really ended early to the audience when Jonas fell asleep, the director used a voiceover of the Father continuing the story throughout the rest of the film. We'd hear more developments in the story as the day of fishing went on for Jonas. The climatic parts of the film were synchronized with the climatic parts of the story, all up until the very end when we learn that the moral of the fishing story is that "you cannot always have what you wish for," but at that moment it is too late for our precious Jonas to learn that lesson. That ladies and gentlemen, is when you find yourself looking for tissues because all of a sudden you are bawling your eyes out while the end credits run up the screen.

All in all, I definitely had a very pleasant evening at the DC short film festival and hope all of y'all did too!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Paul Hellin, 20 mins, Finland

It was obvious to me that this film was the one to write about when at its end, the audience was too confused and disgusted to applaud for a good 15 seconds. The film does a remarkable job of creating tension at an excruciatingly slow pace - tension that is supported by eerie murmuring background music, close up reaction shots, dark cinematography, slow movements in camera, and terse, ominous bits of dialogue that complicate rather than clarify.

The film begins when a young girl enters a tattoo shop late at night to find a very ornery, quietly smoking tattoo artist who is in turn suspicious, mean, taciturn, and mysterious. He agrees to tattoo the girl all across her back, and gives her a shot to help ease the pain. The shot eventually makes the girl fall asleep, and when she wakes up, she finds she's gotten something very different than what she asked for.

Though the premise of the film is relatively simple, the slow pace really lends the film a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat quality. A noticeable total silence descended over the crowd during the scene when the girl starts getting tattooed, and lasted for nearly ten tension-wracked minutes. It's impossible to determine if the tattoo artist is merely grumpy or dangerous.

Interview Date

INTERVIEW DATE - D.C. Shorts Festival
Directed by Mike Lemcke
United States, 2011, ~20 mins

The short “Interview Date” by Mike Lemcke is the tail of two meetings set up by two separate groups getting mixed up and having some hilarious effects. Simply put, the short follows the stories of a job interview and a online date coming together and getting mixed up. With one person from each appointment with a person from the other appointment hilarity ensues as both groups attempt to figure out what’s wrong. Without ruining the final plot twist, the ending wraps up the short with a funny scene that most people won’t see coming.

Overall this short was the best short in the showcase I viewed while at the D.C. Shorts Film Festival. While it was the first short, it left such a memorable impression that it was the short I wanted to write about. What set this short apart from most of the shorts that I saw was the way it ended and it’s hilarity. When it comes to how this short ended, it had a physical ending that left me satisfied while others in the show case such as “Sweetness & Art” left me wanting more. However “Interview Date” really set itself apart because it kept me interested throughout the entire short. While other shorts were great, some of them lost me very quickly or seemed to skip parts of a story. This doesn’t mean that there weren’t a few issues with the film such as spending too long in the apartment at the beginning however compared to everyone else it was by far the best. That’s why I was really happy to see that you got the DC Shorts 2011 Audience Honorable Mention and the 2010 DC Shorts Screen Play Competition. Congratulations on the awards and thanks for making such a great short film!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

No Baque-Soatá

TITLE: No Baque-Soatá (On the Beat, by Soatá)
GENRE: Animation, Music Video
LENGTH: 3 minutes
DIRECTOR: Carlon Hardt

No Baque is essentially a music video that tells a story, but not a narrative. It utilizes food, dance, color,  to animate Brazilian culture and uses pop and urban influences to examine the musical trends in the song itself. In the link above there is a link to “the making of” video which explains a lot of the inspiration behind the artistic choices made in the video. The foods- beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, etc- are all local and beautifully arranged in each shot. 

This short really worked to capture all the aspects of the song, and of the culture the song comes from, by combining urban, pop, and traditional influences. We move from drummer to B-boy to dancer to city to brightly colored pencils and we do so seamlessly because of the unity of the elements, the colors, the textures. 

Cataplexy - DC Short Films Festival

Cataplexy - 7 minutes - USA
Directed by John Salcido

This short was a fun comedy that had the majority of the audience laughing throughout, including myself. It starts off with a man ordering a call girl to his oceanfront apartment for a little late-afternoon delight. Upon her arrival at the apartment, both the call girl and man quickly realize that the two of them were old friends from school. The awkward tension during this scene was very humorous due to the shear ridiculousness of the moment.

The two reach a mutual agreement to order in a "replacement" girl, and to kill time chit chatting about the good ol' times until she arrives. During their conversation the man confesses that he suffers from cataplexy -- a rare disease that results in the loss of muscle function triggered by emotions. In his case, the feelings that accompany "love" trigger his cataplexy; because of this unfortunate circumstance, his only interaction with women is through prostitutes.

It becomes obvious half-way through the short how it will end, but I was nevertheless engaged and excited to see how the director would play-out the inevitable finale. Sure enough, the man falls for the women and collapses face-first in his bowl of broccoli soup at the dinner table -- much to the delight of the audience.

Again, I thought this was a solid short. It was paced very well, explored a unique storyline, and was very lighthearted and fun, making it an enjoyable viewing.

Bye Bye Now- DC Shorts Fest

Bye Bye Now/DC Short Film Festival
Directors Aideen O'Sullivan and Ross Whitaker
15 Minutes/Ireland

This is a sweet little documentary about the phone box. The film starts with two young men narrating the story of a phone box that's about to be torn down (by them) and a woman who is telling them that they can't because of it's historical value. When asked the last time she'd used a phone box, she couldn't recall.

The advent of technology is both a curse and a blessing for the folks in rural Ireland. Some celebrate the phone box, like a sweet couple featured half way through the film who had been together for fifty years. He would leave (military, I believe) and then by letter, which she generally received on Tuesdays, he would tell her of his plans to call on Thursday. So she would travel, by foot, through storm to the closest phone box-- at least a days travel-- where she would wait for his call. Then, the two could only talk for five minutes because of the cost. They decided it might be smarter for them to get married, instead.

Another man, along with a friend, locked themselves inside the phone box in their little town in protest of demolition.

It's funny how the folks in this documentary are nostalgic for the phone box, but toward the films end, when asked when the last time they'd used a phone box was, the answer was years.

Not a lot can be said about a phone box, but in the fifteen minutes of this film, I learned a great deal, walked away feeling grateful for my cell phone and for modern technology, but swept up by the nostalgia created by these silly little telephone boxes. The film truly entertained! It's about letting go of the past, embracing the present, but it's also about how the past defines the present and tells the story of who we are. Think of going back to your hometown, wherever it may be, surely there stands a landmark of some kind that is a part of your life's history. Now, think for a moment if your mother called or in the news you heard that they'd torn it down, demolished it. Your heart skips a beat, just for a moment. That's what Bye Bye Now did for me.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Sam Wasserman, USA, 2010

The film is about dating in the digital age and how awkward meeting people off the internet can be. The story has many different characters, all single men and women trying to date in a crazy world. The story seems to have a random structure following various people from one date to another but in the end it allows for a circular story and connects the characters. The plot was pretty shallow though ,the short snippets of dates were humorous but lacked real character and had little story development. Regardless of this I don't think a plot is necessary for this story and the short functions well. Everyone in the theatre including myself laughed many times throughout the screening of the film . I found it interesting that the directors cast two tv stars for the short film First Dates. Ryan Eggold from 90210, and Madeline Zima from Californiacation were two of the main characters in the movie. I feel like having the sitcom gave the whole film a more tv feel than cinema. Despite this I really liked the humor and think comedy is incredibly hard to write and execute well in film so I tip my hat to the director and writer!

Death of an Usher

Death of an Usher from Michael Tamman on Vimeo.

Directed by Michael Tamman, Written by Seth Sinclair (who also plays our protagonist)
England, 2011, 4 minutes

This 4 minute short is the story of an usher, who's trying to be an actor. After a string of unsuccessful auditions, he gets a call from his agent while at work and finally has another shot. He has to run to his audition which turns out to be for the greatest and most intimidating directors of them all.

When I looked over the list of films I would be seeing at the festival, this was one of the ones I was most looking forward to. There quite a few that I really liked (including A Wink of the Eye, UnderCover, and Masks) and when I first saw this one, I must admit to be surprisingly and disappointingly unimpressed and rather indifferent. The short happens extremely abruptly. It seemed to write off what it was trying to say extremely quickly. I felt like I had gotten attached to Michael, only to have him ripped from my fingers in mere minutes. That was one of the things this short managed to do well right off the bat. It made its protagonist extremely likable right from the start. However, that was also its downfall at first for me. Liking Michael made this short extremely unfair and frustrating.

It was during the Q&A session with the filmmakers that it hit me. Both Tamman and Sinclair were present and I knew I needed to ask a question, to somehow resolve some of the disappointment and frustrations I had been harboring. Then I realized: Michael could have been on his way to the audition of his life, his big break, and he was so young. What was the commentary on someone dying so young and so unfairly? (To be fair and clear, this short does not treat the death sadly and in fact, the end is quite funny but I obviously had to take a more serious stance with it.)

Tamman answered my question and with his answer, that was when my appreciation for this film grew tenfold. He mentioned that we need to laugh at the dark times and appreciate what we have now. It was a bit of a carpe diem moment. I realized how right he was and it changed how I viewed the film entirely. He said he wanted to make people chuckle in a few minutes and he definitely accomplished that. With his answer to my question, though, he made me do a lot more than chuckle.

As for filmmaking, I thought this short was a very smooth film in terms of shots and angles and how the camera was positioned throughout the film. It flowed very well for me. I particularly loved the beginning of the film, with the staccato shots as an introduction to our protagonist for the very first time. Overall, I think this was the perfect example of jumping the gun upon a first viewing of a film and not taking the time to really think about it. Eventually, I really grew to love this film.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

She Was the One

Directed By The Rauch Brothers, USA, 2011, 2 minutes and 38 seconds.
Source: StoryCorps

"She Was the One," featured in the DC Short Film Festival, is a tragic animated cartoon about an engaged couple named Richie and Karen. Richie, in his own words, tells the story of how he fell in love with his fiance and lost her in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. He goes into the tender details of their engagement, explains how she changed his life, what he will remember about her and what he recalls of the horrible morning she died. The style of the animation provides a stark contrast against the somber content. Richie and Karen's depictions were much more like caricatures than true to life drawings. The short featured so many light-hearted images, such as Richie floating in the air with hearts in his eyes when he first sees Karen (much like how Scooby-Doo was drawn when he saw a dog treat).

In my opinion this film wasn't too technically or aesthetically impressive, but it does have a large impact on the audience. The film could not be topped in terms of pertinence. I saw the film at the Shorts festival on Thursday, September 8th, when the media rememberance coverage of the tragedy occuring on 9/11/01 had already begun to dominate the airwaves. It first premiered on YouTube and the StoryCorps website on September 6th. While the World Trade Center attacks happened ten years ago, in our nation's eyes, it is still very much a current event. Creating a less than three minute long short that takes on something of such significance, but still can engage and entice the audience, is an accomplishment.

In the last five days, the short has gotten 92,718 views on Youtube, not including the exposure it has gotten from the StoryCorps website and being featured on the PBS website. This film becomes significant when considering the context it has been released in. Comparing it to other shorts may not be as important as comparing it to the other pieces of art or programming dedicated to the World Trade Center tragedy. "She Was the One" felt simple and personal, sad and sweet. The illustration style was creative and had much more personality than other acts of remembrance. The use of segments of a real interview with Richie and his candidness about his experience makes the film's subject much more about their relationship than about 9/11. As opposed to trying the capture the sentiments of a national tragedy, this short does exactly what the form is good for, focus. With any national disaster, we have the tendency to get lost in scale. In the wave of 9/11 mainstream media coverage, which at times can generalize and bite off more than it can chew, this short is a refreshing take. I would recommend taking a look at the other shorts StoryCorps dedicates to the stories of 9/11 and even their other memoir style shorts.

Wasp- Week 1 Post

Wasp by: Andrea Arnold

This 2005 Oscar winner is a dramatic live-action short film about your not so typical Britain family. With the desires to go out on the town and have a life all her own, but the baggage of four little children, this film follows the unsettling story of a young single mother. Even with severe consequences staring her in the face, the opportunity for a night of fun with an old flame arises and she grasps it. The night of irresponsible choices goes from bad to worse in this film's 26 minute run time, but Arnold surprisingly still manages to create an unconventional yet hopeful story even when set in an unlikely place.

Even for a story that left me very uncomfortable and on the way to upset, this film really captured an array of emotions and ultimately left me feeling, which I believe is exactly what Arnold set out to do. Throughout the entire film we have moments of embarrassment, anger, and sadness for the situations that the children are being put through by their irresponsible Mother. However, Arnold not only makes you feel for these poor children, but also leaves the audience with a sense of want for the Mother to find her own happiness. I believe the hand-held style also gave this film a very personal and intimate feel to the frame. The shot of the children running and playing in the pub's parking lot really is a very upsetting scene considering the circumstances, but the feel of the scene actually portrays a sense of happiness instead. I can definitely understand how and why this short won an Oscar, because in my opinion it not only served it's purpose of entertainment, but also served it's purpose of finding a whole range of emotions in what would usually come across as a sad story.

By: Morgan Hendrix

The Prologue (from The Royal Tenenbaums)

The Royal Tenenbaums (Specifically, The Prologue), Wes Anderson, United States, 2001, 7 minutes.
Source: iTunes

The Prologue of Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums details the lives of the three Tenebaum children growing up with their mother, Etheline Tenenbaum, and handling the emotional neglect of their father, Royal Tenenbaum. Their parents separate, and the rest of the prologue is their slow alienation from Royal.

I chose to write about this snippet of The Royal Tenenbaums because it serves as a narrative on its own. While the rest of the film is just as enjoyable to watch, watching the prologue alone is just as fulfilling (if you like characters' futures to be open-ended, that is). Within the 7 minutes of film, the audience gets a great deal of detail about each of the children, and learns who they are.

The Prologue is entertaining simply because of the details in the screenplay. Each child's chronicle had its own anecdotes which allows the audience to experience each of the Tenenbaums' memories with Royal. In general I love Wes Anderson's style, and I think the short amount of film given to The Prologue explains the eighteen year span of childhood quite sufficiently.

Loading by Daniel Supanik

'Loading" begins with a man unwinding a reel of film. Suddenly it cuts to an assortment of other images - some taken from a 1950's talk show, other from a cheesy preview for a 1950's horror film. The rest of the film is quick jumpy cuts from the man winding and unwinding the film to the 1950's pieces. During the film you hear interspersed sound bytes of the 1950's trailer, the 50's talk show, and the sound of film running in and out. They start and stop abruptly.

I enjoyed this film because of all the ones in the set that I saw, it had the least narrative quality.I don't even think of it as a narrative, but more like a symbol (for lack of a better word). The way I saw it - this film is supposed to represent loading in the modern day and age; whether it be a song on itunes, or the screen of an illegal film on the internet. The frenetic cutting and imagery of this film show how absurd our impatience at waiting for something to load. If we were trying to load actual film, the point would be moot. Impatience would only hinder us and make us fumble the film, like we see the man in this film do.

I also think that this should be considered a work of art. Stripped of any meaning or interpretation, this film would be captivating to look at or experience. The rapid cutting is shocking and bizarre, the winding and unwinding of the film is mysterious, and all of the frames of the film mashed together don't even have to mean anything, nor should they.

DC Shorts

Humane Resources

Jessica Townsend

UK 2010

The concept of a short films fest is an interesting idea in itself. As soon as the first film started, I found myself on a non-stop 90 minute roller coaster ride of emotions, as whimsical humorous shorts mixed with dark, dramatic shorts, and everything in between. The films of first time student directors were mixed in with the work of seasoned professionals. Foreign language docs were up next to animated shorts and longer form narratives and dramas. At one point in the Q & A afterwards, this confusion was seen first hand, as one unfortunate woman actually believed that one of the documentaries was a narrative film. And while the majority of the shorts varied from entertaining to watchable, one in particular stuck out not only for me, but seemingly for the entire audience: Humane Resources.

Set in the United Kingdom, the short one extremely brief scene where a man goes to a Human Resources consultant attempting to find a job. She asks him a series of questions attempting to determine where he’d best be suited to work, including if he’d be willing to complete tasks of “dubious legality.” He asks if he will get caught, to which she says no, but she informs him of all of the negative consequences of his actions. He appears unfazed, and when he asks what his job is going to be she finally replies: Investment Banker.

The strength of this short lies in its length, delivery, and writing. The robotic, yet attractive human resources consultant and the bumbling, yet endearingly narcissistic future investment banker act as foils, one seemingly cold and detached, one helplessly clueless and selfish. These two characters are perfectly written, and skillfully portrayed. The pacing of the scene, including the cuts and the line delivery is all quick, and helps to keep the mood going and keep audiences engaged. Ultimately it wasn’t much better than a glorified SNL Digital Short or a MAD TV sketch, but the points made about the evils of investment banking played well with an audience clearly jaded by the economic recession.

DC Shorts wasn’t the most impressive display of up-in-coming talent the film world has to offer. Most of the films were visually unspectacular, and a few bordered on amateur. However, the strength of the film group I saw was the writing, as displayed in Humane Resources, along with almost all of the other films in the bunch.