A collection of short films from the 2000 USA Film Festival
Casualty (5 minutes)
A drowning rose symbolizes the end of a relationship — or, something like that. At five minutes, it’s anyone’s guess as to what this surreal film is trying to say. Only director Andy Abrahmas Wilson knows for sure.
Smoke City (7 minutes)
This feature is a CGI (computer generated images) film by Spanish director Eduard Martin, subtitled in English. It’s a cute noir crime story with personified cigarettes, cigars, and lighters for characters. The tale is classic: corrupt cops and seedy Cuban mobsters in a trafficking (what else? — tobacco!) caper. Very original and well told. Most importantly, though it’s a new-fangled cartoon, Smoke City still holds the adult attention span.
6 Miles to 8 Feet (22 minutes)
An amazing quality of well-made shorts is how they can often tell profound stories in the span of only a few minutes. Director Ben Tomlin’s Six Miles to Eight Feet is just such an example, and by far the most engaging short film in this series.
The story revolves around a disgruntled land owner in Texas. A good chunk of his land is being taken from him by the city and its encroaching farm road. To widen the road a mere eight feet along six miles of his property results in the city arrogating quite a bit of his land. And he isn’t going to simply lie down while Big Government rolls over him.
Well armed, the man draws a figurative “line in the sand” in a most peculiar manner, and proceeds to hold back the tide of development in a bold standoff. The local mediating sheriff comes in to try to negotiate.The man bemoans to the sheriff, “Only two things move mountains: prayer and war.” It’s clear his traditional sense of ownership and citizenship have collided and his frustration with the government is all too familiar. The story is tragic, but highly rewarding.
Lady Behave (21 minutes)
John, John, John, what were you thinking? Fresh off the success of Being John Malkovich, John Malkovich takes a rather odd turn as director in this foreign quirky tale (one might argue the terms “foreign” and “quirky” are synonymous).
In Lady Behave, good girls spurned by bad boyfriends learn how to be vengefully bad in a French prep school which advertises in local want ads. Interesting setup, but Malkovich’s short becomes a weak front for European models and quickly goes nowhere.
Brainspotting (12 minutes)
Director Colm Wood has made an obvious parody of the smash addict film, Trainspotting, and his short does a fairly good job with its namesake. Several young, overtly disgruntled Brits meet in an abandoned warehouse for casual sex, bizarre rectal drugs (you’d have to see it to believe it), and trippy rock-‘n-roll.
As social satire goes, Brainspotting doesn’t pull any punches at the disenfranchised London demographic, and has a jolly good romp while doing it!
Rendezvous (10 minutes)
In this CGI animated short, a chance meeting in a clock unravels during a rainstorm. Two permanent inhabitants of the clock, wooden characters affixed to the pendulum mechanism, rotate in and out of the clock one at a time. However, each isn’t aware of the other’s existence until the rainstorm wreaks havoc on the clock.
Without a word of dialog, director Peter Lemken’s adorable Rendezvous delivers a finely tuned situational act not unlike classical vaudeville. And true to the form, the images propel the story perfectly.
In God We Trust (16 minutes)
The most bold short of the series, In God We Trust is an entertaining comedy and very professionally directed. The story is unique: the young Gen-Xer Mr. Peterson is accidentally killed in a pedestrian versus auto accident. The car won, and our blasé hero enters Purgatory where he must convince the afterlife angelic staffers that he lived a good enough life. To qualify for eternal bliss, they go through his record which is based on the point system.
For various offenses (his use of the “F” word results in minus 6,000 points) Peterson winds up with -198 points. Needless to say, a score in the red does not qualify. Desperate, Peterson sneaks back to earth to right some of his earthly wrongs and break even with his ethereal points.
What ensues is a joy to watch. Director Jason Reitman obviously pays homage to some great directors, including Tarantino, by using comically kinetic camera angles and running SteadiCam shots. This guy is going somewhere, and his short In God We Trust will take him there.
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (14 minutes)
Unfortunately, not every CGI film is as watchable as Smoke City or Rendezvous. John Davis’s Jimmy Neutron is just such a short.
Sure, it’s cute but it’s also annoying. The graphics are as good as either Smoke City or Rendezvous, with plenty of attention to detail. But its spastic characters are more suited for Attention Deficit Syndrome children watching Saturday morning cartoons, not techno-minded adult admirers in a film festival. I can respect the work that went into this one. But I have to call it like I see it.After the first 3 minutes, had I a remote in my hand, I would have changed the channel quickly.