Shorts 1 & Animated Shorts Day 6 FFF 2013

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Backyard Jam is Our Selection as the Best Animated Short

Backyard Jam is Our Selection as the Best Animated Short

I must confess. I am biased toward the shorts programs at the FFF. As I examine this bias, I realize it’s a practical one. If you are watching a two hour narrative, and it’s boring or poorly rendered, you’re kind of stuck. But if you are watching a short, you just wait a few minutes, the film ends and it’s onto the next one. I also believe that the nature of the short forces more discipline onto a film. Whatever you want to convey, you have a very limited amount of time to say it. You don’t usually get long, drawn out scenes that plods along in a short film.

And, of course, the animated shorts have always been a FFF favorite. Today was no exception. The Enzian Theatre was packed.

Shorts Program 1: I Feel Love

The Irish Rovers
Culture shock. When Americans Tom and Patty tour the murals of Belfast, their cabbie gets confused by their questions. Kind of like Borat meets Luna from Harry Potter. Very funny.

Dog Eat Dog

Philip Baker Hall

Philip Baker Hall

Zachary Quinto (Spock in the new Star Trek movie) falls for a dog at the pound. But he has to wait four days before he can adopt it. Philip Baker Hall (Bruce Almighty) is in love with the same dog. When Zachary attempts to get his friends to help him snag the dog, Philip shows that two can play at that game. Great concept and enjoyable film that hits some rough spots with the script and editing.

The Test
When your marriage is falling apart, the last thing you need is to get pregnant. Or is it? Another great concept brought down by a weak script. Somewhat humorous. But Mrs. LanceAround felt that the ending was a bit of a cheat.

Catnip: Egress to Oblivion?
Remember those public service announcements back in the 60’s that warned you of the dangers of taking narcotics? What if someone had made one of those warning cats of the dangers of catnip. Another way to look at this: today videos go viral on YouTube when they have cute kittens. Would a 60’s film go viral if it showed cats on narcotics. Think about it. Or just watch this film. Funny and cute. Good combination

Shale
Elderly couple with marital discord confront each other over the shale pit and bulldozer that they co-own. Nice film technique in an otherwise weakly conceived short.

Asad

An Honest Boy

An Honest Boy

Story of a young Somalian boy who attempts to live an honest life amongst pirates and mercenaries. Cast consisted mostly of displaced Somalians who, according to the credits, lost their country but not their hope. This was a beautiful short. Well acted, well filmed, tender story that moved nicely across the screen. Top notch and worth a look. Very touching. This was a 2013 Academy Award nominee for Best Live Action Short and deserved it.

The Bicycle
You know how, as a woman ages, some unscrupulous men just cast them off like yesterday’s news? What if it was your bicycle that began to age and rust? How would the bike feel about being cast off? Could a makeover bring it back to life? Is there a hereafter for bicycles? While this short featured some great film techniques, the story, if you’ll pardon the pun, fell flat.

Peter at the End
A dying man (played by Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite fame) attends one last family holiday meal. He can’t quite bring himself to inform his family about his illness. This heartbreaking slice of life drama has the feel of the birthday scene from Our Town. Well acted, it was a very moving portrayal of family dynamics and impending loss.

Q & A After Shorts Program 1
After the shorts, the director of The Test was available for Q & A. When asked about the inspiration for the film, he replied, “vengeance.” Turns out the writer and star of this short is Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ sister. Apparently, Julia made a short and spent millions of dollars on it. Her sister joined her on the festival circuit, but kept thinking she could make a short just as good, if not better, for much less money. So for a pittance, she wrote and starred in this short. If this short is better, Julia’s short must have been pretty bad.

Shorts Program 5: Animated Shorts

Una Furtiva Lagrima

Fish Can Sing?!?

Fish Can Sing?!?

Rednecks from the South sometimes hang a singing bass on their wall. Press a button and the mounted fish sings a song. What do people of high society have? Well, in this short they had a fish singing opera all the way from the market to the frying pan. Hot oil really helps to hit those high notes!

Giraffe Danger
Giraffe wants a nice drink of water, but is annoyed with a rodent who invades his personal space. Sparsely animated, this one was completely script driven. Short and funny.

Daisy

Daisy Had Great Artwork

Daisy Had Great Artwork

A twisty fairytale about a girl who bewitches all men to her detriment. Beautifully drawn.

Solipsist
This beautiful dance combination of live action, animation, puppetry and underwater shots almost defies description. A surrealistic exploration somewhat marred by it’s pretentious title that took something very thought provoking and made it into something egotistical and dark. Stunningly original concept.

Facundo the Great
Immigrant children often have to contend with their names being changed in their new societies (i.e. Juan becomes John, Maria becomes Mary.) Facundo stands firm and becomes a hero in this narrated tale with animated accompaniment.  Of course, it helps that if you shorten his name, you get something that sounds like a dirty word. A very short, funny story that works well.

The Hungry Boy
Mostly black and white, pen and ink with minimalist color tells the surreal dream of a hungry man. The artwork is as impressive as the story is impoverished resulting in a disappointing film.

Marcel, King of Tervuren
Another narrated animation with beautifully creative drawings about a rooster’s attempt to remain cock of the walk. Short, compelling tale that is fun to watch.

Choreography for Plastic Army Men

These Soldiers Can Dance

These Soldiers Can Dance

You know those little, plastic army men toys that no child plays with today and can only be found in the movie Toy Story? Turns out that with a little stop motion filming and a catchy turn they can burn a hole in a carpet. John Travolta has nothing on them.

In Hanford
Nuclear arms manufacturing in Hanford, Washington is blamed for numerous cancers and deformities. This grotesquely animated film perfectly captures the haunting experiences of the citizens. Macabre in a very artistic and thought provoking way.

The Duke
This mixed media, very very short film shows a man eating a chicken Parmesan sub while another man asks what he’s eating. It’s The Duke, of course. Good editing, pacing and timing make this brief interchange funny.

Thank You

Touching Story!

Touching Story!

If you’ve ever seen Adventure Time on TV you’ll instantly recognize the style of animation and characterization in this film. The story, about a snow golem (whatever that means) and a firewolf cub (who apparently spurts real fire from time to time) is so well portrayed it will pull at your heart strings. One of the better shorts in this program.

The Event
This animation goes backwards in time as a couple enjoying the beach encounter a nuclear fallout kind of event that has them losing limbs and the world ending. Muddled and confusing, this is one of those shorts that makes me wonder what the selection committee saw in it.

Drunker Than a Skunk
FFF favorite, Bill Pympton, adapts a poem by Walt Curtis about a cowboy town that torments a local drunk. The audience laughed and applauded their favorite animator while Mrs. LanceAround and I just thought this wasn’t one of his better works.

Old Man
A reporter gets a phone interview with Charles Manson. Guess what? He’s still as crazy as ever. His incoherent ramblings are animated and just trying to figure out what he is thinking can make your head spin. This was a clever use of animation to provide a context for something that feels as though it doesn’t have a context. Well done.

Backyard Jam
Based on the audience reaction, and our own satisfaction, this little ditty was the best of the program. It’s the story of two skateboards that wind up on the wrong side of a fence in a yard protected by a vicious dog. Admiral Ackbar’s occasional appearance warning them about the trap is just one of the hilarious touches to this well scripted, well paced, well animated and well edited short.

Retrocognition

Retrocognition: A Nice Try

Retrocognition: A Nice Try

Why must the longest shorts also be the most boring. While the concept behind this short was fabulous–taking pieces of radio dramas and TV shows from the 50s and piecing them together with Picasso-esque characters from those shows who were pieced together from TV characters–after appreciating the concept for a few minutes, this 18 minute short then dragged on in a nonsensical storyline that attempted to create a film noir environment. This was a classic case of an artist too in love with their work to be able to effectively edit the results.

Q & A After Animated Shorts
Several animated shorts creators were present for the Q & A. George Plympton showed off his new wife and toddler, Randall Christopher bemoaned the cost and time involved in creating “cartoons” and his annoyance at not being able to make any money. Yet it is clear he can’t stop making films. (Hint: You need a manager!) Jonathan Campo from The Duke revealed that his inspiration was having had a conversation just like the one he portrayed.

Mrs. LanceAround is getting worried that I’m trying to see too many films. She thinks I’m getting grouchy and not giving the films their due. She might be right. I once had a college professor that remarked how having too many programs to enjoy can be like a kid in a candy store–the treats are great at first, then you become sick and bloated.

Is it possible that the FFF is too much of a good thing? Frankly, I don’t care. I know that there’s only four days left then I have to wait a whole year for it to return. In the meantime I’ll try to lighten up and enjoy myself more.

Hey, if you see me at the Enzian, buy me a drink. I could use one.

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3 Responses to “Shorts 1 & Animated Shorts Day 6 FFF 2013”

  1. Clint Durbin Says:

    Wow! As someone that was at the Animated Shorts screening, I’m amazed at how myopic your reviews are. You clearly only saw “Retrocognition” as a one liner concept piece…. you completely missed the cultural criticism embedded throughout it, though I’m not surprised after reading your other reviews. It’s borderline offensive that you dismiss a film because you find the word “Solipsist” pretentious… yes, you said that…. that a freakin’ word is pretentious (and shouldn’t be spoken again?). Or the “Hungry Boy”- another of my favorites in this screening for it’s ambience (and for not feeling that it had to wrap everything up in a bright bow)….. another film that you dismiss out of hand without even making an effort.

    If you’re going to review films, I would make a couple of suggestions… Don’t feel obligated to write something for every single film you see. It just dilutes your thoughts. And there are several films that you write on above that you didn’t really have anything to say about. Second, rather than writing about things being good or bad, why don’t you spend more time writing about the actual film… it’s aims, etc? Everyone has a good/bad opinion of films and they’re mostly worthless unless you’re a famous critic. Lastly, it doesn’t seem that films that defy conventions and have experimental forms, narratives or concepts are really your cup of tea. Probably best to avoid writing about them generally as you just sound contemptuous about them, and as someone who sat in that same Theater with you watching the same films, you’re bias prevents you from even describing those films well.

    • LanceAround Says:

      Hi Clint:

      Thanks for joining in the conversation. Please know that the LanceAround team respects all viewpoints. Truly I understand that my perspective is just that–mine. I’m happy to post alternative opinions. In fact, I enjoy a healthy debate. It helps me to see the films from a different perspective and find new ways to appreciate them. Your posts makes some very good points that are worthy of examination.

      When I first read your post, my initial reaction was to become defensive. I wanted to point out to you that you are doing the same thing in your critique of me that you accuse me of doing with my critique of films. But such a response would only widen the divide rather than bridging the gap between us.

      One thing I am aware of is that these filmmakers are passionate. They put themselves out there. It takes a lot of time, energy and money to make even short films and often there is no return on that investment beyond the intrinsic satisfaction one receives from seeing one’s work viewed and appreciated. Every time I write something negative, it pains me a little to think about how the artist might feel when they read it.

      The other side of the coin is the duty I have to my readers to present, honestly, my viewpoints and descriptions of the films. I make the assumption that my readers tend to be more intelligent then the average theatre going public. As such, I trust their ability to take my reviews in stride, accounting for my obvious (and often stated) biases. I trust they do the same thing with my reviews that I do when I read other reviews–which is to read between the lines and make a judgment not only based on whether or not the reviewer “liked” the film but also what they had to say about it. Indeed, there are some reveiwers I read because I know that if they DON’T like a film, I am more likely to want to see it. Perhaps that is your opinion of my reviews and if that is a service I provide you then consider it all for the good. I know that my readers can’t possible see 170 movies in 10 days so they have to make choices. I try to give them a perspective that will help them make a more informed decision; even if that decision is, “Hey, LanceAround didn’t like this film so I’ll probably love it!”

      I also realize I have limitations in my appreciation of films. As I do for artwork. My wife loves Picasso and Monet. I’m a Rembrandt man. Sometimes, like when we watched the film The Hungry Boy, I will defer to her opinions. Another example is 8 1/2. She so much loved that film more than I did that I actually had her write her first review because we were worried about the backlash if I were stupid enough to tell a group of art film aficionados that I did not like Fellini. Oops, maybe I shouldn’t have written that 🙂

      I am very amused by one thing you wrote–You took offensive to the fact that I found the title “Solipsist” to be pretentious. What I didn’t say in the review is that came from a personal experience of mine. I once wrote a play that took place from creation to extinction within the time frame of when Eve gave the apple to Adam and he took a bite. I entitled the piece “Destiny.” My playwrighting teacher circled the title in big red letters and wrote, “OVERLY PRETENTIOUS TITLE!!!” on my play. At first I was offended, then hurt (or maybe vice versa.) Then I thought about it. It took some time, but I came to realize he was correct. I renamed the play, “From Hand to Mouth.” To this day I prefer the new title far above the old one and I’m grateful to my teacher for making that critique. It helped to open my eyes.

      Flash forward to yesterday. My education is lacking in some areas and I had never heard of the word solipsist until I encountered it in the title of that film. (Ironically, just this morning I encountered it again in a New Yorker Magazine article–Hmmm I wonder if anyone ever called the New Yorker pretentious?) Anyway, I looked up the definition of the word and, once I knew what it meant, I found that it had a negative impact on how I viewed the short film. In fact, it was one of my favorite shorts until I learned what the title meant. Isn’t that odd? I had the same reaction to this film and its title as my playwrighting teacher had to my play. Funny how things come around again, isn’t it. I suppose I could have infused my blog post with this story, but like the filmmakers I put a lot of time, energy and money into going to the FFF (in addition to my full time job) interviewing the audience, filmmakers and FFF team members and writing my blog posts. I don’t always get it right. I seldom say everything I mean to say. I just do the best I can.

      Clint I don’t recognize your name. (Forgive me, I’m horrible with names and faces) but I’m sure I’ll recognize you if you’ll introduce yourself to me next time we’re in the theatre together. I would love to have a conversation with you face to face. I’ll buy you a drink and I look forward to talking about ways to make my blog even better. I’ll even write a post about it, if you want.

      Your Friend,

      LanceAround

  2. Best In Show – 2013 FFF Retrospective | Lance Around Orlando Says:

    […] think LanceAround doesn’t have a clue! Yes, take everything I say with a grain of salt. Here’s a link to a post where, at the very end, one person will make a comment that says, in essence, I have no […]

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