The Short Films of Ari Aster Part Three

Part One & Part Two

We end our look at Ari Aster’s short films with some of his best works. We start with Basically, a monologue/character piece starring Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). She appeared briefly in Munchausen, and Aster liked working with her. Basically was part of what would have been a web series that featured residents of Los Angeles talking to the camera about themselves and their lives. One thing the director does so magnificently is allowing his characters to take us through an emotional roller coaster. We might start hating them, then grow to empathize, then be taken back to despising them, and finally feel the pathos again. Brosnahan is a perfect actor for this task, and Shandy Pickles is a complicated & funny character.

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The Short Films of Ari Aster Part Two

Part One and Part Three

TDF Really Works…well, they include it in Aster’s filmography on Wikipedia, and it has its own entry on Letterboxd. This feels like something inspired by Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show Great Job. This is another example of Aster’s sense of humor which hasn’t been quite as prominent in his two feature films. Beau Is Afraid looks like it might be going there, though.

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The Short Films of Ari Aster Part One

Part Two and Part Three

This week, Ari Aster’s third feature film, Beau Is Afraid, will be released in theaters. I am a big fan of Aster mainly because his aesthetic and sensibilities match with filmmakers I already enjoyed when I saw Hereditary for the first time. The director has openly talked about his admiration for Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson (Songs From the Second Floor, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence). Both directors employ a dark sense of humor in their work, along with framing & blocking that gives scenes a slightly unreal atmosphere. Aster is also hugely influenced by The Coen Brothers, particularly when they blend elements of their Jewish background into their work (A Serious Man, for instance). Albert Brooks (Modern Romance, Defending Your Life) is another Jewish filmmaker who has shaped Aster’s cinematic eye. And then there’s Ingmar Bergman, whose movies PersonaFanny and Alexander, and more are the source for much of Aster’s interest in exploring suffering. 

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Movie Review – The Human Voice

The Human Voice (2020)
Written by Jean Cocteau & Pedro Almodovar
Directed by Pedro Almodovar

The present COVID-19 global pandemic has forced those in the film industry to change many of their practices. From production to distribution, those who are forward-thinking are adjusting to a world where the traditional exhibition of movies just isn’t going to be possible for a while. I have been most pleased to see many film festivals offering limited virtual viewings of the film they show this year. I will likely never travel to Vancouver, Toronto, or New York City to attend their respective film festivals, but I am willing to pay to view festival circuit films in my home. The Human Voice is the first picture I have viewed in this manner, and it has made me excited to do it again.

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Short Film Showcase #5

Strasbourg 1518 (2020, directed by Jonathan Glazer)

Jonathan Glazer was inspired by an incident in Strasbourg, Germany where the townspeople overcome with a dance affliction, flailing themselves wildly and claiming to not be in control. The condition spread like a sickness and many were caught up in the frenzy. Glazer uses this and frames the same illness against our present-day conflicts. People are growing weary of remaining holed up in their homes. Governments are lacking leadership and kicking the can down the ladder of responsibility until they simply tell citizens it’s all up to them to figure out. Here in the United States, social unrest has come to a boiling point with a desperate President unable to provide a way forward and an opposition party that thinks doing nothing is their path to victory. The images in this short are beautifully reflective of the explosion of emotion and repetition in our daily lives. It’s no coincidence that the first words we hear are “How are you?” A24 is currently streaming Strasbourg 1518.

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Short Film Showcase 2020 #4

Vert (2019)
Written & Directed by Kate Cox

A married couple, played by Nick Frost & Nikki Amuka-Bird, are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. She has purchased a pair of linked virtual reality glasses that purport to show the user their ideal self. Meanwhile, another gift for her husband sits on the bed waiting to be given later. I was pleasantly surprised by where this short film went and how sensitive it handled its story. You see Nick Frost and expect something comedic but this is more in the vein of a Black Mirror’s San Junipero. I think these sorts of stories work better in short form that stretched out for an hour, we get straight to the themes and don’t need things over explicated.

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Short Film Showcase 2020 #3

Rachel (Directed by Andrew DeYoung)
I love the comedic duo of John Early & Kate Berlant. Their Vimeo exclusive series 555 is brilliant, and everyone should watch it. This short film, directed by Andrew DeYoung, who was also behind the show, dramatizes a real-life situation that occurred to Early and his friends at a small house party one night. I don’t want to give away the details, but the short is a beautiful blend of horror, comedy, and that nervous, anxious cringey feeling—one of my favorite shorts of all-time, so simple yet brilliant.

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SXSW Short Film Festival @ Home – Made in Texas


Ter ***
Directed by Maria Luisa Santos

This short begins with a sense of immediacy as live-in housekeeper Teresa discovers she is pregnant. We learn the father isn’t in the picture and that Ter spends her days caring for the young daughter of her employers. She truly loves this girl and manages to hold back her anxieties about the next steps of her life, until the finale. Good but a little slow for a short film, wish I knew more about Teresa.

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SXSW Short Film Festival @ Home – Animated

Chicken of the Dead ***
Directed by Julien David

I was immediately struck by how much this animation style reminded me of the work that came out of the Klasky-Csupo studio in the 1990s (Rugrats, Wild Thornberrys, Duckman, etc.). In this short, chicken factory maven Bernard Lepique has come to a gala dinner in his honor. He uses this as an occasion to introduce his newest genetically modified delicacy, a melange of chicken and antibiotics. The result is a horror movie spoof that sees the effects of this new food creating hordes of monsters. It’s a fun and light satire on the factory farming industry that is animated quite well.

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SXSW Short Film Festival @ Home – Midnight

Heat **
Directed by Thessa Meijer

This short is visually and technically fantastic, however, that’s about it. Heat is a joke with a set-up and a punchline. It definitely doesn’t overstay its welcome but I don’t particularly enjoy it. It happened and then it ended. I can imagine director Thessa Meijer doing a great job on music videos but I look for short stories when I watch a short film. 

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