Short Film Showcase #3

The Wrong Trousers (1993, directed by Nick Park)

The Wrong Trousers isn’t the first outing of the stop motion characters Wallace & Gromit or even the first short to won Nick Park an Academy Award. That honor belongs to A Grand Day Out, also a great short film. However, The Wrong Trousers was incredibly commercially successful for a short in an era where that form of a movie just doesn’t get much attention or distribution any longer. Park never tries to elevate the themes of his story beyond just pure fun and a well-told tale of a dog, his owner, and an evil penguin.

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Short Film Showcase #2

Gregory Go Boom (2013)
Written & Directed by Janicza Bravo

This is another short film from director Janicza Bravo who brought us “Eat” from the first showcase. This short film won the award for the best short film at Sundance the year it was released but also drew the ire of some attendees who were uncomfortable with the picture. This is expected because Bravo intentionally makes awkward, painful dark comedies. 

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Short Film Showcase #1

He Took His Skin Off For Me (2014)
Written by Maria Hummer and Ben Ashton
Directed by Ben Ashton

He Took His Skin Off For Me walks that line between grotesque and beautiful, a contemporary fairy tale with relationship dysfunctions working underneath. The story is told entirely in voice-over from the unnamed female protagonist. She explains that she asked her male partner to take his skin off for her, a move that is never questioned and makes sense in the magical realist logic of the narrative. He does so but immediately encounters problems. There are bloodstains everywhere, sanguine footprints and crimson smears on the floors and furniture. His job is public-facing, and he tells her clients are pulling their business because of their discomfort with the man’s appearance. The woman tries to look on the bright side of all these setbacks, but her partner is withdrawing. During a dinner party, he answers in monosyllabic single word responses, a behavior that is very unlike him.

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Daniels – The Short Films – Part 1

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Swingers (2009)

Daniels have mentioned the absurdist comedy of Tim & Eric as an influence on their style and Swingers is a strong example of that. The directors star in the film but are billed as Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, the lead actors from the 1996 indie film Swingers. That seems to be the end of any sort of connection between the two works. Daniel Scheinert swings while Kwan pushes him. Reality is suddenly broken when Scheinert becomes suspended in mid-air. Kwan investigates only to have momentum restored and Scheinert is slammed into him. The result is a very primitive digital face swap and the two characters devolving into screaming nonsense. Every element of the short film is very reminiscent of Tim & Eric’s twisted deconstruction of comedy into its “stupidest” elements.

 

Happy Holidays (2010)

Here we have a  twisted video Christmas card that tells a complete story. A young boy eagerly descends the stairs to begin tearing into his presents from under the tree. However, the presents are living being and he is leading a genocide. Presents run screaming from his grasp as his parents smiling dotingly over him. What makes this video particularly in line with the tropes of Daniels is the twist at the point you might think the video has ended. The presents rebel and begin violently attacking the family. There are some very dynamic uses of focus zoom in the opening and animation effect of the presents is done very well.

 

Dogboarding (2011)

This short film is yet another a collaboration between Daniels and Foster the People (It won’t be the last). It also plays with the idea of a living thing being used an inanimate object. In this instance, that is dogs as skateboards and inline skates. This feels much more experimental and a test of special effects. No plot or story, just people skating on dogs.

 

Puppets (2011)

This short starts out as a fairly cliche date scene between a man and a woman. Then we get the reveal that they are people puppets Daniels are operating to film a scene with. From there it devolves into a special effects slapstick fight. There is the trademark escalation into cartoon style violence and the reveal of layers of reality beneath the surface. Like Dogboarding, this feels more like playing with special effects than an actual story.

Maybe Sundays – I’m Here



I’m Here (2010, dir. Spike Jonze)
Starring Andrew Garfield, Sienna Guillory

I’m Here is available to watch at http://www.imheremovie.com/
I would recommend you go here instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TQuzRCbpsY

Brief note on the presentation of the film, before I get into my review: The film is sponsored by Absolut Vodka, who decided to offer the film to online audiences in one of the stupidest ways possible. The film has scheduled showings, forcing you to wait in a queue to watch it. There’s no reason why this should be, as plenty of other video media is offered on demand. This seems to have been a move on the marketing department, and who knows how many countless viewers they will lose because of this nonsensical wait time. Onto the review:

Spike Jonze knows how to work with very little, and create a lot. Here he employs his trademark marriage of low-tech and high tech to create a very fleshed out world in just about 30 minutes. The story is a science fiction one, but a sort of retro-futuristic Los Angeles. Humans and robots live together, the robots appear to be built of those unattractive beige computer cases from the 90s. The only CG employed are in the eyes and mouths of the characters, and that is done in a subtle way.

The story follows Sheldon, a librarian robot who is introverted and nervous, returning to his apartment every evening, plugging into the wall recharger and sitting alone. One day he happens to meet Francesca, a female robot who is driving a car, something robots are not allowed in this world. The two hit it off and a romance develops. During a concert, the crowd gets a little rough and Francesca loses her arm. In an act of love, Sheldon unscrews his own and gives it to her. As their relationship continues, it becomes apparent a larger sacrifice will be made. The film is an interesting mix of heartbreaking and unsettling. A lot of the choices made in this relationship appear to be one sided, and it can be read as an act of unconditional love or of a selfishness. Definitely worth a watch and a beautiful looking film from director Jonze.