Monday, September 12, 2011

Who wears short shorts?

Well, I don't, but in an attempt to redeem myself for watching Conan the Barbarian (and not just watching, but actually buying a ticket and seeing it in theaters) I went to the D.C. Shorts Film Festival on Saturday. The D.C. Shorts Festival divides the short films up into batches of nine, and we saw show thirteen.

I love short films - probably for the same reason I like short stories (short attention span and the tendency to eat all my snacks within 20 minutes of a movie starting). The D.C. Film Festival's shorts run the gamut from funny to scary to weird, and there are usually at least one or two that are just really, really good.

The Brazilian government was one of this year's sponsors, so Brazilian filmmakers were heavily represented. Show thirteen kicked off with Simpatia do Limao, (The Lemon Spell), directed by Miguel de Oliveira. Simpatia do Limao is a bright little bit of goofiness. A woman returns to a sham fortuneteller, whose lemon spell has brought back the woman's straying husband - except since he left her, she's picked up a young and hunky new amore and isn't so sure she wants him to return. Unfortunately, the film's misspelled subtitles kind of spoiled it - in a movie so short, it was really glaring.

In Nice Tie, Italiano! (Evan Hart) a handsome couple prepare for a night out, but both of them have a hidden agenda. The movie has a slick, 1960s Fellini-esque feel, nicely reflected in the styling (thick black eyeliner and a bouffant for her, a neat black suit for him).

From Sweden comes Sidewalk Wars, (Emil Stenberg), a short piece of absurdist animation.

Josh Russell's darkly comic Text takes us to a not-very-far-future (at least, judging by everyone's cell phones - not even a QWERTY in sight) where speaking has been replaced by texting. A hapless diner who forgets and answers the phone is kicked to death, and a couple who miss speaking have an unusual affair. The concept is interesting and there were genuinely funny bits, but it was marred by clunky acting.

The Face Shop (Noella Borie) was my least favorite, a poorly animated mishmash of cartooning and claymation that ripped off elements from The Nightmare Before Christmas. The voices were poorly done, the animation was hoky, and the premise could have been creepy good fun, but for one of the shortest films, it felt incredibly long, and more like a students' exercise in self-indulgence than anything else.

David Lowery's Pioneer was, hands-down, the best part of show thirteen. Strongly acted and beautifully shot, Pioneer shows a father telling his son a bedtime story that is simultaneously eerily plausible and completely impossible.

Aussie Toby Roberts' Spoilt Broth follows an imcompetent German bankrobber who bungles the job.
Sam Hoare's gentle Training Day follows a young boy and his long-suffering grandfather as they prepare for a sports competition. It's cute, light, fluffy, and rather forgettable.

Jim and Tom Isler's Two's a Crowd is show thirteen's only documentary. Allen and Collette, two dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers, credit the survival of their five-year marriage to keeping separate apartments, but when Allen's rent gets hiked, he moves into Collette's place. Two's a Crowd is sweet and funny, thanks to Allen and Collette's irrepressible personalities and humor.

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