Monday, October 15, 2012

Shorts That Are Not Pants: Fall 2012 Edition


The fall edition of the Shorts That Are Not Pants series took place last week at its new location, the Carlton Cinema. Despite moving to a new venue, by all accounts the night was a huge success as the crowd was treated to a night of entertaining short films. Here are my brief thoughts on the short films that were screened:


The Secret Number (Dir: Colin Levy)

The Skinny: Based on the short story by Igor Teper, The Secret Number is about a man whose world is thrown into question. Psychiatrist Simon Tomlin (Daniel Jones) has a troubling conversation with one of his patients, a brilliant mathematician named Ersheim (Tom Nowicki) who intends to prove the existence of a secret integer between three and four. Ersheim’s delusion compels Tomlin to dig deeper, but he only uncovers more questions — about fate, connection, and the nature of reality.

Reaction: The film took a while to find its groove but once the true nature of the plot was revealed I was hooked. Plus I did not see the ending coming despite the numerous clues that director Colin Levy laid throughout. It is a film that will probably play even better upon second viewing.


Foxes (Dir: Lorcan Finnegan)

The Skinny: Ellen (Marie Ruane) and James (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) live alone in a silent maze of uniform houses populated only by spectral shrieking foxes. James commutes to and from work each day, leaving in the morning, returning at dusk. Ellen spends her time photographing the foxes. Her pastime becomes an obsession. An obsession that alienates James. One day she flees the house, vanishing into the endless rows of overgrown gardens…

Reaction: Foxes is well a shot film that did not hit me on the level I was hoping it would. While an interesting take on suburban isolation, the film offers very few surprises. As a result it felt like Lorcan Finnegan was drawing things out in order to reach a conclusion that was rather obvious from the beginning. However, Marie Ruane was great in the lead role.


The Cub (Dir: Riley Stearns)

The Skinny: Everyone knows that wolves make the best parents.

Reaction: Easily the highlight of the night, The Cub is a film that pleasantly caught many off guard for several reasons. First there was the unexpected video introduction by director Riley Stearns and his wife Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), who served as the film’s producer, expressing their excitement about the film having its World Premier. However, it was the brilliant way that The Cub incorporates deadpan humour into its gleefully twisted premise that makes the film so memorable. If only more films where this original and entertaining.


Aftermath on Meadowlark Land (Dir: David and Nathan Zellner)

The Skinny: Family secrets are spilled after a car accident on the way to a mariachi recital.

Reaction: Think of the most inappropriate conversation you can have after a car accident, and chances are it is nowhere near the one the characters in this film have. I was skeptical of the film at the beginning as the performances seemed a little too cartoonish. Yet the performance style makes sense once the family secret is revealed. The big selling point comes when the Zellner brothers turn the tables and take their film out of the realm of fiction and into reality. While not all the jokes work, the last act is enough to make the film worth the watch.


The Ballad of Poisonberry Pete (Dir: Adam Campbell, Elizabeth McMahill, and Uri Lotan)

The Skinny: This animated Western from student filmmakers at Ringling College of Art and Design could be called The Life of Pie.

Reaction: If you were to combine a dash of Rango and Monsters, Inc with your favourite pastry you would get The Ballad of Poisonberry Pete. A hilariously smart western that has as much heart as it does humour. The film provides a sweet twist on the typical conventions of the western genre without ever becoming dull. The Ballad of Poisonberry Pete is a film that will have people of all ages laughing out loud.


Edmond was a Donkey (Dir: Franck Dion)

The Skinny: Edmond is not like everybody else. A small, quiet man, Edmond has a wife who loves him and a job that he does extraordinarily well. He is, however, very aware that he is different. When his co-workers tease him by crowning him with a pair of donkey ears, he suddenly discovers his true nature.

Reaction: Director Franck Dion crafts a somber, but well made film, which sustained my interest throughout. The fact that Dion opted to tell the story from others point of view, faux-documentary style, adds a nice layer of mystery to Edmond’s overall mental state. This helps to make some of Edmond’s actions in the latter half of the film have great resonance. Featuring wonderfully unique character designs, and a solid concept, Edmond was a Donkey is a bittersweet tale that works far better than you would expect it to.


Who Remembers How It Ends? (Dir: Matthew Brown)

The Skinnny: After a raucous bachelor party, one man recognizes another in an elevator. Or does he? It’s all got something to do with The Substream.

Reaction: Truth be told, this is the one film I watched with a far less stringent eye than the other shorts screened. This is not to say that it is a bad film, in fact I quite enjoyed it. The film was entertaining and took a pleasant, and unexpected, shift towards the end. However, having had the pleasure to speak with director Matt Brown on several occasions, and considering that The Substream is a site I read frequently, I must admit that I was watching this film more from a “it is great to see people I know showcasing their talent” perspective instead of a critical one. Regardless, I still think the film works on two different levels depending on your familiarity, or lack thereof, of both the director and The Substream.

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