One of my favorite Disney shorts, it provides an amazing point of consideration for the development of animation's role in the Hollywood landscape.
Lili Taylor is an American treasure. She's amazing, an actress who can do everything from subtle suggestions of empathic delusion to massive raging adoration of the world around her. She's great, and has never been anything but the best part of any film she's been in. Modern Houses is the kind of short film I love. It is one actor seen, others unseen, and a prop. Those elements, and an incredibly strong script, make for a 17 minute masterwork in how to build a character dwelling within a world that only exists in their head.
Max was the wunderkind of architecture. She had a breakdown, and now, she's back with her greatest design ever. It is an amazing house design, seemingly inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water and works by the likes of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Manuel Clavel Rojo. The weird thing is it also reminded me of the original design for what we were going to build the Computer History Museum ourselves instead of buying the old SGI headquarters. The work is ambitious, and it also has opinions of its own. This is actually a thing among architects. They'll say that the designs talk to them, demand that their designers bend to their will. It's a thing.
Taylor is magnificent. When she could have gone hard, she went soft, and when she had to ratchet things up, she not only did, but she did it without losing either reality or continuity of emotional connection. She was present, in a sense, though what she was present in is a very different question, and in essence, it is the entirety of the film.
Incredible direction is what made this more than an actor's piece. Matthew Dixon, our director in this endeavor, had an incredible challenge: an inanimate prop as a supporting character, as the primary foil for our lead. Along with phenomenal cinematography that emphasized the fluidity and accentuated timbre of each moment, and the kind of stylized editing that makes use of single shots as both placeholder for internal actions as well as driving force behind them, it turns into a short that does more than many features.
Modern Houses shows as a part of Short Program 1 - The Highest Peak at Century 20 Redwood City Wed, Mar 1 6:40 PM, Sun, Mar 5 10:30 AM, and Tue, Mar 7 3:15 PM, and in Downtown San Jose at Hammer Theatre SJ Thu, Mar 2 1:30 PM
Messed up. Every year, we get a few wonderful films that are best described as MESSED UP! This year, in more than one way, the film that earns that distinction is La Petite Mort, which is also a film that is incredibly difficult to talk about without giving everything away!
Here's the basic - young lovers, an idylic glade, pie, an event.
That's all you get.
The story is weird, but tantalizing. The way the thing is shot is amazing. It's such a gorgeous film with elements of the great cinematic forests from Lord of the Rings to The Forest. It's beautiful, and the amazing images of the woodland makes the beauty of our young lovers that much more impressive. The way they appear to be babes in the wood, literally at times, makes the shocking ending that much more... well, shocking.
The sound is really important as well, especially when you see the way it rises and falls within the story. It's a beautiful emphasis piece within the entire setting. The wonderful direction of Elizabeth Jaeleigh Davis and the exceptionally powerful performances make this something that will stand out in the Mindbenders program.
The film runs less than ten minutes, but the overall impact is much heavier than you'd expect from such a short film. It also REALLY made me want to get some pie!
La Petite Mort shows as a part of Program 5 - Mindbenders at Century 20 Redwood City Fri, Mar 3 9:45 PM Tue, Mar 7 6:00 PM and Fri, Mar 10 4:45 PM and at the Hammer Theatre in Downtown San Jose Sun, Mar 5 9:15 PM and Thu, Mar 9 3:45 PM
The shortest doc in DocuNation this year is Try the World, from Japan. It's an incredibly lovely film, and it's so simple its deceptive. The idea is to show pen test pads, the kind you find at pen shops and art stores, and compare how testers treat them around the world. It's simple, but then you start to think...
Why are these different?
What does this tell us? It tells us a lot, it turns out. How do people in each country use their pens, because that's the first thing they're gonna try, right? How does each country treat communal space, which is what these pads are. How is it possible to share an idea, about how you can show what you've created off the top of your head? All this, in three minutes. It's amazingly efficient, and oh yeah, it does it all without dialogue.
Try the World screens as a part of DocuNation on March 1st at 415, March 5th at 615, and March 12 at 415 at the Century Theatres in Redwood City, and on March 7th at 345 at the Hammer Theatre in Downtown San Jose.
Clark Duke is one of the most awesome of all young comedy actors. His turn in Hot Tub Time Machine (the 2nd greatest stoner Sci-Fi film of all-time) and here he's directing starring, and writing a short that rolls through the stories of a series of Hollywood and Hollywood adjacent types.
Our lead, played by Mr. Duke himself, has just has his TV series cancelled. Like many who suffer this fate, he hated being on the show, but didn't actually want to lose the job. The short looks at the role the 'average' guy in modern LA, not to mention about the weird uncle everyone has who is all about hook ups and who has no idea about the world... and about terrible improv. Clark plays his role with remarkable restraint, but at the same time, he's in the middle of a world that is whacky and weird, and a little bit morally ambiguous. The way it plays out is so smart, and the cameos by so many phenomenal actors (Erin Hayes is my favorite!) along with the over-the-top but somehow completely recognisably real performance of Steven Weber, all combine to make this one of my favorite comedies in ages!
The production values? Top notch, with the editing being subtle, the sound design remarkably intelligent, and the shooting not only clean, but decidedly fluid. It's not a film that relies on its visuals as much as the script, but it does work with them in an intelligent way, which allows all of it to land and land hard.
I will also note that this one has something many other shorts don't - an appearance by Robert Wuhl. Seriously, if there is a Cooperstown for amazing actors who can deliver a line with perfect timing and even better misdirection, it is names the Robert Wuhl Goodly Actors Hall of Fame and Family Restaurant. Seriously, he delivers the set-up line to the entire short, both for the plot and the meaning, and he does it in a way that makes us question what we were expecting. It's perfect, and though he only shows up very briefly, he's great!
In an unrelated note - I've read that Clark is a big fan of 'rasslin' and Pro Wrestling Guerilla. I will try my best to not pepper him with questions about Battle for Los Angeles and what he thought of the Five Star Six Man match last year!
Show Business shows with the feature The Twinning Reaction and debuts at Century 20 Redwood City - on Sat, Mar 4 3:30 PM.
The danger of making a sea crossing while fleeing danger in your home country is real, and can be so heavy. In the case of the film Irregulars, we are told the story of a journey across the Mediterranean Sea and the perils it constitutes. The story, if that's all we had been given, would be enough. It's the kind of painful memory that draws in viewers. My wife, when we watched it at home, gasped at the last spoken words, which is an excellent example of the effective power of the sound design.
Also, the visuals are absolutely stunning.
Instead of directly presenting us with the shots of the voyage, or in fact of any voyage, we are presented a factory in which mannequins are made. The process is shown, and it becomes apparent that the building of these faux people are given great care, there are practically nursed to life, treated incredibly well. But what of those who cross? The visuals are so perfectly constructed, and I found myself piecing together a philosophy based on the treatment of these inanimate objects and how we view those who cross into 'our' country. It's also a painful view of the state of the world, and it plays even more powerfully when you factor in the last few weeks to that equation.
Irregulars screens as a part of DocuNation on March 1st at 415, March 5th at 615, and March 12 at 415 at the Century Theatres in Redwood City, and on March 7th at 345 at the Hammer Theatre in Downtown San Jose.
Dark humor. I love it. The short Second to None qualifies without question, and for good reason. The basic story is The World's Second Oldest Man, the slightly younger twin of the World's Oldest Man, is out to kill his brother so that he might assume the Title.
That's pretty dark right there, no?
It goes on to show the various attempts he makes to off his brother, which backfire to hilarious degrees. The film ends with a twist, as all films may, and the laughs are perfectly paced throughout the short.
The animation style is gorgeous. Even if the story hadn't made me laugh heartily every time I watched it, I'd have wanted to program it for the aesthetic value alone. The story is a bit of Looney Tunes and a bit of Liquid Television mashed up wonderfully. The entire thing is a wonderful package, and one that I went back to again and again!
You can see Second to None shows as a part of the Animated Worlds program showing at Century 20 Redwood City Thu, Mar 2 9:15 PM, Sat, Mar 4 8:15 PM, and Sun, Mar 12 6:50 PM, as well as in Downtown San Jose at the Hammer Theatre on Wed, Mar 8 3:45 PM
Having trouble with the Three Minute Modernist site for some reason, but I'll just put this here for now!
I dislike art pre-1900 for the most part. I just do. Work by the likes of the Dadaists, Surrealists, and especially the Abstract Expressionists makes me happy, and probably always will. This meaningless Franz Kline painting is a very good example of why I'll take meaningless Modernism over perfected craft just about any day!
This is the part where I give a little bit away about the film programming process. We have to watch a lot of films, and so we don't have a lot of time for things to land. You watch one, you might take notes while you're watching, you rate it and you move on to the next one. That's how it works. There's no real reflection period, it comes at you like you're in a theatre, watching a shorts program. The ones that stick out, that you rate highly, those are the ones that you consider a few weeks/months down the line when it's time to put together your programs.
But then, there are the other ones. They stick with you, have you thinking about them, basically poisoning everything else you try to watch because the film is so good, so fun, so fresh, so smart that anything else just feels wrong, and you have to stop for a while and re-watch, then let it sink in. The first movie I put on one fine morning was The Eleven O'Clock. The rest of my viewing day was ruined, since I had to re-watch it twice and then just bask in it.
The story is a psychologist has a patient; the patient thinks he's a psychologist. The two meet and play off each other, trying to convince the other that they're the one that's trying to help. The entire thing is silly, but it's that smart sort of silly that makes you giggle at even serious bits that stick in.
Watching it, there are three things that stuck me on it and required my re-watching. The first is the acting. Our leads are phenomenal, especially playing pass-and-go with each other within a script that is just about as smart as can be, which is the second thing. They each have a stance, and they both work from it so well. I was noticing tiny little things on my first viewing that stuck with me enough that I had to see it again! The third thing is the way it's shot. It is more-or-less a one location film, but it works within that location so well, I felt as if I was discovering it. That alone made this a film I had to program, and the rest meant I wasn't going to be meeting my 25 Films a Day duty!
The Eleven O'Clock plays as a part of Shorts Program 7 - Comedy Favorites and shows at the Hammer Theatre Downtown SJ on Fri, Mar 3 9:30 PM and at the Century 20 Redwood City on Sun, Mar 5 3:50 PM, Mon, Mar 6 4:30 PM and Thu, Mar 9 8:30 PM
The world of animation is wonderful. I've learned that so many artists have signatures that are instantly recogniseable. The moment we put on Boomerang, I knew it was Steven Vander Meer. His 2015 film Salmon Deadly Sins was an absolute highlight, and this was very similar to it in methodology, but also worlds way in emotional resonance.
Boomerang is a beautifully made animation, with each frame numbered in the corner. The thing is, it's a music video based on a song by Chris "Bird" Jowaisas. Again, like so many films we're featuring this year. the music and the imagery play within the same sandbox, and they make the entire work far more impressive.
Vander Meer's animation style is wonderful, and yeah the way he treats the reality of his images reminds me of Bill Plympton, but here the sensation given off is so much more than just surreal, which it is, but it's also beautiful, evocative, and most of all, it is generous with itself. That may sound unusual, but some films demand, insist, but Boomerang gives to the viewer, making it more impressive.
The figure of the Jester, based on the model Bella Uribe, is persistent, and gives us a trickster, but moreso, it ties it into the long standing tradition of clowns and jesters in Surrealist art. Add to that the visual signature of stripes, in everything from the tights of our trickster to the tiger shark a great white becomes after eating a swimmer, and you see the power of that particular character.
The impressive flowing images, morphing from one, often concrete, form to another which tends towards the organic through a set of doughy stages, makes for the entire five minutes to feel as if we are bring washed over, that these images are coming to us as a cleansing. The Boomerang motif is apparent, but more importantly, the transition from the hard/rigid/scientific to the soft/pliable/natural is a wonderful path, and through it, I found myself moved deeply. This is exactly the kind of film that makes programming a shorts program difficult; the moment it finishes, you have to go back and re-watch it or else you'll feel like you've not given it justice.
Boomerang shows as a part of the Animated Worlds program showing at Century 20 Redwood City Thu, Mar 2 9:15 PM, Sat, Mar 4 8:15 PM, and Sun, Mar 12 6:50 PM, as well as in Downtown San Jose at the Hammer Theatre on Wed, Mar 8 3:45 PM
Klaus at Gunpoint
A Film Journal dedicated to all film.A segment of Office Supply Publishing.