Short films have played an important role in cinema. More than just padding out the bill, they are a good place for creators to hone their skills without spending the enormous amounts of money that a feature film costs. Traditionally a short would play before the main movie at the theater, but this convention has sadly died out. Though distribution has been a major problem in the last several decades, thankfully filmmakers have not abandoned the art. Many short subject films are still shown at film festivals around the world. Vanguard Films and Hypnotic Shorts present a selection of some of the best short films from the Sundance Film Festival on their DVD Official Selections.
The movies on this disc are:
Bit Players: Two little people, Verne Troyer (Austin Powers' Mini-Me) and Phil Fondacaro (Willow,) are getting ready for a film shoot. They chat about the movie business while applying their Ummpa-Lloompa makeup for Willy Wonka. This funny short with a bittersweet ending was excellent. Short and to the point, it managed to create two well rounded three dimensional characters in under fifteen minutes. The only problem I had was that they stated that it took place in Hollywood, and everyone knows that Willy Wonka was shot in Germany. The 5.1 sound was full during the credits at the beginning, but only used the front soundstage during most of the short. The video quality was very good. An all around quality short. Grade: A
Delusions on Modern Primitivism: This film tells the story of Jeremy, a young man living in Dallas, Texas. He has many tattoos and body piercings, but that isn't enough for him. He wants to take it to the next level, something that will be an expression of how he feels about the world. So he drives to a warehouse and pays someone $500 to shoot him in the shoulder with a hollow point bullet. (That way there will be more of an exit wound.) Though ultimately a fake ala Blair Witch, this is a very convincing short. I'm sure that many people seeing it will believe that it's real. I didn't catch on until after. The story plays out perfectly. Jeremy talks about his philosophy and how he wants something more, but you don't find out what he's after until about half way through. The jerky hand held camera and poor sound quality give it a documentary feel. A great stunt. Grade: A-
Fits and Starts: This is a quirky, strange film that is also very funny. It consists of a series of odd events that really don't make sense. A man and a woman have a conversation sitting on a couch. Except they don't talk, instead, they play prerecorded audio tapes filled with odd sayings. "My body does not process food correctly." They switch from language to language, then have a starring contest. I would write this off as being weirdness for weirdness' sake, except it's pretty funny. I laughed at it. The sound and video are both of a high quality. Grade: C+
Love Thy Brother: Two boys are home alone after school. They start fighting, as siblings will do, until a man knocks on the door. When they let him in, he binds and gags them and starts robbing their house. Can this common enemy bring the two warring boys together?
This short was written and directed by Ralph Macchio, of Karate Kid fame. It is wonderfully funny. Ralph was able to capture the sibling rivalry between the two brothers perfectly. The two young actors who star in this short, Gideon Jacobs and Bobby Boriello, did a fantastic job. The best short on the disc. Grade: A
Neo-Noir: A man shoots himself in front of his friends. The insurance company send some men out to investigate this open and shut case. It has to be suicide, or does it? This homage to the film noir manages to capture the spirit and feel very well. (Even though this film is in color.) The narration and the style of story telling harkens back to the old 50's films. The story was very tight and efficient. They managed to fit the whole mystery into the 10 minute short without seeming rushed or too obvious. The audio had very good impact, especially the gun shot. The picture was very crisp , even the details in dust out in the desert was clear. A very good film. Grade A-
Mullitt: A humorous parody of hard boiled detective dramas. The hero, Earl Lippy, has to raise the rent and help his drug addict roommate (who wears a tie, button down shirt, and thick glasses) score some crack. He tries to hock his comic book collection, but the owner of the local comic store doesn't want it. He wants a special piece of cake. This was an amusing short. Not laugh out loud funny, but worth watching. Grade: B-
Gasline: This short won a Grand Jury Prize at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. It is a slice of life drama about a gas station owner during the fuel crisis of the 70's. He is running out of gas, and can't find anyone who will sell him more. His marriage is rocky and his employee is a thief. A look at a few hours in this man's day.
This was a nice short, well done and carefully executed, but it isn't my cup of tea. These short voyeuristic glances at a person's life have never interested me much. The lack of a background story or much of a plot makes it hard for me to care about the characters. That said, this was a finely crafted film. Grade: B-
There are no extras on this disc.
This is a very good set of shorts. There isn't a bad one in the bunch. The audio and video quality is top notch across the board. Which is very surprising for independent shorts. If you are a fan of short subject films, as I am, make sure you see this. Recommended.