[This week, Jenika and Alex are covering select films from the Los Angeles Film Festival. For complete coverage of the festival, make sure to check out the page for the tag “Los Angeles Film Festival.” Keep watching throughout the week as we bring you more reviews!]
While full-length movies are the big draw for film festivals, I found myself getting really excited for all the shorts available. The descriptions alone made them seem like so much fun, and each film I saw that was preceded by a short was, coincidentally, quite awesome. One of the shorts I was most excited for was The Ballad of Nessie in front of Winnie the Pooh, but there were quite a few shorts by new talent that were wonderful as well. I love being able to see what filmmakers can do with a small budget and a time limit.
There were multiple shorts programs at the LA Film Festival, but I unfortunately could not attend all of them. For information on the ones not shown here, you can check out the descriptions on the LAFF website.
What Night Isn’t Weird – 78
What Night Isn’t Weird preceded Karate-Robo Zaborgar, and it was an absolutely perfect fit. The story follows a girl who tries dating new, different people. Saying any more about it would, unfortunately, ruin it, but trust me that it is absolutely hilarious. The short embraces the low production values and it shows in the prop work. The only downside is that the beginning drags a bit, but it’s well worth the wait.
Something Left, Something Taken – 84
I adore stop motion, and Something Left, Something Taken does it very well. The story follows two young fans of forensic science on their way to a lecture who believe they’ve been kidnapped by a serial killer. The animation is absolutely gorgeous, blending stop motion and digital very smoothly, and adding in some traditional 2D in small sections. The story is cute and a good laugh, and though the narration leaves a little something to be desired, the dialogue is wonderful.
You can check out the trailer here.
The High Level Bridge – 88
This short consists entirely of steady shots of an ugly bridge in Edmonton, and it is one of the funniest things I saw at the festival. The magic of The High Level Bridge is entirely in its narration, which is wonderfully written and delivered in a perfect deadpan. Getting an entire crowd to laugh at suicide jokes is quite the achievement in any context, and especially so when said jokes are not accompanied by many visuals.
The Birthday Surprise – 79
I love to see films that communicate without words. The Birthday Surprise has no dialogue, but the characters don’t really need to talk. The well-done sound design takes care of the story by itself. Sex is always a funny subject, and very popular in animation, and while this short doesn’t do anything particularly special, it’s still a good laugh. The animation is simplified traditional 2D drawings, and the use of color is very interesting.
You can watch the entire short online here. It’s very NSFW.
Bye-Bye Birdie – 74
Bye-Bye Birdie follows a son and his father as they spend a day together. The story is pretty sweet but feels a bit forced, and while watching the father and son play is cute, the short drags at times. The cinematography is well-done, but overall, the short isn’t anything terribly special.
1989 (When I Was Five Years Old) – 75
Ready for the downer? 1989 (When I was Five Years Old) is the recollection of a childhood car accident. The narration is absolutely heartbreaking. The film is in Danish, but the narrator’s voice sounds so tragic, and he is clearly choking back tears at points. I certainly hope for his sake that he’s just a fantastic actor. The short is animated with a sort of squiggle-vision, and the shots got from abstract to concrete pretty frequently. The downside of this is that it’s a little hard to tell what’s happening in the more abstract shots, and trying to figure out what’s on the screen at times distracts from the story.
Animal Love – 58
Have you thought of Selma Blair recently? Because she’s apparently acting in shorts now! Animal Love is about two people who meet up for a casual encounter and have some issues with the pets in their house. No, there’s no bestiality, you pervert. There are some really cool shots in the beginning of the short that imply some sort of futuristic, sci-fi world, but they’re never really followed up on, and that’s a shame. The animals involved are supposed to be quirky and silly, but it just feels like the movie is trying too hard.
Mercury – 20
In case you’ve forgotten, a 20 on Flixist means it barely even qualifies as a movie and might be closer to a poorly-done video installation. Mercury was the longest short I saw at the festival, and all twenty minutes of it were excruciatingly boring. Apparently it’s the story of a “furtive meeting,” but I had to look up the official description to know that there was supposed to be a narrative at all. It feels like someone kept a camera on trees for four hours and said, “Hey, this is good stuff! Let’s add a couple of shots of a dude kissing a chick who is really disinterested and call it a short film!” The most interesting part of this movie was seeing the guy next to me grab a nice handful of his girlfriend’s ass. You go, guy.
The Terms – 65
When a boy with an abnormally large head burns his family farmhouse to the ground, his father decides to kill him. Of course, he can’t just do it outright, so they negotiate some terms for the last moments of the boy’s life. The Terms has a really funny start, but it doesn’t really keep up. It feels like it couldn’t tell if it wanted to be a comedy or a drama, and it’s really too bad- it had some promise.
You can see the trailer here. Seriously, check out that kid’s melon. That thing is ridiculous. I bet he couldn’t lift his head until he was five.
The Ballad of Nessie – 89
This is the one you were waiting for, right? The short preceding Winnie the Pooh is just as heartwarming as the movie behind it. The Ballad of Nessie follows the Loch Ness monster as she tries to find a home for herself and her best friend, a rubber duckie named McQuack. The animation is simply gorgeous. Old-fashioned Disney 2D pops in front of simple, Tartan-splattered backgrounds. The entire story takes place in a book, with pages visibly turning between shots. The story is simple and its message is a bit on the nose, but with the setup of reading a children’s story, this is to be expected.