More great things in small packages! Every year Twin Cities Film Fest screens a plethora of great short films, grouped together in a themed shorts block. Today, we have some of the film reviews from the Love American Style and Shoot to Kill shorts blocks.
These are all part of the
Love American Style Block
I LOVE the idea of this short film about two women who bonded over dating fatigue and a love of film noir. This is the kind of short film that could’ve easily worked as a feature and I certainly wouldn’t mind spending time with these characters for an hour and a half. Right from the start I immediately like the two leads, Holly and Anna, played by Katie Willer and Larissa Gritti respectively. They met during dinner at a mutual friend’s house, and they found out they actually have something in common. Holly’s main complaint in her dating life is that men always see her as the ‘best friend’ type, whilst Anna wishes she could actually have platonic relationship with men as they often only see her in a romantic/sexual light.
Matthew G. Anderson is the creator of the Theater People web series, which is a comedy web series about the world of independent theater and the people who live it. He has a passion for classic films and this film paid homage to the genre in a fun, witty way. I think fans of classic Hollywood will enjoy this immensely. The story is clever and genuinely funny. Willer and Gritti have an effortless chemistry, which brings the snarky script to life.
The idea of this movie is just brilliant! It opened with a guy named Ross (Mike Ivers), awakened in the morning by a knock in the door and found two movers hired by his girlfriend. Why dump a guy over text if you could guy a moving company to break up with him AND move him out of your home, right? So yeah, naturally that scenario makes for a hilarious and efficient short film. It’s 11-minutes long, including the scene playing during the end credits. Here’s another film I wouldn’t mind watching as a feature, but the beauty of short film is they don’t overstay your welcome (pardon the pun).
The funniest bits are the way each mover handle the movee (is that even a word?). Nick (Robin Lord Taylor, aka Penguin in the Gotham series) lack the sensitivity in handling the delicate situation given it’s his first day on the job, constantly blurting out the most inappropriate things that comes to his mind. Meanwhile, his cousin and co-worker Mason (Ryan Farrell) is more of a follow-protocol kind of guy.
The three ended up bonding over the course of one day as they pack up Ross’ stuff into the truck. All three actors are great and they seem like they had fun with the roles. The final scene is hilarious and there’s definitely enough material here for a comedic feature. Directed by Marcia Fields & Mike Spear, this is one of the most fun short films I’ve seen so far!
In the Clouds (En las Nubes)
“If it’s in the park, make sure people don’t applaud like in the movies. How embarrassing!” “En Las Nubes,” (“In the Clouds”) the new movie by Argentinean Marcelo Mitnik, works as a short film because it challenges cultural assumptions about love and intimacy that everyone is already familiar with. Of course every woman wants her guy to plan an elaborate proposal, buy a ring and get down on one knee…don’t they?
This 20 minute treat that was named as Best Foreign Short Film at the Reno International Film Festival earlier this year stars Valeria Blanc as Mariela, an Argentinean illustrator, and Jeremy Glazer as Oliver, an American dog food executive living abroad (some might recognize Glazer from “Letters from Iwo Jima”).
Having traveled abroad several times gave me perhaps more appreciation for this story – one of my pet peeves is Americans who travel abroad and expect everything to be like it is in the United States. Or expecting everything on one continent to be the same – as Oliver expresses in the opening scene when someone asks if a new creation is going to work. “Of course,” he assumes. “They did in Chile and Brazil so I don’t see why not here…”
In Argentina, it is explained, they don’t put a lot of stock in the engagement and proposal that we do in the United States. Mitnik has showed this film across the world and it would be interesting to learn what kind of reaction he has gotten. These cultural differences are what make traveling abroad so rewarding although I realize I have been fortunate to have these experiences. For now, I enjoyed this movie bringing a slice of it to Minnesota.
The Incredible Life of Darrell
(part of Digital Firsts – Webisodes)
It takes talent to encapsulate topics like relationships, jobs and best friends into short web episodes. In “The Incredible Life of Darrell,” writer and actor Darrell Lake gives us awkward but amusing glimpses into his life. It is set in Wakooki, a fictional Arizona town, and features a cast of characters that anyone can relate to. At the Twin Cities Film Fest, audiences will be treated to “Date Night,” the first episode starring Darrell as the gap-toothed protagonist, Joy Regullano as Jenny, his pint sized, venom spewing friend in a sweater vest, and Tru Collins (Stacy) as the unstable object of his affection.
The reason these episodes work is mainly because of Lake’s earnest delivery – the end of this short episode features him quizzically offering “I don’t think I understand women.” These shorts are not for children or the easily offended – there is plenty of cursing and inappropriate references which cannot be repeated here. Spoiler alert – if you can’t catch this episode at the Twin Cities Film Fest, you can watch this (and others) on his website. Perhaps next year the film fest can have an “Incredible Life of Darrell” marathon?
These are all part of the part of the
Coming of Age block
Your Blind Spot
From movies like “The Godfather” to “Goodfellas” it seems like there is an endless fascination with the world of organized crime in this country. The new short film, “Your Blind Spot,” also provides an introduction to this world. Written by Frank Wheeler and directed by Paul von Stoetzel, it tells the story of Chad (M. Allen LaFleur), a newly released convict who can climb the mob ladder…of course, he just needs to kill to do it.
LaFleur does an admirable job in the role of a fresh faced young guy in an anonymous small Midwestern town and his descent into the world of dark warehouses and “meetings.” Attendees may recognize a familiar face – in one scene, Twin Cities Film Fest marketing manager Bob Cummings tells LaFleur, “S*** just got real, kid.” At the end when he is out to dinner with his wife, he jumps when a door is opened. Welcome to the underworld.
How far would you go to protect a family member? “Blame,” a short film by Columbia College of Chicago MFA student Kellee Terrell, explores the choice a father faces when his wife discovers a cell phone video showing his only son (who was recently admitted to MIT) and other boys gang raping a girl who lived next door. The wife tries to safeguard his future (“We were only fifteen when we had him and we gave up everything…”) and rationalize (“He’s not like that…she was over here with four boys, who does that?”).
The father, played by Jerod Haynes, does a good job of portraying the emotions a father must go through in a situation like this. The title of the movie is interesting – would you blame yourself or feel like you had failed as a parent? In 15 minutes, Terrell challenges you to imagine what you would do in that situation. One underplayed part of the movie is the fact that it is revealed the cell phone video is the “only” evidence of this crime. And, yet, there were other boys there…
These are all part of the
Shoot to Kill block
The Detectives of Noir Town
Like “The Muppets” and “Avenue Q,” some things are just funny when puppets are involved. “The Detectives of Noir Town” is a short film from Director Andrew Chambers that takes us into a seedy world where puppets and humans co-exist. The “star puppet,” if you will, is Detective John Cotton, simultaneously trying to solve a mystery and find out what happened to his last living relative.
Although the story is easy to follow and provides a coherent beginning, middle and end in approximately seven minutes, it’s the use of puppets that are sure to make this show a crowd pleaser at the Twin Cities Film Fest. In one scene, there is a “bum” puppet, complete with a scraggly beard and winter hat with ear flaps. In another, stuffing flies when a puppet is shot.
The script is part “Naked Gun” (“Look out detective, you’re on the body”) and part “Columbo” (“Where was I? Oh…puppets…yeah…”) mixed with very lifelike puppets with Australian accents wearing trenchcoats and police uniforms. Shot in black and white with a distinct ode to some of the old American movies, the puppet work is professional and impressive. When you’re leaving the theatre, don’t look back…a puppet may be following you.
The description for this movie reads “An Irish hit man goes vigilante when he finds out his organization is trafficking more than drugs and weapons.” How we’re supposed to get this out of this five minute movie I’m still not sure. “The Way,” directed and co-written by Jake Woodbridge, focuses on two men in separate booths with their backs to each other in a Flameburger restaurant. (And that’s another thing – since when do mobsters hang out at Flameburger? Perhaps the filmmaker was trying to be ironic.)
The short film is filled with bizarre exchanges between the two men like “You ever going to get yourself a winter jacket?” and “You ever going to shave off that piece of s*** on your lip?” I can only imagine the filmmaker has seen too many mobster movies or he was trying to craft a bizarre tribute to them. If there was nuance to be found in this I guess it was lost on me.
One of the challenges of short films is to encapsulate a story in just a few minutes. For me, “Mannish Boy,” the new 15 minute movie from Director Ryan Tonelli, falls short because it comes across as a cliché. Set in the 1970’s, it tells the story of Bobby Mayhill (Dalmar Abuzeid), who is struggling to find his way as his older brother Tommy (Kaleb Alexander) is released from a six year prison sentence. As Tommy is released, he frets about his younger brother following in his footsteps.
As Tommy’s “friend,” Jason (Ayinde Blake) defends his interactions with Bobby, he explains his view on the world they live in – “Where we come from, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Good to know these guys don’t have a chance. Much of the movie is set at night or in very dark settings, as if to highlight the choices these young men face.
One of the redeeming themes is the bond between brothers, which Alexander and Abuzeid play well. (In one scene on a basketball court, remembering that Bobby used to play, Tommy says with a rueful smile, “You nostalgic or something?”) There are a few good elements here but it seems like the characters and story deserve better.
What do you think about these short films?