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bob the moo
(list no longer kept up-to-date....sorry)
And Nothing Happened (2016)
Difficult, complex, raw, challenging - but rewarding
Depiction of rape is nothing new in media; you can take your pick of the one-shot brutality of Irreversible, or the "crime per week" network TV shows that use sexual assault as their starting point for each new episode. Less common is media that looks at the experience in terms of the lasting impact on the person - ie beyond the tearful police interview, or confrontation of the offender, but just the day-to-day presence that the existence of the assault has. This is what we get in "And Nothing Happened" and it is hugely effective in how it plays out very simple scenes, and has the assault present at all times. It is not melodramatic but rather subdued into smaller moments.
These range in complexity. The overly attentive hands of family at breakfast is easy enough but it reaches into the complexity of the lead character watching simulated "forced" sex to help masturbation. Likewise there are small moments where the viewer is left to wonder if something is present that relates to the assault or not. I liked this approach a great deal because it both put us into the mind of the character while at the same time not suggesting that everything is understandable or accessible. The lead actress delivers this very well; she is even handed, balanced, and comes over in a way that tells us everything we are seeing is her new norm, so while difficult, it is not overdone in a way that suggests this is the first-time, or the worst time - just another "time".
It is a raw film to watch, and it affected me more than I expected even though at the same time I didn't understand the meaning or significance of all of it - although I guess this is partly the point as perhaps the character herself may not understand why she is feeling what she feels now.
Light My Fire (2018)
An engaging and well-paced look at male reaction and violence
This film opens in a brash and obvious manner; in fact it quite put me off how direct it was and how it played up the screeching tyres and loud music of the initial drive. However as the angry father arrives to confront his daughter's "boyfriend", we get a turn in the main character and the film as a whole, which makes it all a much more rewarding and interesting affair.
The man is confronted by the father of the boyfriend, and this confrontation knocks the heat out of him a little, at least to the point where he is already of a sober mind when the boy's father forces violence into the situation. This realisation on the main character reveals a lot about the undesirable default of male reaction, and the cyclical nature of unchecked emotion and violence. By itself it is well enough done to but the downbeat ending makes it work better as it forces the man away from violence, but acknowledges that he isn't able to turn away from it to the point that he suddenly learns a whole new set of skills. It is a bit on the nose perhaps, but it works and is cutting in how well-paced (short) it all is. It all occurring on 4th July, which again seems a bit too much to add, but I get the point it is making and this only added to it.
It doesn't look like much at first, but it is a well-done commentary on male reaction and violence, done in an engaging and clear fashion.
Engagingly tense and relatable/accessible regardless of your real life experience
Birdie puts the viewer in the shoes of a woman travelling in daytime on public transport, with other people around her, in a major Western city. It has this setting but yet it makes the viewer understand her discomfort and fear, even if we (sort of like myself) have no frame of reference of being in such a scenario. I say that in the (probably naïve) belief that very few people would not accept that women can easily feel threatened by men doing reasonable innocuous things - I believe loads of people do not care, or think those women should just "be sensible" but I think even they understand why so many would feel like the character in this film.
In that way the film is good because even when the 'threat' is just two men giving the woman the eye, it is still intrusive and unpleasant - and of course she notices. This hit home with me as I would not think twice (or more) at someone attractive, assuming she wouldn't notice, but of course probably it is noticed and of course it is an intrusive act which is about me, not her. Anyway, In the film, things do escalate somewhat, and the men clearly are out to at very least have fun with her, regardless the impact on her as a person - but throughout it convinces as a piece which puts the viewer very much in her shoes.
The delivery is what makes it work. There is no flamboyance to it, no violence, no dialogue to mention, no score, and visually it is pretty tight in terms of framing and ratio. Essentially it gives us no distractions, nothing to push us one way or the other apart from what we perceive in the moment. The actress does the same and is utterly convincing throughout. The film perhaps had scope to be more subjective than it was, and I don't think it needed to 'seal the deal' quite the way it did at the end, but it still worked well and was accessible and effective no matter the viewer's specific experience. (Of course, having said that, if the film gets a wider audience then I suspect the comments will have their fair share of "she should smile more" and "she should take the attention as a compliment" statements thrown about - but nobody should view YouTube commenters as reflective of real people).
Oh What a Wonderful Feeling (2016)
Technically terrific as it mixes unseen threat with humour and a clever (if not wholly accessible) narrative
A new girl joins the working girls at a rural truckstop. As a one-line summary it is not the most appealing for a short film, and you may be surprised by the film it turns out to be. Instead of being sordid or depressing in its grim, the film allows most things of sexual ease and violence to occur out of shot. The truck stop is filled with anonymous truck cabs, the mist and limited lighting means people disappear out of sight for their acts, and there is much of ominous stillness. Very like a David Lynch film, there are shots inserted that suggest something coming, and the soundtrack does the same. It is engagingly unsettling and I really enjoyed it.
The plot is not as strong but the tone keeps it working. The direction of the character starts to become clear and the film opens up into weirder territory. Personally I took the film as the journey of the lead character. She is nervous and new. We see her settle in and somehow it feels like she is at any job - you get used to the conditions eventually. The film does this with nice touches, but the "office job norms" of lunch together, a leaving card etc really push this point. The loss of this girl into the darkness is the ending. I didn't see it as witchcraft or supernatural; I saw it as her embracing the darkness of her 'job', owning it and giving herself totally to this terrible world. She will be powerful even if it is only by comparison with the other powerless people around her. Her proactive taking of a John (including her coming out of the moment first) is where things finally start to burn. She has 'transcended' into a stronger character within her world - but it is a destructive transcendence.
Technically it looks and sounds great throughout, giving it the great tone that serves the film and material really well. It is not an easily accessible or instantly rewarding film, but I enjoyed its approach to the subject and the clever/surreal way it told its story.
The Culture (2018)
Polished production with enjoyable dark spiral, if a little anti-climatic at the end
An usher and aspiring musician introduces his sister to a job within an orchestra at the last minute, which looks like it will work out well for her. Confusion over seating leads to an awkward interaction though, which threatens the sister's chances as it gets out of control.
The running time and the subtitles put me off from trying this one, but actually it flows really well even if it is longer than many shorts I normally watch. As a dark comedy it has a nice constant sense of awkwardness within its downward spiral of a lead character. It is never hilarious but it is engaging in its journey, with the only downside that the ending (while solid) feels a bit anti-climatic as that downward spiral sort of ends. In terms of tone it pitches it just right in that it is hard to watch in a way, but yet also engaging. Technically the film is incredibly polished; it looks great, is filled with great shots, and makes the absolute most of a terrific location.
It is very much a 'festival' sort of short film more than an online hit I suspect, but it works well and has a nice pace to go with the awkward tone.
S18: The Keeper of Traken: Enjoyably written, with consequence and intrigue (TOTAL SPOILERS)
The Doctor returns to normal space, and the TARDIS takes him and Adric near to the peaceful planet of Traken. They are contacted by the Keeper, who warns them of a change in the planet and asks them for help.
At first glance this serial seems a bit too stagey in terms of its material, and it seems to be setting up the usual "man in suit" villain. It took most of the first episode but once I got into it, The Keeper of Traken delivers a much more engaging experience even if it mostly doesn't have the thrills or pace of other serials. For the most part we have mystery and power plays between characters, as the Melkur manipulates and controls its way through the court. It is pretty well written and the performances are good (even if they are a bit too "theatre" for the proximity of television. The thing that I took to the most was the sense of tragedy and consequence; the serial seemed to have weight to it, thanks mostly to several key moments or threads. The manipulation and ultimate death of Kassia was one, and benefited from a strong turn from Ruskin. The return of The Master was another, and of course the loss of noble Tremas at the end was a downbeat ending to a show that doesn't do them often.
There are no locations, only sets, and the production standards are what they are - very much of the period. However it is the solid story that makes it work really well. Interesting, with good performances and characters, and quite a few nice twists and developments to add substance to the story playing out.
Cruelty played out with tension and realism - hard to watch but engaging
I've watched a few Eli Roth films in my time and generally speaking I've not enjoyed them as they have felt too exploitative, and too keen to revel in the torture being dished out to the characters. I mention this because in a way, Vampiro is very vaguely in the same realm in the way that it engages the viewer through cruelty. In this case it is not gore or imaginative acts of violence, but rather the emotional stripping down of a character till she is vulnerable to the point of being totally broken and defeated.
I'm not suggesting this is a film Eli Roth would make, but it made me think of Hostel in the way that the viewer is drawn into the thrill of the manipulation. It happens gradually, with gentle discussion, but ends in a much darker and more cruel place. It is hard to watch at times because the two-hander approach makes it feel intimate and adds to the feeling of intrusion. Cabrera is engaging and charming until he is not - all of which happens quite a few times across the film. He is the actor that is easy to notice, but Anula does the more important job of convincing us of an outer shell being broken despite a life of building it up; she is great at doing just that with small moments through the interactions.
Not an easy watch, but an engaging one played out with tension and realism.
Two Puddles (2018)
Punchy and effective
A dog in the woods falls into a puddle. A short distance away a woman bursts from another puddle, gasping for breath. This is the opening 10 or so seconds of the short film, and in it we get everything we need to know for this film to work. We don't know the history behind the puddle, or the forces behind them, but we do know their basic rules of operation, and from here the film is less about them and more about the family we immediately cut to.
There is a tension to their interactions from the start, but quickly we are into the puddles of the title, and here the pace is quick and unnerving. It works well in terms of delivery and it is not clear where it is headed. The ending is solidly in terms of resolution but I would have liked more to have been made of the tension and of the divide between the two sides at the end; it was there but I would have liked more to have caused it than actually occurred. Despite this niggle, the film flows really well and builds well off that impact start. Really punchy and effective in its short running time.
Difficult due to length and pacing, but rewarding and very well done
Dolls Don't Cry is not your typical online film. Much like the stop-motion process, a lot of time passes and very little actually happens. We watch a male animator working on a stop-motion film with rabbits as the main characters, while after-hours a woman comes to the room to repair the characters and construct new items for the film. The woman is the focus as she notices a presence in the studio, one that connects to her for growth - although I've suggested more action in those few lines that most of the film delivers.
It moves slowly, and runs to 20 minutes, and for the most part it is very light on any sort of event or development. It does have a consistently oppressive tone of stillness and discomfort though, and if you like this type of tone then this will work for you. I do like it, and generally things that make me feel uneasy and tense work better than gory horrors or thrillers. This builds well in this space, particularly as the character in the cupboard grows and develops within the film. The ending worked well for me even though my immediate reaction was to think it was too obvious, but it fitted well and I had not seen it coming.
The animation is brilliant throughout, and I really liked the rabbit animation within the animation. The technical delivery is only one aspect though, but the real skill is in making these static silent figures feed into the tone. Two examples that stick with me is the sudden small touches of expression on the doll's face just after she brings the shoes out to the woman; but I also really liked the violence of the rabbit animation which we see as the actual film plays out its final scenes.
Not an easy watch due to it asking a lot of patience from the viewer, but it is well worth it for what it does and how well it does it.
The Wrong End of the Stick (2016)
Engaging and grounded, which helps it get over the weird specifics
Visually this short film has an interesting mix of animation and real world. It is not unique to this film to put animated characters interacting with real world objects, but I've not seen it done in a way that is quite so mundane and dull. I mean this in a good way. The approach puts the characters convincingly in the humdrum existence that we all share, but at the same time the animated element means that more fantasy aspects can play out. Malcolm is a tragic character as he feels uncomfortable in his skin, and it is something that is becoming more evident to him as so much else in his life becomes routine and lacking. Although the film has some reasonably graphic images/situations, the heart of it is pretty pure.
In maintaining this, it helps the viewer over the darker moments, and keeps it about Malcolm as a person. Likewise, as daft as it is as a concept, the humanity is effective and engaging. The animation is well delivered in the midst of the real places, and I found it effortlessly easy to care for Malcolm and root for him, even if I had no frame of reference for his struggle. As odd as this gets (and it does get odd), it is well worth watching for how well it treats its central characters.
Washland Express (2019)
Enjoyably light and fluid
At time of me writing this comment, the IMDb plot summary shown was put up by the creator of the short and goes into quite a lot of detail on the plot - some specific some suggestive. This is a shame because it is not a film that benefits from you knowing what sort of film it is or where it is going. Essentially a car wash employee joins a woman in her car as she goes through the wash, so that he can check some issues with the machinery. On their way through, some sort of bond starts to form. That's the basic setup but there are some nice little developments in and around that, and it is these tonal and event-driven changes that keep the film engaging.
It isn't some brilliant piece that will keep you coming back again and again, but it is entertaining, slick, does what it does, and gets out in less than 8 minutes - the sort of short film that does well online where longer, more 'worthy' fare may not. It gets its tone and design right, and does enough to carry off its unlikely narrative with humour, but at the same time not undercutting itself by being silly or daft (which parts of it really could have been). It is a good balance and it works well. The production design of the car wash is well done, and the two performances work well with the material and one another. It didn't thrill me or make a massive impact as a film, but it entertained and amused me, which is great considering that is what I was looking for.
Rust In Peace (2018)
Didn't really connect for me, but I enjoyed the classic sci-fi vibe
A robot wakes up in a scrapyard and starts the long walk back to its owner. The owner meanwhile is less than happy to see its return.
This short film runs longer than it really can bear, although this is part of its appeal. The plot is pretty light in terms of incident, but it offers some interest in the nature of the relationship at its core; one of the "couple" is happy ignoring the tension, while the other is beat down and tired of it while also happy to have the bad aspects pretended away at least for a short time. It did this in a way that was interesting, but didn't really engage me or make me connect to the characters. This was a shame and it did limit the film for me, but I did still enjoy the silent, still tone, and the way the pace is as slow as the scenery is empty. This vibe reminded me very much of the 1970's era of sci-fi (Silent Running, Demon Seed), although the downside of this is that it reminded me of the short film Zari, which I saw years ago but continue to love.
Top marks for style and control of tone then, but personally I didn't connect to the characters in the way I wanted, so it was a lesser experience for me despite enjoying aspects of it.
Its light humour buys it some goodwill in the latter stages - but not enough
The film opens with an awkward moment of realisation between a woman hoping for more, and a man just looking for some fun. This awkward realisation is made worse due to the loss of a sex toy in one of the worst places for it to be lost, triggering a visit to the ER, where the two have time to talk while awaiting extraction.
The humorous and irreverent plot device at the core of this film is probably what will draw the viewer into it because its title and cheeky tone early on suggest something that it is not. It is not long into the hospital visit that the film clearly moves into what it is - which is a much more earnest and talky film, which spells too much out, says too much with words and not with other methods, and generally is a bit too saccharine for its own good. The two characters overtalk their feelings, often speaking in things approaching platitudes, and it comes over quite insincere. The sexual humour of the situation sort of helps it a bit, but it can't carry it for long and it is well before the end when the film feels claggy and obvious in what it is doing.
The title, hook, and opening scene all make you hope for more, but this tails off badly by the end.
The Stained Club (2018)
Delicate piece about child abuse, which avoids its pitfalls pretty well
A small group of children play together, drawn together by all having stains of one form or another. Despite the cute and smooth animation, the viewer comes to understand what the stains mean, and why they look different on each child.
There is a disarming sense to this, if you come in not sure what to expect as I did. The film does have a slightly dark or brooding tone from the very start, but it has some lightness to it that is deceptive in the bigger picture. The small moments of children reflecting upon their stains are more affecting than expected, and the final sequence is nicely delivered in its simplicity as well as it visual inventiveness. The concept had the potential to be a bit too obvious or pat, but mostly it manages to avoid this; the shorter running time certainly helps that because it doesn't pad or stretch anything too much.
The ending leaves a mark, the animation is smooth and clever, and a difficult subject is handled well in this short.
The realistic darkness is better than the comedy, but the absurdity makes it accessible
This is a dark comedy that trades in awkward absurdity, as so many of them do. A woman is left in a wheelchair for life as a result of a man who was texting while driving. He awkwardly apologises to her for what he did, and she starts to befriend him and hang around with him. As a comedy it mines a very familiar vein of the absurd and awkward, with the stilted performances that you would expect - it does it well though, even if it is familiar. What stayed with me though was the darkness - and how very well observed it was.
At its heart the film calls BS on people who do something terrible and want to make amends. Patrick's apology is very much about allowing him to move on from his guilt, not about his victim. This is shown through the film as he resents that he is made to continually confront his crime and has to have it as part of his life - just like Noreen has to do thanks to him. It is delivered with an absurdist edge and humour, but this is essentially what the film is and it feels so pained and awkward for it (but in a good way). It is so well observed in this space that it makes the darkness so much better than the comedic element - albeit that the comedy framing and detail means it is easier to access than it may have otherwise been.
Well worth a look for how well it delivers such a dark insight into the aspects of humanity that help us cope with the terrible things we can do.
US special 4 - Newark/Sonnet #78: Pretty straightforward without too much special about it
By chance I watched this after catching up on the most recent film in the 'main' NYSX series of films, which was also of sonnet 78. Perhaps the timing was unfortunate because I found that one to be a bit better than this one, although this one made a good fist of putting the text into the real world. A man writes poetry while drawing remotely on his muse as he sees her. This is manifested in a dancer who performs near him at times, but generally it is a straight delivery of the text within this frame. As such it is a solid piece and it does make the text more accessible by virtue of it taking its time and providing a real example to occur within.
Technically it is not as polished as I would have liked. The mix of ADR voice over and in-field recording is a bit jarring, and visually it is fairly obvious and basic - a decent job but no shots or framing that really caught me as well designed and executed. Again, bad timing to see 78 just before this one, in a version where this was all better. Overall it is a fairly straightforward short that doesn't really do a great deal, but does at least make the text a bit more accessible by virtue of being clear on its 'narrative'. Otherwise though it doesn't have much polish anywhere in the production that would make it stand out from the pack.
The Sonnet Project: Sonnet 78 (2018)
1.131: Sonnet #78: Looks like a straightforward entry in the series but actually seems to connect text, actor, and landmark really well
Although it is very short and direct, this sonnet film does a decent job of introducing meaning to the text. At first glance this wasn't the case, because it did look like some of the films where the camera gets lots of shots around a landmark, some with the actor in shot, then they edit it together and slap a voiceover reading of the text on top. This is how it appears, and this is fine for what it is, but this film seems to me to make much better use of the landmark than I though. I took the text to be the actor referring to the statue as a piece of art (and it is a beautiful and complex piece, one I'd never seen before). The visual links to the statue are made when referring to verse and eyes, but they seem more informed where often they just seem obvious. It helps that the film gives us plenty of the statue, not just jumping on a word or phrase. Maybe I'm being too kind to the film because the series produces so few now (only 23 to go, but at this rate it will take another 4-5 years to complete this project), but I liked what it did.
Visually the images are striking, whether it be the actress or the location or both, but the main thing was that visually the film felt like it was connecting to the text in the way that the narrative-driven shorts usually do better. So while it looked like a straight "read it out over some footage" film, it gave me much more, which was an enjoyable surprise. In terms of the project itself, disappointing to see this film on the YouTube page but not on the project's official website, its Vimeo, or given so much as a mention on its Twitter (although to be fair at time of writing, that is coming up on 2 years since it was last used).
The Sonnet Project: Sonnet #96 (2018)
1.130: Sonnet #96: Doesn't totally work but I really enjoyed it as it did its own interpretation and built a narrative within the text
I enjoyed reading sonnet 96 as it has an interesting tone of reprimanding someone but yet at the same time almost acknowledging that such indiscretions are sort of forgivable because of who it is that is doing them; almost like "I can't stay mad at you" to a loved one. The film didn't totally deliver on this for me but I really appreciated that it had its own narrative and interpretation to it, because it made it much more interesting of a watch than if it had just been a straight read. Essentially we focus on a young man who is flirty and prone to follow the next shiny thing he sees. In some ways this character is well played because it fits with the text, and rings true for younger men chasing anything that takes their fancy, not looking to build anything, and not seeing or caring the damage the approach might do to others. In other ways though, the character doesn't work, particularly early on where we first see him - because pulling a woman's hair is not "playful", it is just dumb (and it being an African-American woman's weave just makes it all the more a dick move). After this though the character is much more "in the wrong" without being a total arse.
The film works this reasonably well; a bit direct at time, and it doesn't make total sense as a character/narrative, but I enjoyed that it tried to do something with the text and the media of the film. Technically it looks good, uses the location well, and the sound quality is good throughout. It doesn't totally work, and some touches I didn't like - but it cheered me to see the Sonnet Project NYC producing the type of film that it used to do as the norm.
The Sonnet Project: Sonnet #153 (2018)
1.129: Sonnet #153: Pretty straightforward but does the job
This very ambitious project has had its ups and downs over the many years, and still it continues even though the rate of production is way down - it never really took off online as they might have hoped, but it is still a very good project and credit to them for not letting it drop even as it is harder than before.
In that context it is worth noting that episode 129, which is sonnet 153 is solid enough while also showing the weaker aspects of the series. In terms of delivery, the location is a fountain because the sonnet talks about one, and essentially the actress sits around and in the fountain while the voiceover delivers the text. There are some looks and delivery tones which suggest a link to the text but mostly it is delivery directly, which is okay but doesn't stand out in a series that often tried to make the sonnet come alive and be more accessible by virtue of making them a film. This is okay, but it is essentially a reading.
Technically the film looks good, and has good shots around the distinctive fountain. The ADR is okay but has one dodgy moment and sounds too detached from the visuals - I would have preferred just to keep it a voiceover. In all it is an okay but straightforward addition to the series. Side note on this one is that is not listed on the official page or YouTube channel of the project but is on the Vimeo page (which itself doesn't have all the films that the other two do); not particularly interesting perhaps but another sign that the project is not quite as focused and resourced as it once was - although again, to their credit for keeping it going despite this.
Balance of time a bit out, but it is genuine and with heart and energy
Bureaucracy threatens a family when they cannot get their granddaughter out of hospital due to lack of proof of being her guardian, even though they raised her like their own when their own daughter (her mother) left her and moved away.
The one-liner sounds dry and messy, but actually the film has much more energy and emotion than I expected. Mostly it is driven by the energy and dramatics of the family, with the raised voices, gestures, and fast pace of talking. They are not all nice characters but they engage and the film gives them all space to be more than one thing. I liked the way that I managed to dislike and feel for several of the characters, mostly at the same time. The film is about 20 minutes, which in itself is not an issue but I did think it spent a bit too much on the fast-talking family drama, and this meant there was less space for the rawer, more emotional content.
That said, the performances make the most of the time for whatever the film is doing. I read they were not professional actors, but I find it hard to believe because they are all very strong throughout. Whether the frustrated animated yelling, or the soul-hurting pain of choices, it all felt real and engaging. In the end I did wish it had more of the pain and less of the exaggerated fighting, but it worked nonetheless, and a film worth seeing and not letting the subtitles or subject put you off.
Has a great natural air, but spends too long building it as its base
There is a great natural feel to this short film, and this is its main selling point and what the audience will connect with the most as it plays out a very specific scene but yet in a way that will connect with many. Two friends fall into a sexual encounter in a jokey way but yet more happens in the moment. There is not too much more to it than that, but it is the natural feel to the characters and the scene that makes it work. In particular the transition from friendly banter to delicate intimacy is very well done, and it produced small shivers in the same way it does to the characters.
However, it takes a lot of time to get to this moment, and it spends far too long setting it up. I guess it is hard to edit something that feels organic and real - because real life isn't tight or snappy. As a result it spends too long in the chat and the sex; both of these work well but go on too long. This may not be an issue if the short didn't run to 20 minutes - for such a simple narrative too. Due to this, it feels padded, or that it didn't trust the viewer to understand the relationship quickly. It isn't without charm in the way it does seem to have a natural sense of itself and characters, but I didn't need it to do it for so long after it had already achieved its goal.
It does pay off in the silent and delicate moments, but it could have done what it did but with a tighter edit, and been better for it.
Nursery Rhymes (2018)
One scene, but very effective
Nursery Rhymes plays out in one short which is all but the final shot. This is enough to engage me as I do like films that pull off a good one-shot with movement - much like a martial arts sequence, it feels to me like it is easier to make it if you have lots of edits, even though it can flow better with fewer. We start the one shot with the image of a topless heavy metal fan, awkwardly singing "Old MacDonald" in a field. This lasts a bit before the camera starts to move.
To say much more than that isn't right, as seeing a scene unfold and take a direction is part of the pleasure of the film. Suffice to say that it has impact, and is a good concept and delivery. Technically it is very well done, looks great, and all comes together well. The performances are easy to overlook, but they matter a great deal - and in hindsight Wallace is particularly good. Well worth a look; barely 5 minutes long but stays for much longer.
Now You Know (2018)
Simple but effective at translating the experience for the viewer
This is a very simple short film in terms of incident. A young girl at school gets carried away in a gym class and, while doing a silly dance, flashes her pants around. She gets told off and afterwards she is conspicuously flat and shamed about it. Pretty much that is it. The journey is the important thing though, and the film does a great job of helping the viewer see why growing up is difficult. At some point the little girl does have to know that it is not appropriate to do this since she is not a toddler anymore, but like so many things, this lesson comes with pain.
We are not only shown this, but we get to feel it. The camera sticks close to the lead character, so we feel her infectious sense of fun, and her joy at her silly game. We also feel the eyes darken a bit, and the weight of the shame she feels. The lead performance from Lorenzo hits this mark spot on; she makes the transition naturally and rapidly. It is simple, and something so small but it says a lot in how it happens and how it affects her. I didn't think the film was earth shattering, or without weaker aspects, but it knows what it wants to do, it knows what its strengths are, and it plays well.
The Ordinary (2016)
Interesting twist to a genre short even if the novelty wears off before the end (SPOILERS)
A bloodied and beaten man sits next to a dragon-like beast, itself badly hurt and panting. He finishes it off and packs up his truck to leave.
In terms of narrative there is not too much to add to this. The film opens with this scene, with no explanation other than the film not having other people in it and it seeming like something has happened beyond this moment, but otherwise we are left with little information. From this setup the film suddenly becomes a piece of performance dance, where the actor dances in a combative manner along a suburban setting. The result is a film I admired for doing something I had not expected, but only for this. The dance didn't do a great deal for me, and as the novelty value wore off the film sort of sagged for me, which is not a great thing when it is so short.
Mostly it was the lack of anything that expands on the film during the dance, but it also didn't help that the dance occurring in a grey suburbia reminded me very much of season 1 of The OA, and how terrible that ending was - so I was distracted by that memory. Worth a look for the novelty value and for it doing something different, even if it doesn't really work.
Open House (2018)
Effective in its pace and tone in silently exploring the roots
Shortly after a couple of mass shootings felt like both a good and bad time to be watching this short film. The El Paso weekend just occurred when I saw this online, and I wasn't sure I really wanted to watch a film that focused on the plight of a guy under modern pressures who decides his frustration can be directed at an immigrant. On the other hand though, maybe it is a good thing to understand that these are people changed, driven by something other than pure logic - and not just people who decide to murder others going about their days, but just people who embraced the 2016 US election as a chance to protest with their vote, to get behind someone willing to blame others on their behalf.
The film focuses on a janitor. You can sense the tiredness in him, the feeling that the grind will never end. There is a lot simmering, but the film doesn't give us an easy root for this, but you do get that it is economic, personal value, external pressures, and many other things that have produced this intensity and anger within him. The lashing out is seen in context then, and it has more meaning to understand him as more than just some angry racist, but to have more of a feel for what ground him down to this place. This is not to say that it makes excuses for him, or tries to justify where he is - but it is understandable. Michael Rose is great in the lead, getting his character just right - and he is well supported by Van Driest, who also balances her character very well.
The slow pace and slightly tense tone work well, and I liked that the silence produced so much unspoken detail. Well worth a look for how balanced and insightful it is, with such a deft touch.