Monday, September 03, 2007

2007 Dragon*Con Independent Short Film Festival - Detailed Comments

This posting is a work in progress. I am posting early as it is part of a circular-link of posts regarding Dragon*Con. Check back for updated images.
As I mentioned HERE, these are my thoughts and reactions to the specific entries of the 2007 Dragon*Con Independent Short Film Festival! I did my best to see as many of the programs as I could, even if I needed to skip a shower in order to keep up with the schedule! There were no less than 82 entries. Of those, I was able to screen 54 entries. (I DID need to get out for air, a couple unrelated panels, cocktails, etc.)

In alphabetical order:

07 (dir. Peter Sullivan, USA, 11 mins.) The winner of this year's Best Live Action Parody, I think I would have found it even MORE amusing if I watched "24" and had more than just a recognition of the characters and the cinematic gags. Enjoyable, particularly for fans.

A.W.O.L. (dir. Jack Swanstrom, USA, 22 mins.) I saw this earlier this year at the Atlanta Film Festival in the midst of a 'War Shorts' program and I am afraid to say that I walked out on THAT screening. I should have stayed it out, as this is an exceptionally dramatic piece starring David Morse (hubba! Hubba!). It is fairly harrowing and has something to say to our present day policies on torture, I believe.

Alien for Christmas (dir. Dave Pryor, USA, 3 mins.) A fabulous, colorful, bouncy, music video to a song by Fountains of Wayne. I LOVED it, which is a good thing as it played maybe three times throughout the weekend!

Ambassadors Day (dir. Dave Kellum, USA, 20 mins.) Though I missed the first few moments of this apocalyptic comedy/drama of a pair of ambassadors meeting on a now inhabitable surface of the earth, I was still able to enjoy the wit and tension within the plot. The cinematography and production design are suitably alien and the verbal sparring between the ambassadors as well as their superiors radio contact, was well paced and acted. I'd love to see this one again!

Art's Desire (dir. Sarah Wyckliffe, USA, 4 mins.) A painted figure in a painful homage to Picasso's "Geurnica" tries to escape into a more pleasant art work. (Pictured here is a Dali she considers joining.) Stylistically, Wyckliffe meets the challenge of imitating the various paintings within the gallery. Dramatically, it is a bit slow, however lovely to look at.

The Big Pull (dir. Galin Carter-Jeffrey, USA, 3 mins.) One of the 'Short-shorts', this was a fabulously bloody, disgusting and suspenseful three minutes of nasal violence! LOVED IT!

Blood of the Cross (dir. Todd Lubitsch, USA, 12 mins.) This was the first short I saw and what a surprise!! Gregory McDonald, whose film "Pretty Kitty"which I LOVED at the 2006 SF IndieFest, appears in and is the executive producer of this cynical, robust, irreverent piece of slapstick about the filming of the Crucifixion had me howling in delight! I made of point of passing my regards to McDonald via the director Todd Lubitsch. "Hey Gregory!"

Bloodbath (dir. Raphaello Kotziamanis, USA, 9 mins.) Considered a parody of private eye vs. ninjas vs. police vs. anybody else films, I think I need to really dig those films to begin with. Though I appreciated the style, photography, physical performances, and pace, I just wasn't that taken away by the humor.

Blue Dreams Downtown (dir. Raiya Corsiglia, USA, 3 mins.) At only three minutes, this short-short was able to convey a sense of spirit and peace to the downtrodden. It looked lovely and was blissfully paced.

The Boy Princes: A Tragedie Most Monstrous (no link available)(Dir. Darren Herczeg, USA, 28 min.) As I stated when I saw this at the AUFF, "I don't know if this was trying to be campy or a homophobic slam. Described as "A shock-comedy about a delicate trio of Boy Princes," the film itself was a tiresome 28 minutes of mincing about by three men playing young boys who are competing for "the most boyish of boys", so they can ride the motorcycle of their "most manly of men" uncle. I have always prided myself on my ability to recap a film without giving spoilers. But in this case, I will tell you that everyone ends up dead, which is a good thing." More surprising is that director Herczeg was involved with "Zombie Love" which screened here, and I loved that!

Clicker Clatter (dir. Benjamin Radford, USA, 6 mins.) Six minutes of fabulous cable television surfing satire! Animated, as it could only be!

Creepers (dir. Mark Simon, USA, 6 mins.) Perhaps the most Pixar-like of any submissions I saw, this was a CUTE (and you need to know that I hate "CUTE") CGI rendered adventure of a group of superhero insects. Perhaps had it been fleshed out more with some mature humor, I would be more enthusiastic.

D-I-M, Deus in Machina (dir. Axel Ricke, Germany, 29 mins.) Winner of the Live Action-Science Fiction Award, this was visually, one of the most stunning pieces in the festival! The screenplay rocks too! It goes beyond "1984" and "Soylent Green" in its harrowing view of how society may police itself someday. I'd LOVE a copy of this, just to swim in the visuals some more!

Dr. Docatto's Reprise!!! (dirs. Benjamin W. Neidenthal, James Davis, Matt Corcoran, USA, 14 mins.) This was more Dreamworks CGI than Pixar, yet it too is CUTE. Well, there is a bit of darkness, but for the most part, CUTE. A mad scientist decides to create an Anti-Gravity Propulsion machine based on the theory that cats always land on their feet.

Endurance Challenge: Mordred's Isle (dir. J Zachary Pike, USA, 4 mins.) An animated parody of "Survivor" featuring two teams of humans vs. beasts! Two episodes were screened and I want to see the entire series! Nice, evil comedy! LOVE IT!

Everything Will Be OK (dir. Don Hertzfeldt, USA, 17 mins.) Director Don Hertzfeldt is a god. I worship his psychotic therapy he animates for us. I saw this earlier at the Atlanta Film Festival this year and I have pre-ordered the disc from Bitter Films. I will stop now, as I don't want to create overkill in my fan-boy love for Hertzfeldt.

Face Machine (dir. Justin Simms, Canada, 15 mins.) Atmospherically shot, dramatically paced and performed, yet vaguely unsatisfying for some reason. I think that for a sci-fi/apocalyptic romance, the passion just didn't heat up enough, as their consumation was all too short and doomed from the start.

Forged (dir. David No, Australia, 38 mins.) One of the HITS at the festival, winner of Best Live Action - Action and Suspense Award and with no less than two encore screenings, David No created one of the highest quality productions to screen here! It is literally a one man show for No, who directs, produces, writes, edits, stars and stunt choreographs this martial arts drama. I think he may have taken on one too many jobs here. That would be performing. Or directing, as he needed someone to help him tackle the melodrama his character is infused with. With that one element in place, he would have a classic here!

Frattura (Fracture) (dir. Omar Pesenti, Italy, 9 mins.) Apparently, a quick look at a serial killer and his girlfriend. It was a bit obscure in the revelation of his relationship. The photography was a bit too dark, also, which lent to the murkiness overall.

Georgie's Wish (dir. Michael Granberry, USA, 4 mins.) A NOT cute animated horror story of when the god's want to punish us, they grant us our wish! "I wish grandpa was here!" Oh, do you now?! hee hee hee...

The Girl and the Wolf (no link available) (dir. Lauren Bickers, USA, 8 mins.) Visually, the production design was stunning, and nearly distractingly so. The script attempts a psychic relationship between girl and wolf. However, it is shot so dreamily that I wasn't exactly sure what was happening. I LIKED looking at it, though!

The Great Detective (dir. Andrew Young, USA, 15 mins.) A super detective film noir parody that just wasn't paced well enough. The script tried to do too much. However, it was an ambitious production for a student film!

The Greyhound (dir. Allan Plenderleith - UK - 8 min.) The story of an old man and his old greyhound, who exist in nearly slow motion. It is really the greyhound's story as he yearns for his faster days to come back. It reminded me of some older European shorts from the '80's, which is NOT a bad thing.

The Intruder (dir. Alessandro Ceglia, USA, 3 mins.) A snazzily executed animation of a woman who is stalked by a cat. Or an intruder. Or what is it exactly...? hee hee hee...

Iron Bird (dir. Chris Richards-Scully, Australia, 28 mins.) Another technically gorgeous piece of film set in WWII, as a fighter pilot is haunted by his mother as well as a victim of his bombings. The special effects were outrageous, and the script held its own, as well.

Jakob and the Angels (no link available) (dir. Ron Lehman, USA, 13 mins.) Winner of the Best of Show and Fantasy Awards. Beautifully shot and recorded (the soundtrack is gorgeous!), and wickedly written. The performances are a bit low key considering the dilemma the characters face, that is the extermination of an attic filled with angels.

Kasting (dir. Alyosha Saari, United Kingdom, 2 mins.) Ohhhhhh.... This was EVIL! I LOVED it! I think it is part of a series of shorts in which our victim(s) is tested in an audition. "I want to see you die." shudd-dd-dd-dd-er!

Kleeman and Mike in Jaime's Taco Shop (dir. Randall Christopher, USA, 6 mins.) Simply a cartoon featuring a skateboarding cat and pranks at a Taco Shop. I just didn't dig it.

A Little Night Fright (dir. Mischa Livingstone, USA, 3 mins.) Winner of the Live Action Short-short Award. It gave me a nice, horror-filled guffaw at the end. Little brothers can be evil...

Night of the Hell-Hamsters (dir. Paul Campion, United Kingdom, 16 mins.) The title alone filled me with grand guinol glee! An Ouija board summons demons that possess hamsters bent on taking over the world! If you crossed "The Exorcist" with "The Birds" you can imagine what I'm talking about! It. Was. A. Hoot!

Operation: Fish (dir. Jeff Riley, USA, 10 mins.) Winner of the Best in Show Animation and the Animated Fantasy/Sci-Fi Awards. Using a variety of animation techniques, and featuring some truly inspired character design, this short of about collecting goldfish from which the world's ultimate power resides, was humorous, well paced, looked great and had a truly unique and inspired climax as well! One of the few times the audience reacted with such gleeful surprise!

Ordinary Angels (dir. Todd Downing, USA, 37 mins.) One of my favorite entries in this festival! The concept, script, direction, cinematography and performances produced a cinema verite' version of the battle between the angels for souls in the present day. Presented the Saints as two gang families - it was nearly the 'Godfather' (a play on words?!) of the Saints. LOVED it!

Papiroflexia (dir. Joaquin Baldwin, USA, 3 mins.) Visually beautiful little piece about returning the world back to nature.

Para-Normal (dir. Lauren Timmons, USA, 16 mins.) Winner of the Live Action Horror Award, I suspect this is a commercial pitch for a full length project. The script is a pretty standard teen horror/ghost story. There were some well placed shocks, however I can't say there was anything particularly unique about the characters nor their situation.

Passing Darkness (dir. Kenneth Mader, USA, 18 mins.) The photography is visually complex, as is the script. The performances don't give enough away, or perhaps that was the editing. There is a battle for souls here, but I was never completely sure which ones were alive or dead, by the end. A bit heavy on the melodrama, too, which only complicated matters.

Praxis (no link available) (dir. Rene Amadori, USA, 7 mins.) Hmmm. I remember really appreciating the look of this film about future terrorism. However, I am not remembering much else about it.

The Professor's Daughter (dir. Luke R. Pebler, USA, 17 mins.) The script is a delicious "Twilight Zone" throw back where relationships, technology and obsession become deliciously twisted and entertwined! An awesome script and cast of actors!

Puppet (dir. Patrick Smith, USA, 6 mins.) Ok. I have seen this at no less than FOUR film festivals now, and I just don't understand its popularity. Winner of the Animated Horror Award, this really is just a bit too much of a Disney rip-off for me to appreciate, much less honor it with lauds. It isn't so horrifying as CUTE, in both execution and story.

The Ring of Ultimate Power (dir. Jay Stern, USA, 17 mins.) My favorite parody of the festival sets "The Lord of the Rings" in present day Manhattan. The script was a hoot, particularly the narration by Mary Micari as "Glallillellillell" was priceless! But then I am sort of a "Rings" freak to begin with. hee hee...

Sam and Piccolo (dir. Adam Walker, Australia, 15 mins.) Another Pixar-wannabe fable, with an ecological moral just to be completely p.c. It looks great! The pacing is a bit slow and the character 'Piccolo' is a bit too CUTE for me. But it was painless enough to look at.

Snake (dir. Becky James, USA, 3 mins.) A deliciously warped and minimalistic tale of a snake's trials and tribulations at feeding himself with or without fangs!

Take Out (dir. Jonathan Budine, USA, 5 mins.) THIS is a deliciously warped and minimalistic tale of a woman's trials and tribulations at feeding her family. Oh, and it's not pizza or chinese...

Ted Zone 'Butterfly Effect' (dir. Lance Meyers, USA, 4 mins.) Apparently part of a animated series, this short-short involves "Toby Radloff explain[ing] chaos theory while dressed like a killer moth." It is CUTE and just a trifle that I really don't remember much about.

Thanksgiving With the Kranzes (dirs. Cory Betzel, Brian Finifte, USA, 18 mins.) Winner of the Honorable Mention, this is an extremely clever parody of "Apollo 13" set at a Thanksgiving Dinner. Mission Control is in the dining room of "Kranze" (the Ed Harris role) and the 'Apollo crew' are the three guys in the kitchen who are struggling with the turkey in the oven. The directors quite graciously offered DVD copies to the attendees of the Awards presentation!

Thousand Words (dir. Sean Kennedy, USA, 4 mins.) A bit too esoteric for my tastes as a photographer in the future (oh! Her 'camera' is TOO COOL!) stumbles upon photos that are connected to a decaying corpse. She appears to meditate on their meaning, but that is a very difficult concept to convey cinematically, I believe.

Totally Connected (dir. Randy Brown, USA, 3 mins.) A parody of a commercial for communication implants that will save you time and equipment in the future! Not unlike the abandoned bit in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" in which Andrea Martin has a cell phone embedded in her front teeth. She did it better.

Toy Maker (dir. Ben Martinez, USA, 11 mins.) A toy maker suffers a heart attack and is saved by his creations in this mix of live action and stop motion. It would be dislikabley CUTE, were it not for the surgery episode by the stuffed teddy bear. Also, given the fact that it is a student film, a certain pass needs to be given to the rough animation and special effects.

Tunnel Vision (no link available) (dir. Harriss Callahan, USA, 2 mins.) "Blinky and Pinky from Pacman get curious about those side tunnels. Nothing good comes from it. " hee hee... 'nuff said!

Under My Skin (dir. Stanley Ray, USA, 12 mins.) A nicely paced, atmospheric and gory tale about a skin infection that just WON'T go away! Plays like a Stephen King short, and there isn't anything wrong with that!

Vanished Acres (dir. Adam Bolt, USA, 31 mins.) A particularly unique script in which a man's relationships with his deceased wife and an affair he had in WWII Japan are brought to his consciousness by a scarecrow. The scarecrow was sort of spooky. The farmer was suitably rural. The cinematography, particularly of the scarecrow set in the most unsuspecting scenery, was quite effective. It fell in that weird timing of a short in which it either needs editing or expanding to be a more complete experience, in my opinion.

Whale (no link available) (dir. Rob Wicksteed, United Kingdom, 5 mins.) Winner of the Animated Comedy Award, this is a pithy tale that is filled with British humor, as a man is faced with ridding himself of a whale that has 'landed' on his doorstep. Yes, there is a twist at the end...

When The World Goes Dark (dir. Anthony Scalmato, USA, 7 mins.) Winner of the Animated Drama Award, this entry has an exceptional look in its artwork! I found the script a bit disjointed and not necessarily rewarding. However, I do admire the attempt at presenting the New York Subway System as the home of dreams and nightmares. (Of course, this doesn't hold a candle to egregiously ignored "Everything Will Be OK" by Don Hertzfeldt, but I'm just bitter for him.)

Wrapped (no link available) (dir. Bazyl Dripps, USA, 6 mins.) Locally filmed in Atlanta, this exceptionally low budget piece describes a world in which intimacy is literally wrapped in cellophane, and punishment awaits those who would tear through it. The last shot was the creepiest and most effective few seconds of the piece.

Zombie Love (dir. Yfke van Berckelaer, Netherlands/USA, 37 mins.) Winner of the Horror/Comedy and Filmmakers (Peers) Awards, what is NOT to love about a zombie musical?! Especially one that gleefully rips off "Les Miz", "Beauty and the Beast", Michael Jackson and Bollywood! It is going to be available for purchase next month (hey! Where's the swag??), and I will have it, of course, since it is the joyful integration of two of my favorite genres!


TD said...

Hey thanks for the mention of Ordinary Angels! It was a great festival and I felt honored to be in the company of some very talented filmmakers. Couldn't have wished for a better premiere!

Ordinary Angels will be available on DVD within the next week or so - I will keep you in the loop. :)

Scullmeister said...

Thanks for the review of my film Iron Bird.

It would have been great to have met you at the festival, but I am glad you enjoyed the film.

Your blog is great!

Jay, aka The Angry Little Man said...

Hey guys!

It is my pleasure and the very LEAST I can do after seeing your cool pieces! (What's 50+ words compared to months/years of work?!)

Take care and looking forward to seeing more!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review of my film "When The World Goes Dark"

Jay, aka The Angry Little Man said...

Hey Anthony!

Thank YOU for not taking my 'bitter' comment to heart! It was sort of an in-joke for the Hertzfeldt 'cult' and his production company, Bitter Films! :)

Best wishes on your future projects!

Michael Guillen said...

Jay, you're such a starfucker. Heh.