Live-Action Shorts watched Nov-Dec 2013

Castello Cavalcanti (2013, Wes Anderson)

Cute – Schwartzmann is a racecar driver who happens to crash in his ancestral village then decides to slow down and hang out for a while.

Aningaaq (2013, Jonas Cuaron)

The other side of a radio conversation Sandra Bullock has in Gravity, with a man in the icy wilderness who doesn’t understand her. It’s fun as a companion short but gets all its emotional weight from the Gravity recall.

Stephane Mallarme (1968, Eric Rohmer)

A visit with a typical pretentious french poet. Or I can’t tell if he’s pretentious since the spoken interview is translated but his written poetry excerpts are not. It’s all starting to seem odd, when the “documentary” short ends and the credits tell me Jean-Marie Robain (of Melville’s Le Silence de la Mer) played the poet, who died in 1898.

“In a society without cohesion, without stability, it’s impossible to create stable, definitive art.”

Weed (1996, Fatih Akin)

A corny-assed comedy starring Akin with Counting Crows hair, who tries to impress his new dance-club friends by claiming he has amazing weed at home, which he does not. So in order not to get killed once the lie has spun out of control, he brings them weeds from the garden, which they smoke and find to be amazing, because potheads have no standards I guess.

Shorts watched April 2010

Falkenau, The Impossible (1988, Emil Weiss)

Weiss seems to love Sam Fuller, but he’s not on Fuller’s wavelength, unable to have much of a conversation with the man. So this doc (which is an hour long, but I crammed it in the shorts section anyway) admirably fulfills its purpose by screening all of Fuller’s WWII concentration camp cleanup footage while Sam narrates, taking him to the site of the camp in present-day and asking for his thoughts. That would’ve been more than enough, but Weiss leaves us with a one-sided (Sam likes to talk) silly-ass conversation about fictional representation of war, which would’ve been better left out. I’m most of the way through Sam’s autobiography, one of the greatest books I’ll ever read, where Fuller says this doc screened at Cannes and was praised for its straightforwardness.


Cry For Bobo (2001, David Cairns)

Poor and desperate, a man resorts to thievery to get by. He’s caught and imprisoned, then shot to death after escaping, as his wife and kid leave town, trying to start a new life without him. It’d be a miserable little story if the main characters weren’t clowns. Hilarious, reference-heavy, and better than I’d expected – and I had expected greatness. Already watched twice and trying to get Katy to see it (she hates clowns).


The Possibility of Hope (2007, Alfonso Cuarón)

Zizek:
“We no longer live in a world. ‘World’ means when you have a meaningful experience of what reality is which is rooted in your community, in its language, and it is clear that the true most radical impact of global capitalism is that we lack this basic literally ‘world view,’ a meaningful experience of totality. Because of this, today the main mode of politics is fear.”

Naomi Klein:
“More and more we see the progression of this economic model through disasters. So we’re now in a cycle where the economic model itself is so destructive to the planet that the number of disasters is increasing, both financial disasters and natural disasters.”

James Lovelock:
“If you live in the middle of Europe or here in America, things are going to get very bad indeed.”

Of course the “hope” part comes at the very end, as it does with all recent doom-gloom climate-change global-meltdown documentaries, and the hope in this one, despite the film’s title, isn’t all that hopeful. Start preparing now for how badly the future will suck – and it will suck. An Inconvenient Truth supposedly has a credit-time list of ways you can help the planet, Home encourages us to build windmills and go vegan, Wake Up Freak Out says we must act politically, and there’s always the hope during Collapse that the subject is just wrong, or that he’s a crackpot. Not so much here. If I’ve avoided talking about the filmmaking, well it’s basically a radio show with distracting visuals, much of it b-roll from Children of Men.


Night Mayor (2009, Guy Maddin)

Pronounce it similarly to “nightmare.” An inventor, a Bosnian immigrant, harnesses the “music” of the Aurora Borealis and converts it into dreamlike images which are sent across phone lines to his fellow Canadians using his Telemelodium. Even more/cooler junkpile inventions than in the electric chair short, some nudity (not as much as in Glorious or The Little White Cloud That Cried) and some delicious nonsequiturs. Clean narration by the accented inventor and two of his kids, along with excellent string music. At the end, the government shuts down his project, so he turns his attention from the skies to the seas, considers visualising whale songs.


One Minute Racist (2007, Caveh Zahedi)

Sweet three-minute cartoon story about the slippery slope of racism narrated by CZ, who codirected with a couple animators. Story of a student who doesn’t like asians because they’re too uptight and a paranoid library security guard who threatens to confirm the stereotype.


Talking Heads (1980, Krzysztof Kieslowski)
“What is your year of birth?”
“Who are you?”
“What do you most wish for?”
These three questions are asked to a one-year-old, then a two-year-old, and so on. The final answer: “I’m one hundred years old. What do I want? To live longer. Much longer.”

Most people seem to have thought about the questions for a while – possibly while the camera and lighting crew buzzed about their head, since the film looks like a lesson in how to effectively shoot subjects, professional but no-frills, by cinematographers Jacek Petrycki (No End, Camera Buff) and Piotr Kwiatkowski (second camera on the Three Colors). As a result, the answers come out seeming like a beauty pageant. Everyone wants more honesty and fairness, for everybody to just get along. The answers from kids under ten and adults over seventy are the best.


Born Free (2010, Romain Gavras)

I don’t count music videos as “shorts” or things would get too complicated, but then, I don’t really count this as a music video. M.I.A.’s music isn’t far enough up front, and the video (by Costa-Gavras’s son) is twice as long as the song. It’s a little piece wherein red-headed kids are rounded up by violent cops, beaten, shot and made to run through a minefield. Probably trying to make a point about tolerance and freedom, but for messages of tolerance I preferred the climactic speech in Cry For Bobo, also featuring overzealous cops: “First they came for the mimes, then the jugglers, then the bearded ladies. Next time, it were you.”


Hotel Torgo (2004, buncha dudes)

Buncha dudes head for El Paso and interview the last guy who remembers working on Manos: The Hands of Fate. There’s no real point to this, but the guy is very good-natured about it. Learned that Torgo was high all the time, which shouldn’t come as a surprise but somehow still does.

Y tu mamá también (2001, Alfonso Cuarón)

Katy was surprised that Diego Luna used to be cuter than Gael Garcia Bernal.

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Maribel Verdú (currently costarring in Tetro, also the rebel servant who befriends our girl in Pan’s Labyrinth) is the cousin who gets a ride to the beach with a rich kid and his not-rich friend while their girlfriends are away, has sex with them both, stays at the beach while they go home then dies of cancer a month later. Oh also the kids make out with each other while drunk, destroying their friendship.

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Great cinematography by one of my favorites, Emmanuel Lubezki (The New World, Children of Men, Like Water for Chocolate). Oddly negative omniscient narrator fills us in on the gloomy details surrounding the characters. Really a lovely movie, despite my crappy summary.

Children of Men (2006, Alfonso Cuarón)

First good Julianne Moore movie since 2002. Has it been that long?

Apolitical gov’t flunkie Clive Owen is recruited by ex-flame Moore to help her gang of revolutionaries deliver the only known pregnant woman to a secretive humanitarian scientist group in a devastated and infertile future. The government is against him after he’s targeted as a terrorist, the revolutionary group is against him thinking the woman is better used to serve their own cause, even the undercover prison guard acting as his inside man turns against him. Clive’s only true friend is his old pot-smoking pull-my-finger hippie friend Michael Caine with a post-gov’t-torture braindead wife living out in the country.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Denzel’s partner in Inside Man) is the revolutionary leader after Julianne is killed, Claire-Hope Ashitey is Kee the pregnant woman, and actor/director Peter Mullan is Syd the prison guard.

The whole thing is extremely real. This future has so many intricate ties to our present, politically and socially, in little details scattered among the ruins. It’s all carefully drawn out to seem so real… then there’s the camerawork. Extremely long takes with an amazing amount of stuff going on during each one… stunts and effects and running steadicams, all shot by the guy who did The New World. As someone or other mentioned, the long shots help show you what’s at stake… no cuts to relieve the action, just follow Clive in his panic, showing us how much is at stake, how one slip will blow the whole game. So the movie sets up this real world, then plunks us in the middle of it.

And it’s grim, relentlessly hopelessly grim, dark and dreary, everyone against everyone else, no reason to keep living so they’re all out for their own self interest. It brings us down, down, down, leading up to this very hopeful Dead Man-reminiscent ending but with a great ray of hope, and since we’re so down, that ray of hope is brighter than I can remember seeing in any movie before. It’s Eternal Sunshine + Before Sunset caliber hope. The most positive and negative movie at once… completely thrilling and gorgeous and makes me cry just thinking about it. As someone else said, it’s scary how far ahead this film is over everything else I saw this year.

A couple of weeks later, I still can’t stop thinking about this one. Saw it again with Katy in the new year. It will probably end up as my favorite movie of 2007 as well as 2006.