I liked Ricky’s Spiral Jetty and his comment about using the shorts to work out ideas before shooting his first feature, so I contributed to the feature’s kickstarter last year and got a bunch more shorts as thanks.


The Stranger (2011)

This one tells a more dramatically straightforward story (and is more of a comedy) than the other three. Wide b/w, divided into chapters, with some nice Hungarian music and heavy droning narration.

“I’m not ideologically complicit about anything. I read Zizek.” Sarah-Doe Osborne and her man Michael Wetherbee are students who just moved into the perfect new apartment. They humor a stranger who asks to stay with them, then quickly convinces them to leave their lives behind and join him. “He said that moving and living with him would turn us into more admirable and interesting people.” They quit their jobs, drop their classes, tear up all their issues of The Nation and Film Comment, then there’s a quite long montage of city scenery, and the stranger never returns.


Pilgrims (2013)

Wetherbee is back as narrator, but now he’s a friend of the couple from The Stranger, who get mentioned. He’s stuck inside with health problems as protests rage outside, visited by a couple of friends and a priest. This one’s in color, dividing scenes with handwritten diary entries (some nice German music). No narration over the final unreadable entry, then he’s passed out on the ground, followed by still shots of the apartment (echoing the city scenes from the end of the previous short – these are playing well as a group).


Six Cents in the Pocket (2015)

Wetherbee in color again, but female narration – letters from Risa, whose apartment he’s staying in while she’s on vacation. Wetherbee takes a picture from the house to get reframed, goes to the movies and coffee shop and bookstore, gets stood up by dark-haired Ananda, runs short on cash (L’Argent-referencing transaction shots), visits Risa’s sister (hey it’s someone I’ve seen before, The Unspeakable Act star Tallie Medel) then learns Risa isn’t going to make it home (“460 on jet die in Queens crash”). Some nice… Italian music? Another city montage, and this one and Pilgrims both feature Wetherbee doing his own thing in an apartment while there’s chaos in the city outside. The list of thanks in the closing credits add a new familiar name with each film: Fendt, Piñeiro, Sallitt.

Dear Basketball (2017, Glen Keane)

The most beautiful hand-drawn animation, illustrating Kobe Bryant’s motivational(?) essay about loving basketball all his life. The animation >>>> the words. My writeup is late as usual, so the winners are in, and now Kobe Bryant has more competitive oscars than Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Altman, Sam Fuller, Howard Hawks, Spike Lee, Wes Anderson, Terrence Malick, Abbas Kiarostami, Robert Bresson and Agnès Varda combined.


Negative Space (2017, Ru Kuwahata & Max Porter)

Poem about a guy who only knew his dad through helping him pack for trips, with a stinger joke at dad’s funeral. Poem > animation > movie. French short with a weak English voiceover… even though this didn’t work for me, the directors have three other shorts which I’m tempted to seek out.


Lou (2017, Dave Mullins)

Pixar’s entry – it must’ve played in front of Cars 3. “Lou” is a sentient lost-and-found box which sets out to reform the schoolyard bully. Funny that we got two lost-and-found shorts in the same program this year. The first writer/director credit for Mullins, who is credited on features dating back to Monsters, Inc. (and Bjork’s Hunter video!).


Revolting Rhymes, Part 1 (2016, Jakob Schuh & Jan Lachauer)

The long one – first half of a sixty-minute fairy-tale mashup TV-movie from the team behind Room on the Broom, so I dunno why it technically counts as a short. The animation is more functional than the Pixar, but I got into it – these two probably tie as my faves. Interweaving stories of Red Riding Hood and Snow White with some Three Little Pigs at the end, as narrated by a vengeful big bad wolf. The credits went by too quickly so I don’t know who Dominic West played, but this is already the second movie I’ve seen with him at The Ross this year.


Garden Party (2017, MOPA)

Beautiful 3D work of frogs in a garden, gradually revealing the sordid scene around them – a trashed mansion with a body in the pool. Made as a final project by six French animation students.


Lost Property Office (2017, Daniel Agdag)

Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’. Cityscape in lovely stop-motion reminds of More with its sepia-toned conformity. Guy at the Lost Property Office has spent the last eighteen years constructing wonderful things out of the lost property instead of making any attempt to return it to original owners, and after a suicide fakeout when he’s fired, he breaks out to glorious freedom. Writer/director/animator/DP/designer/editor Agdag is best known for making wonderful sculptures out of cardboard.


Weeds (2017, Kevin Hudson)

Dandelions on dry ground seek a better life for their children. It’s a metaphor! One nice shot of a dandelion head exploding into fluffy seeds, otherwise a clunky time-filler. The director has done effects for movies from Darkman and Cast a Deadly Spell to John Carter.


Achoo (2018, ESMA)

Another one by six different French people. There should be more cartoons about flying dragons, at least, but this was a groaner of a cartoon leading to “and that’s how fireworks were invented”. At least this was better than the interstitial pieces in between the main shorts about a hungry little guy and the oaf who keeps trying to help him. I hated these, but they cracked up my fellow moviegoers.

Winnie-the-Pooh (1969 Fyodor Khitruk)

The A.A. Milne books made it to Russia, but the Disney film versions did not, so Khitruk’s team removed Christopher Robin and imagined their own versions of Pooh and Piglet for a series of shorts. In this first one, Pooh fails to score some honey by masquerading as a small black cloud, all against charmingly hand-drawn backgrounds with lots of singing.


Winnie-the-Pooh Pays a Visit (1971 Fyodor Khitruk)

I love the voices so much in these. Pooh and Piglet visit their friend Rabbit to scam some food off him. Rabbit has exceedingly good manners, so keeps feeding his guests until Pooh can’t fit through the doorway to leave.


Curses (2016 Jodie Mack)

First light confetti blows across a white background, then it gets ever more complex, introducing different swirl patterns, until finally the last section is a rotoscoped dance swirl animation against color-strobe backgrounds. This is all a music video to an upbeat piano-rock song by Roommate (“I sing my curses in reverse and what’s worse, no one notices”). Happy flashbacks to Jeff Scher.


Blanket Statement No. 1: Home Is Where The Heart Is (2012, Jodie Mack)

Blankets, I guess… rapid stop-motion shots of fabric panels, swirling about. Only three minutes, but with more colors and patterns per second than any other film. The chirpy bloop ‘n crackle audio sounds like when I hit fast-forward on the minidisc player. Katy disapproved, said they’re not even blankets.


Blanket Statement No. 2 (2013, Jodie Mack)

Knit rows of varying colors, washing past the camera in patterns that look like abstract computer graphics, then flickering gradually to black, and back into colorful rows, the audio like the road noise in an 8-bit motorcycle racing game.


Lost Camel Intentions (1988, Lewis Klahr)

Transformation journey of a guy from skeleton airplane pilot to male silhouette balloonist to his final form: a photo of a Monty-Python-looking mustache dude against a series of automobiles. I suppose if you’re Lewis Klahr, people bring up Monty Python to you an awful lot. This was the first part of a series called Tales of the Forgotten Future which I’m not finishing right now because it kinda looks like low-detail VHS and I can find better-looking Klahr works elsewhere.


A Wish for Monsters (2012)

Forgot I’d done this… I ran the trailer for Gareth Edwards’ Monsters and the first few minutes of A Wish for Wings That Work on top of each other, setting one semi-transparent, and submitted it for Shorts Club one month.

I thought I’d do another Shorts Month, but February turned out to be pretty busy, so I only got to a dozen (plus the Oscar Animation program). Breaking them up into two posts…


Skinningrove (2013, Michael Almereyda)

After Experimenter and now Escapes, I thought it’d be worth watching everything I can find by Almereyda. This one is simply a slideshow, narrated by photographer Chris Killip who’d spent a few years documenting the titular fishing village. We get descriptions of who we’re seeing, how his (excellent) photographs were taken, and what happened after (two of the boys died in a storm). Killip says he’s never been sure what he should do with the photos – I suppose this is what.


Me the Terrible (2012, Josephine Decker)

Girl dressed like a pirate conquers New York, from the Statue of Liberty to Wall Street to the Empire State Building, until a gang of red-suited bicyclists steal her teddy bear in Central Park and she abandons the rest of the conquest. The adults seem to be lipsyncing to voices from old movies. Not at all like Decker’s Butter on the Latch, but fully wonderful in all new ways.


Split Persona (2017, Bradley Rust Gray)

Twin sisters Karrie and Jalissa have a majorly depressed mom. Jalissa always takes care of mom, so she asks Karrie to stay home for once, but apparently whenever mom is left home with Karrie she attempts suicide. Bummer of a little film, possibly made as a PSA for mental health care – it barely exists online, despite coming from the director of Jack & Diane. This was written by a Nelson, whose mom suffers from depression, and it stars a Nelson as the mom, but no word whether it’s Mom Nelson.


Second Sighted (2015, Deborah Stratman)

Movement through space. Stock footage. Water and earth… earth under water, and flowing like water. Graphic markups on photographs. Models and data and data models. Good stuff, and I didn’t even mind the soundtrack: drones, chimes and that chirpy chatter that accompanies old computer images. My first by Stratman – I’ve been seeing her name here and there.


Woodshock (1985, Richard Linklater)

Bunch of pretty annoying dudes clown around at a Texas underground film festival. Daniel Johnston makes an appearance, then the footage starts overlapping and running in reverse in order to get groovy and psychedelic. He calls this a “film attempt” in the credits, fair enough. I spotted GBH and Exploited t-shirts! Shot by Lee Daniel, who was still working with Linklater as late as Boyhood.


Gazing at the Catastrophe (2012, Ali Cherri)

Closeup of a man’s face, his skin tone shifting every couple of frames. A photoshop cursor strokes each of his features, slowly applying scars or burns to his visage, then the picture cuts away to stuttering video horrors for a few seconds, and repeat.

I didn’t manage to watch The Challenge in 2017 – it was playing at True/False and in New York while I was there – but I found these shorts by the same filmmaker to tide me over.


Piattaforma Luna (2011 Yuri Ancarani)

Deep-water divers run equipment checks and prepare for a dive, shot mostly in static compositions, though the great opening shot is a slow pull out from a man doing a prayer chant. Are they breathing helium or is something up with the sound recording? Ben Frost provides some lovely rhythmic industrial drone for the start and end segments.


San Siro (2014 Yuri Ancarani)

I liked this one better – workers prepare a soccer stadium for the next game, efficiently moving cables and barriers and doing security sweeps… then some structural views of the team and fans arriving.

Problem:

Solution:

Emily Prime, a year older than last time, is visited by an incomplete backup copy of her third generation clone, who is using time travel to visit her own inherited memories. The clone hopes to copy Emily’s consciousness over her own, a process which somewhat succeeds, after some memory tourism, personality glitches, future history lessons, and of course, philosophizing on the meaning of life and our individual place within the universe.

The computer-animated mindscapes and off-world dystopian future visions are as great as in the previous film, which I’ve been known to call the best animated short of all time. So I had absurdly high expectations, and Episode 2 met them, feeling like a perfectly natural continuation of the first film. Not as many mindblowing new ideas in this one since he set up so much previously, but the writing (based around conversations with a six-year-old) is probably better, circling back to each idea and conversation in a self-conscious loop while expanding the ideas about memories and identity.

En levande själ (A Living Soul, 2014, Henry Moore Selder)

A living brain, with ear and eyeball, awakens in a fishtank and eventually succeeds in psychically communicating with its nurse Emma. Happy birthday to me – thanks, Trevor!

Based on a novel by a physician. Ypsilon and Emma and nearly everyone else in Sweden acted in the TV series The Bridge, and the briefly-appearing inkblot psychiatrist (the “ink” was on an ipad, nice touch) was in Fanny & Alexander.


Sarah Winchester, opéra fantôme (2016, Bertrand Bonello)

“Dance but don’t move. Do the solo in your head.”

Symphony and dance, spooky old drawings and accusing ghosts, and the story of Sarah, inheritor of the Winchester rifle fortune, who became a crazy recluse after losing her family. I liked this even more than Nocturama. Similarities include doom music, seclusion in abandoned buildings, mannequins, guilt.


The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984, Quay Bros.)

A child visits Master Svankmajer, who removes the fluff and toys from the child’s head and teaches him stop-motion filmmaking. This makes a lot more sense than it did when I watched in the 1990’s, now that I know who Jan Svankmajer is. The cluster of mobile pins still reminds me of Edward Gorey (“Death and Distraction, said the Pins and Needles”)


Stille Nacht I, Dramolet (1988, Quay Bros.)

Extremely short and amazing, dollman watches as his spoon-world grows moldy with magnetized metal filings.


Stille Nacht II, Are We Still Married? (1992, Quay Bros.)

A motion-blur paddleball confounds a toe-stretching girl’s pet bunny


Stille Nacht III, Tales from Vienna Woods (1994, Quay Bros.)

Somebody died in 1892? Spinning smoke bullet, disembodied hand, hovering desk and extra-long spoon. I liked the His Name Is Alive song in the previous film – this one sounds like a buzzing TV from the next room.


Stille Nacht IV, Can’t Go Wrong Without You (1994, Quay Bros.)

The heroes of part two return, the tiptoe girl now quietly bleeding as the rabbit uses his antigravity powers to protect his eggs from a keyhole-peeping Death.


An Eastern Westerner (1920, Hal Roach)

At a hotel we saw this Harold Lloyd short on TCM, and since I watched it, I am duty-bound to put it on the blog somewhere, even though I was entirely focused on being aggravated about the picture being squished and don’t remember anything that happened in the movie itself. I guess it’s the one with the famous still of all the guns pointing at Harold’s head?


Three Monks (1982 Jingda Xu)

Short, flatheaded Red Monk, tall skinny Blue Monk, and fat Yellow Monk arrive separately at a mountaintop shrine and spend their days guzzling water and trying to make the other monk(s) bring up more water from the lake. Eventually they’re all angry, and are stealing water from the shrine’s flowerpot, when a mouse almost burns the place down and they have to cooperate to bring up plenty of water in a hurry. The catchy tunes and musical-instrument sound effects were the best part.


Feeling Good (2010, Pierre Etaix)

A 1965 outtake scene from As Long As You’ve Got Your Health. Etaix goes camping with a campfire and electric coffee pot. Confusion and bad coffee ensues. Then he’s in a military tent camp and I get lost as to what’s happening, because between bird songs and people whistling and blowing whistles, my birds got quite agitated.


Pas a Deux (1988 Renault & Van Dijk)

A couple is dancing, looks maybe like rotoscoped with colored pencil, then he transforms into Popeye the Sailor complete with voice clip, then they each transform (pretty seamlessly) into different famous characters. Cool effect, but feels like they’re just screwing around. Katy called it a precursor to Logorama.

Made by a couple of Dutch animators. Gerrit’s final film was based on a Burroughs story and featured the voice of Rutger Hauer. Monique has a whole bunch of films on vimeo


The Northleach Horror (2016, David Cairns)

Apocalyptic story of a mad scientist doing Frankenstein experiments in an underground bunker, the movie casually killing off characters (and resurrecting them) for laughs. I meant to watch this again and note character names, but my link has gone dead. Fun while it lasted. From the creator of the also-great Cry For Bobo.


Seances: The Disputed Honours (May 31, 2016)

Some familiar footage from The Forbidden Room, with changes. When Jacques Nolot is hired as a gardener, does he usually steal a magnifying glass? Whole new sequence with a man retrieving a key while two women (Camille and her sister?) cower in the night, only to be sucked into a vortex. Color and tinting changes mid-shot. All new intertitles! “O to quench the thirst of my wheat with the blood of slain mail coachmen.”

I wanted to watch When The Broken Toilets Cry but didn’t figure out the website in time. Can’t tell what to make of interruptions like the one below. It looked like typical streaming glitching at first until I realized the shots emerging through the glitch aren’t part of the scene I’m in.

And since I have nowhere else to mention these, I also watched and enjoyed a pile of Netflix’s comedy specials from this year… Joe Mande… Amy Schumer’s The Leather Special (all the fat jokes and poop stories get old, but I admit I laughed at ’em)… Sarah Silverman (more poop stories)… Louis CK “2017” (this has now replaced my memory of his Omaha show – I should’ve taken notes after each)… Dave Chappelle’s Spin and Texas specials (some bits set off my political-correctness alarm, but they’re perfectly constructed/paced hours)… Norm MacDonald’s Hitler’s Dog… three we burned for the drive to Atlanta: Trevor Noah (who we also saw in person a few weeks ago), Hari Kondabolu “Mainstream American Comic”, and the great Hasan Minhaj… and probably a couple I’m forgetting.

I’m not convinced there needed to be a Blade Runner sequel, but if commercial concerns demanded one, this was probably as good as it was gonna get. You’ve got action, Harrison Ford, lots of references to the first movie but also new explorations of memory and authenticity, artificial intelligence and humanity.

New replicant-cop-who-is-himself-a-replicant Ryan Gosling, working for Robin Wright (also cool in Wonder Woman this year), kills Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) and finds Rachael’s bones. New boss of the new replicant organization is Jared Leto, who sends his enforcer Luv (Dutch Sylvia Hoeks) to steal information from the weak government. Mackenzie Davis (San Junipero) is a prostitute who follows Gosling and tries to seduce him, but unsuccessfully since his true love is a Her-like hologram named Joi (Ana de Armas of Knock Knock). Gosling dives deep within the conspiracy, finds Harrison Ford and leads him to his lost daughter, false-memory-creator Carla Juri. Also appearing: Barkhad Abdi, the security guard in Good Time. Everyone in this is great, except Leto, who acts like a magician. The music sucked, was all bwaaaamp sounds, and Geostorm was playing next door, so when my seat rumbled I could barely tell if it was my own movie or if a geostorm was hitting.


Blade Runner 2048: Nowhere to Run (Luke Scott)

A series of Blade Runner sequel/prequel shorts, introduced by Villeneuve. In this one, Dave Bautista goes to the city to sell some bottled snakes and give a girl a book, utterly destroys a street gang and accidentally attracts police attention.


Blade Runner 2036: Nexus Dawn (Luke Scott)

Magician Jared Leto faces off against government agent Benedict Wong (Black Mirror: Hated in the Nation) in a dimly-lit, delapidated office, displays the suicidal obediance of his new replicants in order to get the laws changed. Luke “son of Ridley” Scott also made the Prometheus shorts, the Alien: Covenant shorts and an episode of The Hunger TV series, and I’m sensing a pattern.


Blade Runner 2022: Black Out (Shinichiro Watanabe)

Anime short from the director of Cowboy Bebop, the one I was looking forward to, and therefore the most disappointing. Prequel shorts that fill in story gaps between major stories are fully unnecessary, and this one’s got some style (and briefly Edward James Olmos) but not enough to redeem the bad dialogue. Kung-fu replicants whup the asses of a Star Wars-helmeted security team, conspiring to cause the blackout mentioned in the sequel film. Lead girl Luci Christian has voiced a million movies and shows, including the Fullmetal Alchemist series.

Cool impressionist war sequence:

AM/PM (1999, Sarah Morris)

Montage of nicely photographed moments within and above a city (Vegas?), somewhat recalling Broadway By Light with the closeups on signage and unique framings of familiar city objects… “the disorienting world of corporate hotels and casinos which utilise and redefine the spectacle in relation to architecture,” per an official description. Each scene of urban life has its own little MIDI song.


Capital (2000, Sarah Morris)

Opens in a parking lot, then moves to things we don’t associate as much with the word capital – Washington DC pedestrians, police, mail sorting, the newspaper. I assume we see Bill Clinton get out of a helicopter, but the picture quality on my copy is worse than ever so I can’t be positive. Finally an edit from a restaurant called The Prime Rib to a close-up of cash money, that’s the capital I’m talkin’ about. The music changes just as frequently as the other film, but here it’s darker and less dance-beatsy. I preferred Henry Hills’ take, called Money… or I’d gladly rewatch AM/PM with the soundtrack from this one. Sarah has made a bunch more movies since these. Her cinematographer moved on to Leprechaun 6: Back 2 tha Hood and the Teen Wolf TV series.


As The Flames Rose (Joao Rui Guerra da Mata)

A new version of Cocteau’s The Human Voice (a copy of which sits prominently on our protagonist’s nightstand) with excellent photography, theatrical lighting changes and fun greenscreen trickery. The lead (only) actor is João Pedro Rodrigues, Guerra da Mata’s codirector on Last Time I Saw Macao, talking on the phone with a longtime lover soon after their breakup, on the day of a huge (real) 1988 fire in Lisbon that destroyed shops and offices and apartments. Joao watches the news coverage on TV, and sometimes his body or his entire room gets overlaid with flame imagery while he sadly discusses the day’s events and the crumbled relationship with his ex. After hanging up, he puts on a James Blake record (in 1988, ahead of his time).

Mouseover to give Joao a new view from his window:
image


Beauty and the Beat (Yann Le Quellec)

Rosalba puts on the red shoes and starts dancing uncontrollably, and I thought for sure there’d be a connection but no, the premise is that she cannot keep from dancing when she hears music, a condition she tries to hide while working as a Paris tour guide. Her driver has a crush on her, invites her on a date, but is obsessed with Northern Soul records. I guess her secret gets out – anyway there’s lots of music and dancing, and that is fine. He was Serge Bozon, director of La France, and she (clearly) is a professional dancer.


Chemin Faisant (Georges Schwizgebel)

Drawings with great texture, the lines transforming into new scenes while rhythmic music plays. I know that sentence would describe thousands of animated shorts, but it’s all I got. “Through paintings that interact on the principle of Russian dolls, we are drawn along the swirling path of the thoughts of a pilgrim, a solitary walker,” says a description online.


Overseas (Suwichakornpong & Somunjarn)

Some handheld followcam action as a young woman in Thailand goes to work as a squid sorter. After work she gets a ride to the police station to report a rape, to obtain a police report for a legal abortion. The cop, who looks to be about 15, is kind of a dick. Codirector Anocha Suwichakornpong made By The Time It Gets Dark, which I heard good things about last year.