The first screening I attended at this years Sundance film festival was Shorts Program 1, where I was privy to witness a grab bag of both excellent and sub-par short films. Short film programs are always a tricky beast, because when they are good they are great but when they’re not, they usually are painful to watch. Luckily, the good ones are what will stick with me after the fest and they showcased the talent of future filmmakers that audiences will definitely want to keep an eye out for. So without further ado here is a breakdown of what we saw, followed by our video reaction:
The Strange Ones (dir: Lauren Wolkstein and Christopher Radcliff) This was the first film to play and was definitely a grade above the rest. Reminiscent of the restrained ambiguous style displayed by one of the most buzzed features at the fest, Sean Durkin‘s Martha Marcy May Marlene, the short centers on the relationship of an young boy and a stranger who could be his brother or could be a kidnapper/molester. Gorgeous cinematography, amazing performances from the actors and masterful direction from the director duo made this the short that haunted me the most, while also impressing me the most.
Worst Enemy (dir: Lake Bell) This short, written and directed by actress Lake Bell, is an inside look into the neurosis of a woman who has trouble leaving the house due to paranoid fears about her appearance. The short aims for off kilter laughs, akin to a female version of Wes Anderson, but by the end becomes more irritating than entertaining. While the script shows that Bell has a handle for writing a deranged woman, she still may need to hone in her craft of keeping audiences invested.
Deeper than Yesterday (dir: Ariel Kleiman) This short takes place inside of a Russian submarine compromised of a band of tough guys, each one trying to outdo the other. As our editor-in-chief Jordan Raup put it, it’s like Das Boot on crack. As the scenes of crew interacting begin to escalate, a new bizarre and disturbing element is introduced in the form of a floating dead female body. Director Kleiman displays a remarkable sense of space and control in this claustrophobic tale down under.
The Terrys (dir: Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim) Complete and utter disregard for humanity is the only words coming to mind after viewing this perversely funny short. In a trailer park, we follow a man and a man dressed up as a whore of a woman, on their life’s journey. Featuring crackpipes, dry humping, saliva exchange, full vaginal birth, and abuse of every kind, this short from Tim & Eric is certainly not for everyone, but if twisted humor is your thing, this is heaven. – Jordan R.
The External World (dir: David O’Reilly) A frenetic mish-mash of hyper-real society, this short was too berserk to be my cup of tea. The animation follows different characters and facets of a interconnected web society. While attempting to contempt on a million things, it never has enough focus to be compelling. What could have been a watchable art installation, turns into a tedious film. – Jordan R.
Fight For Your Right Revisted (dir: Adam Yauch) Easily the most hyped yet the most disappointing short of the entire program was the celebrity cameo infused Beastie Boys music video spoof. Though seemingly great in concept, having Seth Rogen, Elijah Wood and Danny McBride play the roles of the rap group after the wrap of their notoriously awesome music video Fight For Your Right, the short couldn’t be any more pointless and boring. Add into the mix a ridiculous amount of unnecessary guest appearances by famous people, along with excessive slo-mo fish-eye shots and you have the most vapid and useless short of the bunch. What probably happened in the making of this was Adam Yauch getting stoned and then inviting all his celebrity friends to join the party. Too bad he left the audience out of the fun.
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