Showcase Review: Short Films Recap Part 1

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be recapping the films we’ve screened since our hiatus back in April.  Here’s a look back at some excellent short films we’ve screened in recent months.  Stay tuned for Part 2!

WHAT’S LEFT

Directed by James Rees

A gritty, uncompromising look into the world of incarceration and just how negative life can become no matter how remorseful one might be for his or her crimes. The film is anchored by a female character who defies convention as a junkie released from prison after serving a murder sentence. Her hope in life comes in the form of a pen pal correspondent who she meets in person upon her release. They shack up in a remote cabin, and the story descends from there. The rawness of the performances really stands out here as the brutal truth about the situation reveals itself, but what steals the show is the cinematography. It starts bright and sunny with very open wide shots to symbolize newfound freedom, but as at the story goes along, the hopeful brightness turns into piercing glare, and the wide shots turn into invasive handheld close-ups to enhance the darkness being depicted.

PASQUALE’S MAGIC VEAL

Directed by DJ Higgins

Some big names star in this film about a young couple discussing marriage with their priest at a restaurant. It’s a simple and contained story, which places the dialogue front and center. Fortunately, the dialogue is both witty and true to the East Coast culture it’s depicting. The male character in the story has a very interesting emotional arc that leaves the audience wondering what his true intentions are up until the very end. There’s also an element of fantasy to the film in the form of a magic dinner entree that acts as a truth serum of sorts. Using something fantastical in an otherwise emotionally harrowing and realistic story is perfect for the short film format, and it’s executed powerfully in a way we won’t spoil here. The film is a very effective meditation on passion and loyalty.

BIRDS DROPPING

Written and Directed by Mary Rachel Gardner and Coral Huerta

A hilarious little short film about two women headed to a wedding when their car suddenly breaks down in the middle of the desert. Much in the same vein as a show like Seinfeld, the two characters are so petty that their actions ultimately worsen their own situation. Their large number idiosyncrasies are on full display and it’s entertaining to watch their increasingly dire situation peel the layers of their damaged psyches. The imagery here is interesting, with a washed-out overall color palette but bright costumes to emphasize the fact that they’re stranded. The environmental elements, the use of birds and their…business in particular, not only operate as funny gags, but also serve to reveal more about the character’s insecurities as it goes along. There are some creative edits as well. We’re excited to see kinds of films these guys will be making in the future, especially if they ever make a feature film.

LIFE IS HORRIBLE

Directed by Rachel Zhou

This is a collection of short vignettes all revolving around ordinary people finding themselves in extraordinary situations. That wouldn’t do the story justice though, as there is a melting pot of different genres thrown into this thing. Some of the stories are supernatural, some are funny, some are scary, some are weirder than others, all are interesting. The stories are linked together only slightly thematically, but what really links them together is the extravagant visual style. The cinematography and production design of each little vignette is bright, colorful, and busy, emphasizing the visceral experience. It’s amazing how so many disparate elements can combine to form such a cohesive whole, especially in a 20-minute film. Impressive.