JWR Articles: Film/DVD - 2013 ShortFest Online Film Festival (Directors: Jaap van Eyck, Anthony Deptula, Sophie Galibert, Tang Tao, Matt Smukler, Chris Capel) - June 22, 2013
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2013 ShortFest Online Film Festival

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Reviewed for the 2013 Palm Springs 2013 ShortFest
Good things do come in small packages

Amstel
Jaap van Eyck
9' 45"
Three and one-half stars

“Sundays aren’t my thing”

After a typical Saturday night of binge drinking, Maarten and his tart du soir stagger through the streets of Amsterdam accompanied by a moody piano. After bursting into romantic song on a bridge, his date’s urgent need for “relief” brings them face to face with a kayak queen. It’s love a first oar—especially since Maarten used to row and they both share the same educational background (Kelvin Korteweg’s fanciful script teeters on the edge of coincidence overdose at this point). Following a frigid baptism, Maarten—now, literally cold sober—opts to join the team of hope and find a different use for his, otherwise, very murky Sundays. If only life were that simple for the recovering career drinkers. JWR


Bad Cars
Anthony Deptula
7' 00"
Three stars

Shifting into date drive

Larry and Georgia both sport challenged vehicles that, at best (Larry) struggle from point A to point B or (Georgia) double as a 4-wheeled salon. But once out of their cars and having their first date, writer/director Deptula can’t re-create the fun and frolic of the opening sequence. Instead, food droppings and a failed search for a girly drink fill the time before the, by now, inevitable collision course this film has to take. Thank goodness for the percussion/auto mix! JWR


Bouddhi Bouddha
Sophie Galibert
8' 04"
Four stars

The longest journey begins after the trip

Maddeningly with a physical spoiler to start the narrative, Galibert weaves a wonderful tale of role reversal. One friend has just returned from exotic Nepal; the other, having taken care of the flat during the absence, is extra keen to sample a decidedly new flavour of tea and learn the art of meditation. Then, as relaxing breaths curiously heat up, the willing student emphatically becomes the prof, leading her well-travelled companion down a road that may have been glimpsed but never taken. The chemistry—particularly the eyes—is compelling. The small fly in this otherwise alluring ointment is the lazy subtitles (“chatting” when real words are spoken). JWR


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Bubble Boy
Tang Tao
2' 21"
Five stars

Perception is everything

Ah, sudden love! This time, it’s Romeo and Juliet, galaxy style. Our hero is a geeky inventor who tries all manner of ways and means of letting the object of his sudden affections know what amorous feeling she has kindled through a telescope. Deftly animated and a marvellously surprising finish, Tao ought to be given the green light for longer forms. JWR


The Mrs.
Matt Smuckler
5' 46"
Four stars

Pancakes and duct tape make odd bedfellows

Based on a premise by Geoffrey Fletcher (where films are more imagined than written) this Mrs. begins purposely predictably (the man of the middle age couple leaves the seat up—an opening shot of revenge!) before shifting into high, fantastic gear as the pancakes pile up and two revolvers (one real, the other metaphoric) come on scene. Think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid meet Martha Stewart unplugged and enjoy the ride, even if the credits are nearly a third of the runtime! JWR


Nap Time!
Chris Capel
3' 40"
Three and one-half stars

Killing them softly

Capel’s black humour floods the screen with wave after wave of permanent solutions to unwanted, tantrum-prone kids. Recommended for late-night viewing, there are too many daytime real-life “fixes” reported in the media that—for some—will certainly blunt the humour. Thanks goodness for the closing disclaimer! The birth of the term “cry hole” is a hoot. JWR


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Shelved
James Cunningham
5' 37"
Two and one-half stars

Too human by half

The premise is fun (industrial robots being given the sack and replaced by humans) but the delivery has a serious flaw: giving the R2-D2 worker bees more or less completely human characteristics (ogling the shop forewoman, phoning in “sick” on a Monday) blurs the lines so much that the satire fails to ignite. But stick around for the credits and take a look at how gaming technology shapes the images and informs the narrative. JWR


Sleddin’
John Pettingill
2' 08"
Five stars

Pick yourself up and start again

Risk takers everywhere will understand just exactly what Pettingill’s young sledder feels when he throws caution to the wind and is soon flying with it. Best of frame is the animated rendering of the eyes: joy, fear, ecstasy and resolve. Who needs any dialogue when these looks speak volumes? The magical waltzer that accompanies the journey (even with its clichéd progressions) only adds to the fun. JWR


Start the Engine and Reverse
Andy Zagidulin
4' 11"
Four and one-half stars

Love is willful blindness

Much of the success of this tale of runaway love is Zagidulin’s decisions (and cinematographer Ilya Kondratiev’s fine realization) to keep the inciting incident “in the black” and allow viewers the sense of “you are there” by framing a vital part of the story through the rear window of the accident—then murder—weapon. With this kind of collaboration and inventiveness in an otherwise routine plot, a further helping with more generous proportions is eagerly awaited. JWR


Sweet Crude Man Camp
Isaac Gale
10' 35 "
Four stars

Go with the flow

The ugly side of oil extraction could only be shot in black and white. That key decision by Gale is at one with the bleak portrait of oil workers in Williston, North Dakota—many of whom live in their trucks or campers in order to “save” the $150 per day charge of cook camps. Truly enslaved to the land, the elephant in the room is fracking. Like their counterparts in Fort McMurray, Alberta, if that dirty practice is outlawed, even these desperate jobs will vanish into the bitter winter winds. Shot du jour: a family of four tries to put a brave face on life in an RV. Mom and Dad are stoically philosophical (“survival of the fittest”), their young son seems oblivious to the stark world around him but the adolescent daughter sports a look of despair that succinctly sum up the lives of those who work in the muck so that the rest of us can have “clean” fuel and drive by the less fortunate. JWR


Whateverest
Kristoffer Borgli
15' 46"
Three and one-half stars

“No bad days”

Curiously like the oil workers in Sweet Crude Man Camp (who relieve their miserable working lives with booze, line dancing and gambling) Marius rationalizes his life challenges (the music career that wasn’t; an ailing dad that is; shifting the family business from baking bread to bodies that has to be) by climbing [Mt.] Whateverest and declaring there are “no bad days.” To aid the twenty-seven-year old’s avoidance of perpetual depression, he concocts a perfectly legal and potent drug, dons a necklace of white lights and wanders the streets dancing to music flowing from his two-driver headphones. Borgli’s camera faithfully follows nearly every move. Largely accompanied by Todd Terje’s electronic score, the project—viewed as a whole—can’t find its lift just as those slaving in North Dakota are miles away from comfort and joy—no matter how they might be induced. JWR

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