JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Games People Play (Directors: Ahmed Yassin, Jacob Pander, Arnold Pander, Wesley Tippetts, Dan Clark, Hughes William Thompson, Matt Winn, Michael Urie) - June 23, 2014
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Games People Play

4.5 4.5

Reviewed for the 20th Annual Palm Springs International ShortFest
Are you sure you speak my language?

In 2014, how we communicate often becomes more important than what we communicate. Who amongst us hasn’t sent a scathing e-mail to the wrong party, replied to a text message far too soon, got lost in translation or just plain didn’t understand what was said face-to-face?

With the six productions that comprise Games People Play, the effects of all utterances—digital or vocal—come under a variety of microscopes.

Production photo

Children of God
Ahmed Yassin
2014, 10 min.
Three-and-one-half stars

After the bomb dust settles

Infused with a couple of helpings too many of political correctness (set in Iraq, a young amputee finds himself cheering on the girls in a co-ed soccer match where the stakes are “first world” soccer posters), Yassin’s brief essay still reminds one and all just who are the unwitting victims of grumpy old men’s armed conflicts.

“Damn Saddam” rings with truth and conviction, but many other leaders’ names could just as easily have been inserted to the epithet. JWR


Movie poster

Subtext
Jacob Pander, Arnold Pander
2014, 17 min.
Four stars

Shoot, ready, aim

Sooner or later, it had to happen: a film whose dialogue is almost exclusively seen, not heard. The ever-inventive Pander brothers have teamed up with cinematographer Kevin Pham (artfully leaving “vacant” frame space is crucial), bringing to amusing life a love-triangle-in-progress, employing text messages to drive the action and reaction towards a most indecent proposal.

Via text messages, Scott (Kc Guyer), er, lays the seeds for his current girlfriend to meet up with another female “pal” because she “wants to meet you…”.

Initially shocked, Claire (Cora Benesh) gradually warms to the idea—the near-kiss fantasy cutaways demonstrate a certain willingness to bed down with the mysterious ami de Scott (C.C.Sheffield as Whitney). As her beau is conveniently away on business, the two women opt to say “hello” in a club that is so loud—courtesy of DJ Alex (Julian Bryant) who purportedly is a ricette king—that their more and more personal conversation is punched up on the big screen for the audience to read, but not hear (smileys, thankfully, are at a bare minimum).

Not surprisingly, both women seem to have different expectations and gradually cotton on to their manipulation by the off-screen hedonist wanabe.

Those who have had polyglot dreams will enjoy every frame; those who love a plot twist will smile in the coda as the echo of the film’s only clearly heard word has a mighty fine payoff. JWR


Owned
Wesley Tippets, Dan Clark
2014, 6 min.
Three-and-one-half stars

Know thine enemy

Shorter still, this animated snippet ventures into the realm of on-line video gaming. In this instance, the severely overweight Internet addict is blindly matched with a very young boy and his toddler sister. The outcome is never in doubt even as an unintended act of kindness sets the stage for a weight-loss game of mammoth proportions. JWR


A New Man
Hughes William Thompson
2014, 9 min.
Four-and-one-half stars

I’d rather be someone else

Thompson’s adaptation of a short story by Etgar Keret hits a homerun on the field of deliberately misleading a covey of characters who enter Charles’ (Russell Saylor is superb as the suddenly born-again, model of confidence) universe thanks to an epidemic of mistaken identity. Laughs abound, but lessons are also available for anyone who has chosen to become a recluse after being dumped. JWR


The Brunchers
Matt Winn
2014, 19 min.
Three stars

One course too many

After a promising opening sequence, Winn’s tale of passé trendiness soon slips into the quagmire of predictability and never recovers. The acting is good (Natalie Dormer and Tom Burke fit the couple’s ying-yang persona like a glove) but the notion of social salvation by being seen in hip establishments when on an empty stomach falters as surely as the “no food in the house” line is belied by a very well-stocked fruit bowl in the foreground. Or perhaps that was all plastic, and only for show… JWR


Languages abound

The Hyperglot
Michael Urie
2014, 25 min.
Four-and-one-half stars

The joy of never being tongue tied

Languages of all sorts are at the root of Urie’s wonderfully silly yarn of Jake’s (masterfully delivered by Michael Levi Harris who also wrote the script) quest for a babe/femme/Това́рищ/mara/et cetera, one language at a time.

Using specially coloured subtitles as the dialogue shifts from country to country is a nice touch.

The Maltese meet-up marvellously reinforces this set’s, er, subtext, of communication; the deaf, deafened, hard-of-hearing community can also issue a collective signed cheer (ASL or BSL) that one of their number is most assuredly the love interest of an intelligent man who speaks in dozens of tongues. JWR

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