JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Make 'Em Laugh (Directors: Eric Kissack, Alan Miller, Trilby Glover, Justin Dec, Jason Wingard, Aimée-Lee X. Curran) - July 2, 2014
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Make 'Em Laugh

4.5 4.5

Reviewed for the 20th Annual Palm Springs International ShortFest
Opening night laughs and a last-minute link

The old movie classic, Always Leave Them Laughing, was turned on its head as the 20th Annual Palm Springs International ShortFest kicked off with a covey of productions dedicated to tickling the funny bone.

Viewed in the challenging confines of the industry screening room (demand outstripping supply; crashing Apples and reluctant DVD folders), the following sample (5 out of 11 before the lights were switched off…) must have brought a lot of “mirthiment” and joy into the hearts of the first-night crowd.

By complete happenstance—and while on publicity postcard recycling patrol—one of the filmmakers for The Palace That I Live In slipped me a link to her film—those wonderful results follow the belly laughs, below.

Deadly drama in the saloon

The Gunfighter
Eric Kissack
2014, 9 min.
Five stars

The danger of thoughts being heard aloud

The old expression “if you could read my mind” takes on a new and hilarious meaning in Kissack’s satire of life in the Old West. Starting with the arrival of a stranger packing iron (Shawn Parsons is ideally cast as the gradually conflicted gunfighter) in a dusty saloon, the narrator (superb texture and tone from Nick Offerman) quickly slips his usual noose of dryly revealing back-story and begins revealing damning secrets about everyone from the town whore (Eileen O’Connell) to all of her johns and even a “Jane” or two who dare not speak her name.

Of course the notion of a “ballet of death” artfully has its payoff, leaving everyone seeing red and the audience praying that no all-seeing narrator will lay bare their foibles, transgressions and predilections for all to see. But relax, in these days of social media mania, how could that ever happen? JWR


Chance meeting on the way down

In Passing
Alan Miller
2013, 5 min.
Four-and-one-half stars

Death doth become us

Two simultaneous, unrelated high-rise (same building) suicides in beautiful Vancouver provide a perfect metaphor for those who have made a momentous decision, likely in the heat of the moment, only to regret it, er, on the way down.

Miller’s film (and Damian Horan’s camera) is poetry in motion with a finish that doesn’t whitewash one iota. JWR


Awkward Expressions of Love
Trilby Glover
2014, 11 min.
Four stars

What I really wanted to say

Glover serves up a fluffy confection that will ring a bell (or ringtone) for anyone who has stumbled their way through a personal conversation either (a) saying nothing at all or (b) avoiding the BIG issue.

In this scenario, gift-shop owner (Jayma Mays is delightfully ditzy) has the hots for a personal trainer (a droll performance from Ian Brennan) but, ah, blew their first intimate moment by balking at the size of his full-service barbell. Despite assists from longsuffering girlfriend (Trilby effectively works both sides of the lens), the bad poetry gets written anyway.

A smart ending effectively tidies up all the bits: big or small. JWR


Jennifer Lawrence Is Coming
Justin Dec
2013, 4 min.
Three stars

Failed celebrity time after time after…

The allure of the beautiful people is at the centre of Dec’s bit of fluff concerning two roommates (Taylor Anthony Miller, Denver Milord) desperately in search of Jennifer Lawrence’s company. With a Mozart horn concerto setting the tone, the pair flirt with lavender as they offer one another opinions from décor to food while awaiting the imminent arrival of Ms. “I’m free for dinner” on several occasions. Giving the boot to a hot date (Clancy McLain is artfully exasperated)—while serenading her with guitar no less—in favour of a last-second appearance of the Oscar-winning actor further fuels the sexuality ambiguity.

Somewhat akin to Subtext (cross-reference below), the cellphone plays a key part in the on-again/off-again date with celebrity. As with his comic operas, Mozart gets the last laugh. JWR


Going to Mecca
Jason Wingard
2014, 19 min.
Four stars

Who’s your daddy?

A literal leap of faith sets the wheels in motion as two teenage half-brothers (Jack Carroll is a hoot as younger  while Aqib Khan is the dutiful straight man as older) go on a trek to scatter their current father’s ashes then hunt down older’s birth dad.

Wingard keeps everything moving at a brisk clip with only an overlong visit to a fortune teller (Tom Binns) stalling the action.

The inevitable confrontation scene is expertly played by all parties (surprised, outraged or haughty family members as the case may be; a deceitful fornicator being outfoxed by a mere boy) brings down the curtain on a tale that must have thousands of real-life counterparts—just not as funny. JWR


The Palace that I Live In
Aimée-Lee X. Curran
2014, 13 min.
Five stars

A feast for the senses

From the very first frame, Curran’s celebration of young love and imagination is a spectacular feast for the eyes. Young Poppy’s (Lale Teoman is a hallmark of innocence) radiant smile while her mother, May (Diana Jeffrey is a most convincing eccentric) plays the piano (a very tasteful score from Tim McArtney along with a pair of songs, “Indigo Shine” and “The Bounty” which add aural truth to the line “Shine your light…”) is a joy to behold.

The man of their meticulously decorated house (replete with a silver tuba, clotheslined handkerchiefs—as different as tiffany lamps—and a pack of dogs) comes in the well-mannered, camera-pleasing form of Jack (Hunter Page-Lochard ought to have a major career ahead of him).

The closing tea party is chock-a-block full of such vivid imagination that viewers will be left wondering where their tea cups and speciality cakes are hidden in their lives. JWR

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