Three cheers to the programmers at this year’s edition of the Palm Springs International ShortFest for designing a kick-off lineup whose storytelling techniques and subject matter were as varied as they were interesting.
Edmund the Magnificent
An animal fairy tale of the highest order
Set to versemost ably rendered by Ian McKellen, who positively nailed the expected rhyme that purposely didn’t!—director-writer Ockrent’s fanciful narrative of a lavender pig is a breath of fresh, inventive air from first frame to last.
As the beleaguered farmer, David Bradley has just the right grizzled look and mannerisms to convincingly bring long-lost loves and new ones into focus.
But the real star is the er, ballsy, pig that suffers all things with maturity and dignity few other boars amongst ever could. JWR
In a Nutshell
Finding refuge in a short
These six animated minutes are a veritable feast for the eye (the talented elves from UK Animation Studio), ear (music courtesy of Pablo Nouvelle and Jingle Jungle) and imagination (Friedli’s superb vision and understatement speaking louder than words. JWR
Punch drunk love
Never underestimate the power of love—even at a very tender agei—is the main theme of Garlo’s fantastical (sadly almost entirely believable) tale of a middle-aged man suddenly being blackmailed by a very young boy who has more testosterone-fuelled hutzpah than shame.
As happens more and more often in our digital age, the cellphone becomes a silent character that advances dialogue and its apps feature prominently in the narrative.
Seems that nobody is safe from the ubiquitousness of selfies even while patiently waiting for the love of a soon to be forever disrupted life. JWR
Christophe M. Saber
Turning the tables one bullet at a time
Beginning with the promise for much hilarity, Saber’s brief account of two assassins in search of Marx Brothers antics and one-liners, gradually slips into a morass of overdone silliness (the pantyhose facemask would have been quite enough in that department) rather than biting, sharp humour. Still, the “knock, knock” joke is worth the price of admission. JWR
The Record: World’s Largest Family
And baby makes 70
Trying to finally find meaning in her life, Pim (Veronica Milsom is finely nuanced in her various points of view) is desperately trying to deliver her 70th child (and break the world record held by Russians!) if only hubby (Steen Raskopoulus in a fine deadpan, comedic tone—also co-wrote the script with Milsom) will fulfill his part of the conception bargain one more time.
It’s magical comedy (as is the complementary score) that is replete with bold jokes—Wanking Wednesday: a do-it-ourselves harvest for the well-in-hand sperm bank—and brood of—all male—children who make The Brady Bunch seem small potatoes indeed.
Director Stewart binds everything together with consummate style and wit, assuring her another project—we can all hope—much sooner than later. JWR
In search of the “wow”
When life seems intolerably boring and your loved ones more distant than aware of your existence, what’s a mother to do?
Well, in the case of Rohini (superbly brought to life by Kumud Merani) and devoted sidekick Asha (Sandra Aranha literally blossoms into the role), it’s time to suck it up and enter a national home-cooking show and bring back some sparkle, fun and self-worth into their lives.
Jayadev has found the golden touch of humanity in her cast and succinctly captured that with her more-than-able production crew. There’s enough warmth engendered to warrant a feature that will allow her to dig down even deeper into just how life is survived. That next film should be awaited eagerly. JWR
Gift of a lifetime
Brother and sister Dick and Jane can’t really decide what to give their dad for his 86th birthday. Obviously, there’s not a lot of love and affection for the old guy but they know something has to be done.
Fortunately, some heat in the kitchen (lovely metaphor) inspired the idea of buying a woman of the night and then asking her to blow more than the candles out.
The humour is driven, being far more consistent than Punchline (above)—especially as the outwardly square siblings (who wears a kerchief from the ‘60s anymore?: lovely touch) negotiate with the hooker (Ruby Modine who does up the wide-ranging role with style, sass and a fine singing voice over the credits: “George Meyer’s “Love Me Like I Like to Be Loved”).
The payoff scene shows that Ed Asner still has it (timing and tone are everything) and can’t help but bring a smile to even the sorriest souls amongst us. JWR
Smashing a ball in the park
In New York City’s Bryant Park over the past few years, the notorious drug dealers and their hit-desiring clientele have been replaced by a troupe of fun-loving, paddle-toting ping pong players.
Bunning’s portrait of this diverse crowd (ranging from former addict and frequently homeless Gregory Williams to U.S. pro Wally Green—who also donated the tables—to shirtless Tony and wiser-than-his-years Gideon) provides more than a modicum of hope that people in challenging circumstances can find common cause at “play” and conclusively demonstrate that, in fact, we can get along.
Karen Kourtessis’ miraculous editing, coupled with the varied, jazz-happy score (original music from Christopher Keyes) combine to make the production seem as effortless as any masterwork should.
Here’s hoping Bunning’s work may light many more flames under the disenfranchised and philanthropists alike and that many more arms of all races, genders and backgrounds will be lifted with the love of a game rather than prepped from a momentary escape from reality. JWR