JWR Articles: Film/DVD - PSIFF 2019 Short Fest - 5 Random Shorts (Directors: Lizzy Hogenson, Jay K. Raja, Hongyu Li, Claire Edmondson, David Scala) - June 20, 2019
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PSIFF 2019 Short Fest - 5 Random Shorts

4.5 4.5

Reviewed at the 2019 edition of the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival.
5 Random choices (with a gentle nudge from a few publicists)

Dani
USA, 8:30 min.
Lizzy Hogenson
Four and one half stars

The medium softens the message

Puppeteer/filmmaker Hogenson has done a masterful job working through such difficult subject matter (Stage 4 breast cancer in a young woman who ought to live far longer) by using a, literally, animated mother-daughter cellphone chat to deal with difficult truths when the expected results from chemotherapy are not really having the desired effect. With a playful cat on Dani’s end of the chat, an extra sense of humanity is artfully woven into the very dark fabric. True, no one’s in denial, but the ugly truth of this cancer being “faster than the medicine” is an undeniable fact in thousands of households everywhere. JWR


The Bumbry Encounter
U.S.A., 15 min.
Jay K. Raja
Three and one half stars

Fighting the alien within

The realm of interracial relationships and paranormal activity come to an interesting collision in Raja’s cautionary tale of a newly married couple literally losing their way as they travel to what is sure to be an uncomfortable familial get-together. Bright, unexplained lights in the sky give way to panic, memory loss and police custody. The dialogue—particularly the “chat” between family councilor Dr. Bancroft and black-eyed bride Jacqui is the one false note (too many “what do you mean?” spoiling the interrogation broth. Still, anyone who has the fortitude to swim against the social stream will come away nodding in ugly belief as to the outcome. JWR


Hank
U.S.A., 17 min.
Hongyu Li
Three and one half stars

The shut case of being open

Married for many years and living in L.A., Hank (Jason Stuart delivers a heroic performance) and Tommy (well played by Jay Disney) have embarked on an open relationship (Tommy invites hunky Gio to “listen to music…” in the couple’s home) without ever really discussing the consequences. The value/danger of self-help groups also comes into play (leading to a sucker date), and a few beers too many result in a country bar line dance that ends with a punched nose and a bruised ego. Couples of all persuasions be warned: protect what you have rather than seek fleeting spice—no matter how, temporarily, tasty.

Kudos to composer Zhuo Yao: the opening cello piano lines are especially appropriate and welcome. JWR


Exit
U.S.A., 15 min.
Claire Edmondson
Four and one half stars

Dignity to the last breath

Sooner or later, everyone have to leave the planet. Going on your own terms (rather than sudden calamity or debilitating illness) becomes a mighty, love-filled goal in Edmondson’s film. Maria Bello is superb as Kim, knowing exactly how she wants to take her last gasp at the mystery of life. Surely there’s a trampoline on the other side. JWR


Engaged
U.S.A., 17 min.
David Scala
Three and one half star

The fine art of bending down on one knee

Darren (engagingly done up by Daniel Isaac) is determined to find the perfect way of asking his live-in boyfriend, Elliot (look forward to more from Ryan Jamaal Swain—the camera loves him already) to tie the queer knot. Scala does his best to make this a comedy (the opening restaurant sequence where proposal interruptus is rampant being the best of the scenes) but from there, the tone can’t seem to find its way to the payoff deli. Perhaps things would work our differently if same-sex couples could find different terminology for marriage (and the courts would agree to provide the same rights) so that inevitable comparisons/uncertainties with the heterosexual world would demolish any inner anxieties about who we really are. JWR

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