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Dual murder plots, double suicides, and a feel-good story about a grown man who rides a pink child’s bicycle—-rarely does a trip to the movies hit as many different tones as does your typical shorts program. You could strain to find some recurring themes in DC Shorts’ Program 4 (meditations on aging, do-gooder guys fumbling after their respective manic pixie dream girls) but overall this collection is a grab bag. Same could be said of the quality of the films, but isn’t that the beauty of a shorts program: If one of the selections is subpar, you don’t have to wait very long for something totally different.
George’s 40th Birthday: Black comedy, mid-life pathos, and Office Space cliches collide in this short about a sad sack who plots to kill his rival at work.
Gilded Age Gladiator: This punchy animated piece focuses on the career of 19th century bare-knuckle prizefighter John L. Sullivan.
Loading: Spliced-together scenes of old films taunt a young filmmaker as he struggles through that intro-to-film student rite of passage: tearing your hair out trying while to load your first 16mm camera.
The Okra Planter: Lyrical pacing and striking photography make this Brazilian film about a field worker saving up to buy a bicycle one of the program’s highlights.
Purple Heart’s Final Beat: This meditation on Iraq War veterans’ dealings with suicide, divorce and legal mistreatment is effectively brutal but in the end feels a little too much like a Dateline-style dramatic reenactment.
Sunshower: Hapless, Bieber-coiffed co-ed concocts the perfect mise-en-scene for kissing his dream girl in this way-way-way-too-cute short.
The Binding of Ishmael: A selection from Singapore, this simple yet tensely wrought story builds to an emotional wallop of an ending.
The Silver Baron: An aging, wheelchair-bound ex-pilot plots one last joyride in this charming silent short. If you’ve ever dreamed of an alternate history in which the Lumiere Brothers came back from the dead to direct The World’s Fastest Indian, your prayers have been answered.
Wanting Alex: Part rom-com and part celebrity satire, this sharply written story about a guy in love with his idiot roommate’s girlfriend has all the elements of a crowd-pleaser.
Wednesday, Sept 14 at 9 p.m. at E Street Cinema