City Paper is not for tourists
DC Shorts has announced the winning films on its website, and not one of the films from Showcase 7 made the list. I won’t say I’m surprised: Showcase 7 was a 2-hour marathon of really, really, really bad shorts with a few chunks of cubic zirconia thrown in—this reviewer suspects—to keep the audience from bolting out of the theater midway through the program. One of the films from this showcase, entitled “Offbeat,” managed to swipe a viewer’s choice award, and just off the top of my head I’d say the filmmaker had several hundred friends who owed him favors.
But Showcase 7 (one small part of a larger festival, mind you, which runs through Sept. 18) wasn’t all miserable pacing and bad body language. For your critical pleasure, a film by film breakdown:
Desperately Primping Flora: Flora is preparing for a blind date when her landlord has to shut off the water in her house; chaotic primping ensues. Pros: Not a moment of dead space, no cheesy dialogue, adhered to Aristotle’s three unities. Cons: This premise has been exhausted in films with more money and better actresses to the point that it’s no longer enjoyable to poke fun at how long it takes the average woman to get ready for a date. Revelation: Director Aloura Melissa Charles participated in the post-showcase Q&A. She left me wondering how someone who knows so much about film could have created such a terrible short.
Offbeat: Neurotic and lonely state trooper pulls over speeders and then takes their pictures; claims it’s a new policy when really he frames the pictures and pretends anonymous speeders are his friends. Pulls over a psychologist and gets more than he bargains for. Pros: Beginning of the film shows the cop practicing macho dialogue in his rear-view mirror, sporting a goofy glue-on mustache, and spouting racist/misogynist nonsequiters throughtout, all of which suggest Ferrell-esque absurdism. Cons: No absurdity, instead the cop works with the psychologist to absolve his insecurities—BORING! Terrible pacing for several minutes; the psychologist looks, sounds, and (barely) acts like she’s in a daytime ad for University of Phoenix Online. Is this a comedy? A drama? A Dramedy? Revelation: X number of people voted for this film—all of them should be sterilized.
Rebel Song: Old Scotsman buys Giant Young Scotsman to please Mrs. Old Scotsman. Giant Young Scotsman falls for Mrs. Old Scotsman, who convinces him to kill her strange husband. Giant Young Scotsman ends up in medieval prison camp. Pros: Uncommon yet believable storyline; Mrs. Old Scotsman can both sing and act sans clothes. Cons: Where are the subtitles?; chemistry between Giant Young Scotsman and Mrs. Old Scotsman felt contrived; entire theater was expecting Giant Young Scotsman to accidentally suffocate Mrs. Old Scotsman while petting her—collective sigh of relief when audience realized this isn’t the Scottish adaptation of Of Mice and Men. Revelation: Who makes a period short film?
The Aviatrix: Cancer girl fights cancer through comic book drawings/leather fetish; falls in love with lawn boy. Pros: Juxtaposition between fantasy scenes and reality scenes was spot on, with different color palates, music, and personas. Cons: Reality scenes were terrible; to the audience’s discomfort, reality scenes made up the bulk of the film. Revelation: Films about disease are supposed to inspire us to donate to charity and change our lifestyles, this one made me want to ask for a refund, and I had a press pass.
Viola: The Traveling Rooms of a Little Giant: Experimental film follows Violet through the stages of her life. (Alternative summary: Experimental film follows Violet as she grows boobs, wrecks her marriage, and then becomes a paranoid schizo with an autoeroticism fetish.) Pros: Scene after creepy scene of visceral imagery. Cons:Terrible dialogue; requires several viewings to understand the plot line. Revelation: This film knew how to keep its actors still and silent for incredible effect, and should have done away with the narration.
Attack of the Hot Female Alien Man Eaters: Local film about skanky aliens that visit Earth looking to eat dudes; one of them almost discovers love. Pros: Lots of cleavage; opening and closing narrator; generally stomachable for a 48-hour film. Cons: Everything else. Revelation: 48-hour film competitions with content guidelines are for summer camps, not film festivals.
The Last Yoghurt: Wife and husband fight over last “yoghurt”; hilarity ensues. Pros: Everything that’s good about British sitcoms in 16 minutes. Cons: Director Goor Moshe Americanized the chase-around-the-kitchen-table scene, altogether destroying his credibility and his future as a film-maker. Revelation: The Brits do television so much better than America that it almost makes up for the fact that they do everything else worse.
Seen But Not Heard: Dramatic PSA/Documentary on the prevalance of HIV/AIDS among black women. Pros: May have shocked the yuppies and hipsters in attendance into caring about HIV/AIDS. Cons: May have further convinced yuppies and hipsters to never visit any address that ends in “SE.” Revelation: Testimonials from the infected reveal there are people in this country who still don’t know that condoms can prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Lil’ Italy: CGI Cartoon of three kiddie mobsters who practice interrogating monkey, only to be commended by their family. Pros: Southpark meets Scarface meets Sesame Street. Cons: Uninspiring graphics. Revelation: People love it when kids say “shit.”
Boyfriend Latte: Woman, tired of bad bfs, dates hot cup of coffee. Pros: A funny, well-paced, well-casted, and—most importantly—new spin on the old “I’m in love with an inanimate object” theme. Cons: Female lead Shannon Beckner looks like an attractive, well-spoken and elegant…extra. Role should have gone to her sidekick, Nikkie Payne. Revelation: Director Mark Sanders doesn’t give a shit about art. He’s going places, just you watch.
Stolen Youth: In the midst of vandalizing someone’s home, truant kid discovers and attempts to help a woman who’s locked in a basement. Pros: Good pacing, good cut scenes, great acting, excellent score, great camera work. Cons: Two-second conclusion suggests someone didn’t think this through. Revelation: This movie had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, but the ending left me wishing I had some idea I knew what the fuck it was about.
In conclusion: The best of the showcase came from outside the area. The very best films were backed by colleges, film orgs, and lots of money. The irony in all of this is that short films don’t require all that. Just check out collegehumor.com, funnyordie.com, or YouTube.