In the first part of the Review of the Preview, I described what happened at the event. In this part, I’m reviewing the three shorts and 28 trailers shown during the Preview Party. A complete list of the films showing during the Florida Film Festival is available on the Festival’s website.
I almost never see shorts. Where would I see shorts, if I wanted to see them? Rarely, I go to a movie that plays a short before the film. The only examples I remember are animated Disney movies, most recently Frozen. As a result, I’m kind of indifferent to shorts. I don’t have specific expectations for them. All three of the shorts shown at the Preview Party were excellent. I loved each one for different reasons.
Grand Central Diary
directed by Andy and Carolyn London
USA, 2013, 5 minutes
This is a stop-action film consisting of interviews of inanimate objects inside Grand Central Station. The clock above the information booth, a letter box, a bench, trash cans, water fountains, a traffic truncheon outside the station, and a worker’s powered cart provide glimpses into a day in the life of Grand Central Station. The objects are animated, but not drawn characters. Usually when I think of animation, it is a cartoon that is generated by hand or, in modern times, by computer. This is film of actual objects in Grand Central, but these objects have been animated so parts of them become eyes and mouths. They blink and their mouths move as they talk. In the background, you see people moving throughout the station.
Grand Central Diary is an ode to place. I have only been in Grand Central Station once or twice in my entire life, so have no personal connection to that particular place. However, I do have public spaces that are important places to me, that feel like part of the fabric of who I am. Grand Central Diary perfectly played those emotional notes, and therefore I found it endearing.
This film was commissioned by the MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design, on the occasion of Grand Central Terminal’s 100th Anniversary. The entire film is available on YouTube, so you can watch it yourself!
directed by Bernardo Britto
USA, 2013, 5 minutes
East Coast Premiere
This is an animated film. The powers that be have pissed off aliens who have launched a missle at the Earth. The missle will entirely destroy the Earth, but it will take 17 years for the missle to get here. Our hero is hired to compile a database of the history of the Earth. He types and types and types for 13 years and the database is full. He then has to edit, making room for more people, but severely truncating the information available on each person. In the end, on the last day, will he get take his guaranteed spot on the Shuttle that takes people off the planet? Or will he stay with his wife and be destroyed along with everyone else?
This short left me with tears in my eyes. It asks the questions at the root of all human existence. Our time is limited. All of us know this, but the end seems so far into the future that we don’t think about it and we go about our day to day lives as if our time is unlimited. What is important to remember? What is important for us to do? In the end, what do we value?
This short was screened at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Short Film Jury Prize for Animation. It is also an accepted film for the 2014 SXSW Film Festival. SXSW uploaded a trailer to Youtube.
B-Class Cultural Heritage
directed by Yuji Hariu
Japan, 2013, 8 minutes
In Japanese with English subtitles
East Coast Premiere
A skateboarder steps on a manhole cover. His phone rings. A recorded voice tells him the manhole cover is protected by the B-Class Cultural Heritage Association, then announces, “We will viciously attack you for the next 3 minutes. If you survive, we would like to offer you a prize.” The manhole cover rises a few inches above ground. A gun barrel flips out from it and aims at our hero. He gets on his skateboard and takes off. As he maneuvers through the urban landscape, everyday objects suddenly turn into weapons. In addition to every manhole cover he crosses, telephone poles, signs, railroad crossing bars, and other similar objects shoot at him. Will he survive? What prize will he win? What are the ramifications for the other people he skates past?
This short combined all of my favorite media features into one film: sci-fi, action, and comedy. My favorite shows (e.g., Firefly, Stargate, and Castle) all combine at least two of these elements. What is the B-Class Cultural Heritage Association? No idea. It is never identified. Each everyday object that turns into a weapon is labeled as belonging to the Association. Modern life is clearly full of unknown danger!
I was not able to find even a trailer of this film on the web. It will play during the Florida Film Festival as part of the International Shorts.
The trailers started immediately after the shorts. I’m only going to type a line or two with my initial impressions of each film. I’ll be writing longer posts as I decide what to attend and, of course, a review after I attend.
The Trip to Italy
This is the opening night film. Apparently this film is a sequel to a film called The Trip. The trailer features two guys sitting in an otherwise empty restaurant, eating dinner and BSing about Batman. I wasn’t impressed. The blurb on the Florida Film Festival’s website makes it sound interesting, though.
Do I want to attend?: Yes, but I won’t be able to as I am flying home that evening and don’t arrive until after the film starts.
Jude Law plays the title character, a brash and luckless career criminal who may or may not be trying to go straight in order to connect with his daughter. The daughter was young when he went to prison for 12 years, and they have no relationship now. Based on the costumes, the film is set in 1970-something.
Do I want to attend?: Yes, looks like fun!
Based on a Dostoevsky novella, our hero is a worker drone of no distinction. He’s worked in this place 7 years, but someone asks him if he’s new. One day, a new employee arrives at the workplace. The new employee looks exactly like our hero! But no one else seems to see the similarity. The New Guy is a lot more fun, and gets the girls and attention our hero never got. He’s taking over our hero’s life!
Do I want to attend?: Absolutely. Can’t miss the sci-fi based on a classic!
For No Good Reason
A biography of cartoonist Ralph Steadman. I’ve never heard of him, but I tend to like stories about artists, especially exploring the creative process. Johnny Depp is our guide through the story, but I’m not a huge fan of his so that by itself is not a recommendation for me.
Do I want to attend?: Maybe. If it fits into my schedule. We’ll see.
Nicholas Cage stars in the title role. One day a young teenage boy shows up at Joe’s company looking for a job. Joe hires him and the kid’s obviously alcoholic father. Joe becomes a father figure for the boy, and tries to protect the kid from the ravages of his homelife. It’s obvious Joe’s no saint himself. This looks like a gritty, dark movie, not the kind of happy-go-lucky movie my description might suggest.
Do I want to attend?: Yes! You had me at Nicholas Cage.
I think this is a movie about a woman tripping on drugs. The trailer is certainly trippy. There’s rain in a classroom, but she’s not getting wet. She’s floating or flying or something. I’m not really sure what’s going on.
Do I want to attend?: I don’t know. The trailer left me confused.
This is an animated feature by director Bill Plympton. During the rambly intro section, our MC told us this was Plympton’s first feature-length animation in 5 years. Plympton has a connection to the Enzian, having painted murals inside the Eden Bar. As the title suggests, the film explores infidelity.
Do I want to attend?: Um, maybe? I didn’t find the trailer particularly interesting, but the other facts made me a little interested.
In French, with English subtitles. Gabrielle is a 20-something living in a residential care facility. She has some sort of developmental disability that precludes independent living. Or maybe it doesn’t. It depends on which of her family members you believe. Gabrielle falls in love with one of the male residents at her facility. This leads to upheaval in both their families, as everyone tries to come to grips with the relationship.
Do I want to attend?: Yes. Looks like a really well done film.
In English and Danish with English subtitles. Our hero goes to Copenhagen to track down a relative. He meets a woman. She loses the paper with the address of his relative. Seems like she decides to help him find the relative because she lost the paper. They may be falling in love. There’s also a brawl with some guys.
Do I want to attend?: Probably. I’m a little confused by parts of the trailer, but overall seems interesting.
Crimes Against Humainty
Our alleged hero is a pompous ass. Lots of people get beat up, but particularly women. The Pompous Hero’s girlfriend is hospitalized after getting beat up. Another guy show up in the hospital to visit her. Who is he? No idea.
Do I want to attend?: Probably not.
Two guys go around living in random strangers houses. The trailer is a rumination on picking the right house and what to do if you get caught.
Do I want to attend?: Yes. Partially creepy and partially hilarious. Sounds fun!
The trailer consisted mostly of running dogs. Or maybe wolves.
Do I want to attend?: I have no clue. The trailer told me nothing.
A guy who writes graphic novels appears to be having a mid-life crisis. The film looks like it is mostly live-action, but sometimes animation when our hero draws scenes.
Do I want to attend?: Yes.
Strangers decide to get married. They are having a great time, but everyone around them appears to be pretty uptight about the situation, especially his sister.
Do I want to attend?: Yes. Looks like a great romantic comedy.
Last I Heard
This is the Paul Sorvino movie I mentioned in Part 1. As a gangster just released from prison after 20 years, Sorvino’s character appears to be having a hard time. I loved the bit in the trailer about gravy versus sauce. “I call you guys yuppie Italians!”
Do I want to attend?: Of course!
The trailer was four kids walking through a field. No dialogue, no nothing. Just walking.
Do I want to attend?: Who knows? I have no idea what is going on here.
Winter in The Blood
This looks like a Native American coming of age tale. Chaske Spencer (Sam Uley in The Twilight Saga) stars.
Do I want to attend?: Yup.
A documentary exploring the various expressions of Christianity in the United States.
Do I want to attend?: Yes.
Before You Know It
A documentary delving into the lives of gay men over the age of 60. The title refers to the common feeling of getting old Before You Know It. The film appears to explore issues of aging, issues in the life of gay men, and the combination of age + gay.
Do I want to attend?: Maybe. In the last couple years, my husband and I have lost 14 family members. All but one was a senior. All our relatives who passed away were straight, but the generally-applicable issues of aging discussed in this film might be too much for me to bear.
The Front Man
A documentary of a rock band. Not anyone I recognized. This was filmed over a 27-year period and explores the decisions the band’s front man makes along the way. What do you give up to chase dreams? Or do you give up the dream?
Do I want to attend?: Yes.
The Kill Team
A documentary of soldiers who return from serving in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan and are immediately arrested for premeditated murder. The trailer included interviews with the soldiers and with some of the soldiers’ parents.
Do I want to attend?: Yes. Fascinating — where is the line for soldiers in a war zone?
A documentary of an artist moving a 340-ton rock. It looks like the rock might travel all over the world. Best line in the trailer: “You don’t transform artistic practices by being sane.”
Do I want to attend?: Yes. This is so bizarre-sounding that I must witness it!
A documentary about modern Russian mail-order brides, and American men traveling to the Ukraine to try to marry one of them.
Do I want to attend?: Meh. The trailer made it look like a fairly predictable story.
A documentary about illegal electric grids in poverty-ridden sections of urban India. The images of the illegal wires running every which way were totally crazy!
Do I want to attend?: Yes. The title and the insane living conditions are an immediate draw. I’m all about the social justice documentaries.
A documentary about an engineer who invented a home-dialysis device that he then adapted to provide clean water.
Do I want to attend?: Yes. It’s a social justice documentary. And it’s about water.
Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution
A documentary about the Syrian Revolution. It is scheduled to be shown before a feature-length film, so it must be a short.
Do I want to attend?: I have to check on the movie it precedes. I wouldn’t go to see the short if I don’t want to see the feature!
The Silly Bastard Next to the Bed
In 1960-something, the Army spent a whole pile of money building a maternity suite for Jackie Kennedy. Then someone let the Washington Post into the suite to take pictures. President Kennedy’s call blasting the Army was recorded by the White House. In it, the President called the man in the Post’s photograph “The Silly Bastard Next to the Bed.” The last moment of the trailer was an 80-year-old man looking at the camera and saying, “I’m the silly bastard.”
Do I want to attend?: Looks hilarious. It is a short, so I have to check to see if I want to see the movie it precedes.
What I Hate About Myself
A documentary about a Chinese game show in which the young, female winner gets cosmetic surgery to make her face look more Western.
Do I want to attend?: Probably. It is showing as part of a set of 3 longer shorts (this one is 28 minutes), so I have to check to see if I’m interested in the other two.