Film Review: Coda (2013)

Release Date: July 13th, 2013 (Galway Film Fleadh)
Directed by: Alan Holly
Written by: Rory Byrne, Alan Holly
Music by: Shane Holly
Cast: Joseph Dermody, Orla Fitzgerald, Brian Gleeson, Donie Ryan

Film Group of Unions, Frameworks, Irish Film Board, 9 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been watching a lot of short films lately but this is one that really stuck out. I remember seeing the press for it when it was making the rounds and I wanted to see it but like many things in life, it was brushed away by time and I forgot about it until coming across it while screening a bunch of shorts. I’m glad that I finally got to see this.

Coda is a short animated film that features Death. However, it is sweet and comforting even in its sadness.

The films starts with a drunk walking out of a bar and getting hit by a car. His spirit rises up and wanders the streets, not realizing that Death is in pursuit. He follows a fox into a park where he rests on a bench when Death appears and sits next to him. Begging for more time, Death takes the man on a journey through his memories.

The animation style is very minimalist but it is majestic and alluring. The music and even the voices of the characters enhance the feeling of peacefulness throughout the short film.

This is a pretty hard piece of cinematic art to review, in all honesty, but it is incredibly effective and builds towards a true sense of ease and acceptance, as it moves on from scene to scene.

It is definitely worth a watch and being that it is only nine minutes, even if you don’t enjoy it, isn’t a huge waste of time. But I would find it hard to not walk away from the experience without being effected.

Film Review: Kitty (2016)

Release Date: May 20th, 2016 (Cannes)
Directed by: Chloe Sevigny
Written by: Chloe Sevigny
Based on: a short story by Paul Bowles
Music by: Brian DeGraw
Cast: Edie Yvonne, Ione Skye, Lee Meriwether

First Generation Films, 15 Minutes

Review:

Kitty is the directorial debut of the great actress Chloe Sevigny. It also truly feels like an extension of her soul and hits all the right notes. Frankly, this is a really exceptional short film that was endearing, enchanting and pretty damn emotional.

The film stars Edie Yvonne, who has more acting chops at her young age than the majority of adult actors that rake in the big bucks for mediocre blockbusters, year after year. I can’t recall a time where I was as impressed with a young actor, as I was with Yvonne in this short.

The next paragraph may spoil the story but not the magic. Skip over it though, if you don’t want to know anything going into this fifteen minute short.

Edie Yvonne plays a young girl who feels neglected by her mother (Skye). As the story progresses, she sprouts whiskers but her mother just brushes it aside. Then she sprouts pointy ears, claws and eventually turns into an actual kitty. Arriving home, she can’t get into her house but she sees her parents crying as they are talking to the police. The kitty is then cared for by the neighbor (Meriwether), who invites her in and gives her a saucer of milk. Later on, the kitty returns home again to see her father alone and it is assumed that the mother has left. She later finds her mother on a swing set and gets her attention. The sad and broken mother picks her up and takes her home.

Sevigny’s visual style is magnificent and impressive. She took this fantastical story, put it in a normal setting but made it look fantastical in her visual approach. It is a beautiful piece of work to look at and her two decades of starring in some of the great independent films of her day have taught her a lot, as far as how to work behind the camera.

Kitty is sweet and sad but it still carries hope with it along the way. There is a lot happening in the film, emotionally, but everything just works and it excites me for what Chloe Sevigny can do, as a director.

Film Review: Destino (2003)

Release Date: June 2nd, 2003 (Annecy Animation Film Festival), originally began production in 1945
Directed by: Dominique Monféry
Written by: Salvador Dali, John Hench, Donald W. Ernst
Music by: Armando Dominiguez, Michael Starobin, Dora Luz

Walt Disney, 7 Minutes

Review:

In 1945, Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali and American animator Walt Disney started work on this collaborative effort. While it didn’t actually come out until 2003, 58 years since the project began, it is a perfect marriage of the two artists’ styles. Taking the surrealist style of Dali and bringing it to life via Disney animation.

From 1945 and into 1946, Dali and Disney studio artist John Hench worked together on storyboarding the project. Due to financial woes during the World War II era, Disney had to halt production. Hench put together a seventeen second animation test in an attempt to keep the company happy and on board with the project but it was put on hiatus for decades.

Roy E. Disney, Walt’s nephew, rediscovered the project in 1999 while he was working on Disney’s Fantasia 2000. He decided to resurrect the amazing collaboration and Walt Disney Studios worked on it until it was finally completed.

Twenty-five Disney animators fleshed out the project based off of Dali and Hench’s storyboards and notes. They also got help from Hench himself and delved into the journals of Dali’s wife, Gala Dali.

The final production uses the original Hench animation while the newly animated parts are a combination of traditional hand drawn animation and some computer animation. It all comes together beautifully, however, and is consistent with the originally conceived style.

The short film follows the story of the god Chronos and his love of a mortal woman. The woman dances through surreal imagery in the style of Dali’s paintings. All of this is brought further to life by the musical score of Mexican composer Armando Dominiguez and the vocals of Dora Luz.

If you are a fan of Dali and classic Disney animation, there is nothing not to like here. It blends the two styles together magnificently along with the fabulous score.

The public and critical consensus was very positive for the film and it even received an Academy Award nomination in 2004 for Best Animated Short Film.

 

Film Review: Dawn (2014)

Release Date: January 16th, 2014 (Sundance)
Directed by: Rose McGowan
Written by: M.A. Fortin, Joshua John Miller
Music by: Elijah Hanford
Cast: Tara Lynne Barr, Reiley McClendon, Hannah Marks, Michael Moskewicz, Julia Sanford, John Grady

Black Dog Films, BlackDog Films, RSA Films, 17 Minutes

Review:

Dawn is the directorial debut of Rose McGowan. It is a short film with a running time of seventeen minutes.

Ultimately, the film was pretty good. It showcased a great visual style and was well acted. McGowan did a fine job framing her shots and employed some stellar cinematography. She also captured the nostalgic magic of the 1960s and made a picture that truly felt innocent and sweet, initially.

The problem with the film, is that it starts with a quick peek at the concluding scene. I feel like this undermined the impact it could have had, if the film actually built up as sweet and endearing and then threw a dark curveball. Also, the ending was underwhelming and predictable due to the nature of the opening scene. The last line of dialogue also completely ruined the experience for me, as it just seemed incredibly derivative and too juvenile for a short film that actually seemed to be building towards something exceptional.

Tara Lynne Barr was perfection as the lead in this tale. The only other thing that I’ve seen her in is Bobcat Goldthwait’s God Bless America, which she was also fantastic in. Ultimately, I’d like to see her do so much more.

I don’t want to knock McGowan’s work. She showed that she definitely has something in regards to being behind the camera. There was some filmmaking magic here despite the final moments of the story kind of derailing things for me. But short films are often times experiments and practice before moving on to bigger things. I think Rose McGowan is off to a fairly good start and I am interested in seeing what else she will do in the future.

Film Review: Carrots and Peas (1969)

Release Date: 1969
Directed by: Hollis Frampton

Janus Films, 5 Minutes

Review:

“…” (*fucking gibberish) – Narrator

Since getting a subscription to FilmStruck’s streaming service with the Criterion Channel add-on, I’ve had access to a lot of great and amazing films. However, there has to be a low end of every spectrum and that brings me to this short film by Hollis Frampton, Carrots and Peas.

This was five minutes of utter shit. In fact, it was five minutes of utter pretentious shit.

In my lifetime, thus far, I’ve seen thousands of films long and short. I’ve also seen many that are bizarre, nonsensical and pointless. Some of those I have even liked for one strange reason or another. Carrots and Peas, however, is not only a waste of time but it is a vacuum that sucks in a bunch of surrounding time. It is only five minutes but after the experience, you feel numb, confused and it’s as if days have passed. This film in an infinite loop would be a more effective means of torture than waterboarding… and probably even less humane.

Carrots and Peas is five minutes of staring at the same scene you see pictured in its poster (above and to the right). Except, it is synced to some weird, indecipherable dialogue. Apparently, Frampton wanted to use this as a way to show the contrast between the dark green of peas and the bright orange of carrots. The mumbled psychotic speech is to represent how you are to be lost in the scene and therefore, not paying attention to the person speaking to you. Whatever, Frampton. Actually, fuck you, Frampton.

This is the type of shit pretentious assholes pretend has meaning as they watch repeatedly trying to decipher the hidden messages and make sense out of it. Some people think that is art. I think it is a way to spot a bunch of fuck nuggets that are afraid of being exposed as bullshit artists.

By the way, I do art for a living. I’ve been a professional artist for fifteen years, an amateur one my entire life, and I’m not going to pretend that this film secretly represents anything profound.

This isn’t going to unlock a wormhole to some fantastical land in your head and it certainly isn’t going to be some sort of mirror vomiting catharsis all over your face. It is an ugly and stupid experiment and peas are a shitty vegetable. Also, I prefer carrots raw and not cooked.

I once went commando and accidentally zipped up part of my genitals. Compared to this short film, that painful experience was enjoyable.

Does this deserve to go in the Cinespiria Shitometer? Hell no! I will not make my precious Shitometer suffer through this five minute train wreck of dreck, as I have.

I wish I made a Love Tester graphic that had zero. So this begrudgingly gets a one out of ten. It’s really a zero, though.

Film Review: A Dog’s Life (1918)

Release Date: April 14th, 1918
Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Written by: Charlie Chaplin
Music by: Charlie Chaplin (in 1957 released as part of The Chaplin Revue)
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Syd Chaplin, Henry Bergman, Charles Reisner, Albert Austin, Tom Wilson, Bud Jamison

First National Pictures, 33 Minutes

Review:

A Dog’s Life is a pretty notable film in Charlie Chaplin’s long career. It was his first picture with First National, who would go on to distribute other Chaplin films, as well as a slew of others during the silent era before being absorbed by Warner Bros. in 1929. Also, this film features several of Chaplin’s regulars in various roles. And even though Chaplin was the star of the picture, he played second fiddle in the title behind “Scrappy”, a dog who was the actual hero of the story.

While this film is quite short, it is a quintessential Tramp movie. It focuses on that character, Chaplin’s most famous, and has some of his best gags.

The film, like most of the ones featuring the Tramp, is more a series of gags and funny scenarios strung together with a simple narrative. In this picture, the Tramp falls head over heels for a singer in a dance hall. He also has run-ins with the law and the staff at the dance hall that employs the apple of his eye. With the Tramp is his faithful dog Scrappy, who helps him avoid trouble and ultimately, helps the Tramp achieve a happy ending with his love.

The scene in the film where the Tramp hides the dog in his pants, only to have its tail stick out of his backside and wag, is one of my favorite Chaplin bits of all-time.

While I love most of Chaplin’s work, A Dog’s Life had me laughing pretty much from start to finish. And frankly, I love the short Chaplin pictures for their simplicity and ability to quickly get into the groove and maintain it.

A Dog’s Life ranks up there as one of the best Chaplin pictures for me. If you want a real treat, check out a compilation film called The Chaplin Revue, which features this and a few other shorts edited into a feature length presentation.

Film Review: A Trip to the Moon (1902)

Also known as: Le Voyage dans la Lune (France)
Release Date: September 1st, 1902 (France)
Directed by: Georges Méliès
Written by: Georges Méliès
Based on: From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon by Jules Verne
Cast: Georges Méliès, Bleuette Bernon, Francois Lallement, Henri Delannoy

Star Film Company, 18 Minutes (12 frames/s), 16 Minutes (14 frames/s), 9 Minutes (24 frames/s)

Review:

A Trip to the Moon is a pretty iconic motion picture and its historical significance and influence is massive.

While the film is scant in running time by modern standards, it was really the first sci-fi epic to reach mainstream audiences. It was a special effects extravaganza for its time and really, paved the way for imaginative filmmakers after its release.

The film was a French production directed by Georges Méliès, who was also an illusionist when not behind the camera. Méliès also directed The Impossible Voyage in 1904, which is very similar in style, tone and story to this film.

A Trip to the Moon took inspiration from many sources but it really created a vibe similar to the works of Jules Verne, most notably From Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon.

The plot of the film is pretty simple and straightforward. A group of astronomers travel to the moon via a capsule that is shot from a cannon. They explore the moon’s surface, meet some aggressive lunar aliens and then capture one and bring it to Earth.

The cast is comprised of Méliès and several French theatrical performers. It is filmed in a theatrical stage show style, which was common in the earliest days of film production.

What makes A Trip to the Moon so significant, is that before this, films were usually more like creative home movies. Someone would try out an effect or tell a quick little humorous story. This film offered innovative special effects and had a good narrative, which made it immensely popular and changed the film industry going forward. It showed audiences and budding filmmakers what a motion picture was capable of.

For awhile, filmmakers kept to making shorts but as creativity blossomed and artists learned that they could do so much more, the industry started to make long serial films. Within a decade of A Trip to the Moon‘s release, films went from shorts to lengthy episodic epics, almost like modern television shows.

Without A Trip to the Moon, the film industry could have evolved into something else entirely. It probably would have eventually become what it is but something had to be the spark and A Trip to the Moon was a rather big spark. In fact, it may have truly been the Big Bang of the motion picture industry.

While its style is incredibly dated, it is still mesmerizing and magical, especially when viewed on a big screen.

It has stood the test of time better than all the other films of its era and it is still beloved and respected.