By Sanriel Chris Ajero

As my weekdays have been gradually jam-packed with work, and no time has been allotted for the slightest bit of rest, my typical film marathon-bound weekends were replaced by few glimpses of short films. Here are my short thoughts on the recent short films I’ve seen.

82nd Academy Awards Animated Short Nominees:

 

Logorama

Dir. Francois Alaux, Herve de Crecy
16 mins
France
2009

 

With astounding technical and research work, Logorama will never fail to impress despite plot weaknesses. It serves up its own version of the apocalypse – playfully mocking filmmaking formula on car chases, hostage taking, the end of the world, and this highly-commercial world we live in – featuring around 2,500 of the world’s most famous, and most beloved logos, mascots and icons, all of which in placements carefully and strategically thought of. Logorama won Prix Kodak in the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and eventually took home the Best Animated Short Film trophy in the 82nd Academy Awards. 2.5/5

Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Bread

Dir. Nick Park
30 mins
UK
2008

Caught up in the middle of a murder mystery involving their newly opened bakery business, Wallace, with his ever-loyal dog, tries to outsmart the perpetrator behind the disappearance of 12 other bakers around town. With its straight-forward narration and typical W&G style, this film feels like any other thing from this franchise. Though suspenseful and funny at more times than expected, the film unfortunately does not offer anything new. Instead, it tenders your typical whodunit tale that hooks you, but never resounds after the short span of its exposure. Aside from the Oscar nod, this film also won the Best Animated Short Film awards from the Annie Awards and BAFTA. 2.5/5

French Roast

Dir. Fabrice Joubert
8 mins
France
2008

From the gorgeous animation aesthetics and character design that shouts French all over, to the simplistic plot highlighted by dark underpinnings of thematic sarcasm, French Roast is definitely one of the most enjoyable shorts from the selection. With its minimal runtime, it explores the dark side of humanity – how far one would go to protect his image – by telling an unadorned story of a businessman who realizes he left his money to pay for his coffee. This commenced a series of actions and reactions from the businessman, an old lady, a beggar, an overweight policeman, and a non-judgmental waiter. Aside from this Oscar nomination, the film also won the Cordoba International Film Festival Best Animation Award. 2.0/5

Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty

Dir. Nicky Phelan
6 mins
Ireland
2008

A seemingly pleasant grandmother reading a fairytale to her grand daughter, gradually transforms into a figure that tortures the innocence of a child. With her retelling of scarier versions of fairytales (Sleeping Beauty, in this case), comes a beautiful concurrence of many things. The retelling of the rather wicked version of the tale helps us pinpoint the evil in normal circumstances. More interesting than its story is how the film juxtaposes the use of 3D and 2D technology. Filled with ironically non-matching color schemes, this film offers frame after frame of beautiful animation that we, unfortunately, could only hope for a proper reflection in its story. 0.5/5

The Lady and the Reaper (La dama y la muerte)

Dir. Javier Recio Gracia
8 mins
Spain
2009

The Lady and the Reaper is a tale of an old woman, living and dying alone, and waiting to be reunited with her husband. What is supposedly a sad tale became a wild rumpus as the film started an upbeat chase sequences that involves the old lady, the grim reaper that tries to take her away, and the doctor that persistently resuscitates her back to life. Definitely an enjoyable watch, this film stands as the most upbeat film from the set of nominees. 2.0/5



Destricted

UK/USA
2006

Destricted is an omnibus film that gathers works from seven of the world’s most visual, fearless, controversial and provocative directors and artists to talk about their views regarding the issues of sex and pornography, and how easily these concerns get tangled up with art.

 

Balkan Erotic Epic

Dir. Marina Abramovic
13 mins

The film presents an explicit look on the Balkan folklore and rituals, and their attempts to preserve eternal energies through erotic acts. This, they think, is the only means for them to make themselves one with the gods – for they believe these acts would heal the sick, promote fertility, cure impotency, grow their crops and keep the evil spirits away. Coupled with gorgeous photography and the weirdest visual images, this film is altogether insightful for its meticulous mythical details and provocative in its overt and valiant eroticism. 2.0/5

Death Valley

Dir. Sam Taylor-Wood
8 mins

The simplest of the collection, Death Valley, in its most literal, observes a man in a seemingly hot land as he starts stripping and masturbating. Digging deeper into the picture, we see the landscape of Death Valley, one of the world’s hottest places, where rocks tell an altogether different story – of global warming and of vast depositions. A man starts to chart the land, to experience a world all to him – of self-pleasuring and stimulation, with possibilities of relief and satisfaction. The director relates the man to the Christian story of Onan, the brother-in-law who spilled his seed instead than doing it with his brother’s wife. With this, a whole new world of story unfolds from this outwardly bare short display. 1.0/5

Hoist

Dir. Matthew Barney
15 mins

Unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, Hoist highlights the likelihood of sexual innuendoes between man and machine, flesh and metal. We watch a man, tied up in a deforester, doing something you never thought possible. Giving away even the slightest bit of hint as to where the story is going is like spoiling the entire thing, and besides, words would be impossible to give justice to this visual spectacle. 3.5/5

House Call

Dir. Richard Prince
12 mins

The porn (that features a role-play of the doctor-nurse storyline) within this film is more or less irrelevant to dissect the message of this short. More than that, this film pays tribute to the 70s, the so-called golden age of video porn. The idea is to present it vis-à-vis the current state of its acceptance to today’s society. We are reminded that during those times, before porn even reached the mainstream, it is an exclusive taboo – for the privileged, and for the unafraid. 2.0/5

Impaled

Dir. Larry Clark
38 mins

Highly contrasted to the previous short, Clark’s is more modern as to its target. The premise is an interview session with young guys around 19 to 23. The interviewer talks to them about the ease in access of porn these days, and how watching one shapes up how they anticipate(d) their first encounters, and how they look at women and sex in general. With this, we get to understand how young American men think today, including their preferences – that will definitely surprise and shock conservative viewers. 1.5/5

Sync

Dir. Marco Brambilla
1 min

The idea is simple: a collage and synchronization of hundreds of sex scenes from different mainstream films and adult videos. It was edited in a manner so fast, it would be difficult to distinguish the films included, much less distinguishing which of those are actually released films and which are porn. The idea was to highlight the blur in the distinctions between how much should be shown in mainstream films and what should be left out for the porn industry. 3.5/5

We Fuck Alone

Dir. Gaspar Noe
23 mins

As his former films, we get to see Noe’s short film entry We Fuck Alone work on his trademark style – strobe lighting with underscored darkness. From the title alone, we feel the significant resemblance with his former film I Stand Alone. It is no coincidence either that the two films happen to be playing around the same themes – that of loneliness, and the sorts of things it could make of you. With the visceral hallucinatory effect of his films, we are tempted to look closer, up until it becomes too late for us to look away. 2.0/5



Ambisyon 2010

Philippines
2010

An omnibus project initiated by ANC to look deeper, and darker into different election-related issues through the lenses of today’s most important Filipino independent directors. It had its first telecast on ABS-CBN – and screened some of its entries. Some of those shown in its complete form are:

Faculty

Dir. Jerrold Tarog

We get a glimpse of a conversation between two teachers of a seemingly exclusive school with warring principles. One of which is on her way to leaving the school grounds after an incident pointing her initiative that led her students to join a protest rally. As we carefully watch the play of words between the two friends, we get to see the bigger picture, piece by piece, up until that final line that suggests a whole different world of possibilities, and then we freeze and think, not knowing exactly how to react. 3.5/5

Da More Da Meniyer

Dir. Erik Matti

To capture the looming population issue in our country, Matti plays with the most familiar of all bible stories, the creation of Adam and Eve – this time, however, Filipino-slums style. We all know how it began, but we don’t know what will transpire when Adam and her muse started to learn a thing or two about the secret behind the luscious apple – the pleasures of making love. This amusingly mocks the population control measures of the country, and spices it up with issues regarding how the church reacts and gets involved in matters like this one (which we all know, is very much in play here in the Philippines). 1.0/5

Requiem for M

Dir. Kiri Dalena

Justice and human rights in the country have been under critical inquiry recently after the Maguindanao Massacre last November. A story this delicate and controversial deserves to be put to film only by those that really understand the reality behind it. The first of the many who stepped up to highlight this issue is activist documentary director Kiri Dalena. With Requiem for M, we watch the funeral of one of the many victims of this evil crime. Under Dalena’s hands, we see this unpleasant incident in reverse – as if telling us that no rewind or reverse shot can ever bring back the lives we lost during the massacre. 2.0/5

Ganito Tayo Ngayon, Paano Tayo Bukas?

Dir. Jeffrey Jeturian

Probably the most controversial of the bunch, the film dramatizes the lives of ordinary Filipinos during the day the President of the Philippines announces in national papers that the economy is getting stronger. Satirical in its assault, we see how nothing really changed despite the claim of the Palace – from the beggars, the shoe shiners, the schemers, and all sorts of vendors you could ever possibly imagine. It ended with a loud and strong statement, as if alerting us that such a declaration is nothing but a piece of crap; and should be treated as such. 2.0/5

Wasteland

Dir. Ellen Ramos

Another commendable aspect of this omnibus feature is that we not only get to see each director’s personal takes on important issues, but we catch a glimpse on how different they present it. The use of diverse genres – from drama, comedy, documentary, and even animation – we recognize that issues as pressing as these will remain a harsh reality however one presents it. This claim is most visible in Ramos’ animated film Wasteland. It shows a child on his way – and man, what a long way – to school. It exaggerates circumstances that hinder one child’s education privileges to exponentially grasp the reality of the issue. 1.5/5

Lupang Hinarang sa Sumilao

Dir. Ditsi Carolino

Veteran documentary director Carolino follows the flight of Sumilao farmers on their quest to taking back what is rightfully theirs. She trails with them as they walked for more than 60 days from Bacolod to the Malacanang Palace to show their protest to the President. For the short span of the film, it achieved something more than we could ever bargain for – it made us travel with the people in an eye-opening and emotionally-resonant journey. 3.0/5

Ayos Ka

Dir. Brillante Mendoza

The most important Filipino director working today, Mendoza goes back to tackling an issue we know he’s very much comfortable with – poverty. For Ambisyon, he crafted a music video of a tongue in cheek rap song mocking the state of living in our country today. Coupled with an endlessly catchy song, guilt-ridden lines, and ironically beautifully-photographed slums, we get to see a complete picture of his vision that would make one feel uncomfortable at first, but ends up giving one a soaring feeling of hope. The message, however, did not seem to come across properly with the censors as they initially gave this short an X rating. 3.5/5

Pandesal Sardinas Gatas

Dir. Jon Red

Red details what happens in the short snack break of the Presidential Security Guard as he chats with the chef of the Malacanang Palace and discusses three stories that defines one solid character study – the tale of a snatcher and his police father, the story of an old friend who aspired to be a journalist but was killed in the name of service, and most importantly, his ideas about the President of the Philippines and how he assesses her management of the country. Exceptionally insightful, it highlights and uncovers significant issues that darken the country’s state of security in a manner that serves nothing but acute subtlety. 4.0/5



Alma

Dir. Rodrigo Blaas
USA/Spain
6 mins
2009

Alma is a silent short film, animated with such beauty and vibrant colors, as if contrasting it to the darkness of its themes. With an ironically fresh look on the loss of one’s innocence, the film details Alma’s trip to a toy store and the one toy that caught her eye. Haunting and unforgettable, this film makes one look at toys in a way we’ve never been before. 3.5/5


The Cat Piano

Dir. Ari Gibson, Eddie White
Australia
8 mins
2009

A murder mystery that charts the disappearance of a feline superstar in the dark underbelly of a cat city ran by frenzied jazz diffused with gloomy and rich black, blue, red and white compositions. The trend continues and the ostensibly serial killer is haunted down by a poet (voiced by Nick Cave) through his words that surmise a dark fate for the lost cats – the horrifying tale of the cat piano. We join in as the carefully-paced and smoothly-composed picture descends into a world of paranoia and violence. 2.0/5


Destino

Dir. Dominique Monfery
France/USA
7 mins
2003

Destino is a rare feat that dates back all the way from 1946 when the collaboration between visual artist Salvador Dali and master animator Walt Disney was initiated. After almost half a century, the production was resurrected and produced one of the most beautifully enchanting things your eyes could ever have the pleasure of seeing. Definitely a visual treat, it fluidly tells a love story through striking images highly influenced by the dark works of Dali, fine-tuned by the inspired animation of Disney, and orchestrated by a thunderous musical score. 5.0/5


Fast Film

Dir. Virgil Widrich
Austria/Germany/Luxembourg
14 mins
2003

A formulaic narrative that involves car crashes and chases, train sequences, dogfights, leading lady rescue and a love story at the heart of it all, the film intentionally took all possible film clichés and made it fresh by using the most memorable and indelible film moments ever captured. The collage charts scenes and clips of films from Cary Grant to Godzilla projected to the screen using folded and crumpled papers. Unbelievably original and endlessly enjoyable, it is safe to say that Fast Film is one of the best short films I have ever seen in my life. 5.0/5


Good Boys Use Condoms

Dir. Lucile Hadzihalilovic
France
6 mins
1998 

Part of the French TV’s initiative to promote the use of condoms together with her husband Gaspar Noe’s Sodomites, we see a man in his room in a sexual intercourse with three seemingly identical women. Showing everything but at the same time leaving everything to the imagination, the film gives a good argument on how important it is to always stay on the safe side. As opposed to Noe’s rapid fire editing, we see a leisurely-paced, well-composed atmospheric film under the helm of Hadzihalilovic, as if mocking the urgency of this matter. 3.5/5