For this week's abbreviated edition of Hit Me With Your Best Shot I asked y'all to watch two short films with me (both available online if you click on the titles). Shorts sometimes function like auditions or training ground for feature directors but many artists, animators in particular, often stay with them exclusively. Certain feature auteurs return to them periodically for experimentation or creative rejuvenation or even, if they're music videos, cash. Short films are their own curious artform. Movie blogs should care more about them and this week's double feature, an ode to Short Film of the Week, is my own wee effort in stating so.
A short film also presents an ideal opportunity to acknowledge the original quite succinct concept of this series which was to choose a single image and discuss it. More often than not we end up with a screenshot party because a) it's too hard to stop at one and b) parties are fun.
DEATH TO THE TIN MAN
This short is from the filmmaking collective of Court 13 who rose to prominence last year with Beasts of the Southern Wild -- you'll see Dan Romer & Benh Zeitlin sharing the composing credit again in the credits. It's an absurdist fable loosely based on the Frank L Baum's "Tinman of Oz". I didn't quite know what to make of its stop and start sound design or its mix of influences (the not-quite emotionally detached narrator felt a bit Wes Anderson and isn't the cinematography Lynchian?). I think it goes off the rails quite a lot in multiple ways (politically, religiously, narratively) in the last few minutes. But despite my reservations I've watched it three times and I'm still stirred by its weird fusion of the tender & grotesque (or, more plainly, hard & soft such as in the image of the tinman holding flowers). That unholy marriage is organic to the story but also beautifully captured in images like a still life of body parts snatched from the morgue. My favorite shot, equal parts beautiful and disturbing, is the one wherein Jane lovingly paints eyes on to the reanimated corpse of human Bill before kissing him. It's troublesome on an anthropomorphic level. Tinman Bill is very much human but he needs anthropomorphism to be loved and Jane won't. Corpse Bill is less human but looks the part so she doesn't need to ascribe feeling, just eyeballs. Despite the strong light and shadow the shot feels warm but you know that this Bill must be ice cold to the touch; he's got no heart.
THE EAGLEMAN STAG
I chose this short primarily because I would give it an "A" full stop and wanted everyone to see it since Oscar weirdly refused to turn its immense spotlight on this hugely deserving accomplishment. Writer/director Mikey Please's (also known as Michael Please) short is a marvel of playfulness, creativity, technical prowess, thematic ambition, and arch wit and he packs it all into a dizzying rush of nine minutes of cinematic accelerated...fear of aging?
The entire world is defined by context. even the way we experience the passing of time - every second is smaller compared to the last."
The Eagleman Stag, more than many features we've watched for this series, presented a ridiculous challenge in that its greatest strengths come from its screenplay, production design and especially its editing -- the images in juxtaposition mean at least thrice as much as any of them do on their own. Frankly, Stag has worthy best shot choices -- the lighting of the stop motion structures is often astonishing -- at virtually any freeze frame many of them much more beautiful than the one I've chosen. But frankly I feel so small in this short's presence that I can only relate to the insignificant worm our narrator holds up to the sunlight when he's 4 years old "Fascinating!". I've watched this three times and know it will be just as rewarding at thirty. So I'll go with the worm in a way. The shot I've chosen is a blink and you miss it reference to that earlier shot when the narrator holds up... himself... for his own intellectual consideration.
Yes, this seems about right."
Click over for more on these two fascinating shorts
Encore Entertainment unpacks dense themes
Antagony & Ecstasy self inflicted failure and silent film riffs
Amiresque enigmatic beauty and sheer comic value
Okinawa Assault amalgams and vandalizations
The Film's The Thing unleashing imagination, moments that pulls us in
Allison Tooey didn't like the movies but plays along
We Recycle Movies watches from her iPhone while in line for... next week's movie!
Next week on Hit Me With Your Best Shot, we helicopter in to JURASSIC PARK (1993). Please join us whether that's in movie theaters for the 3D conversion or at home with your dvd or fossilized vhs tape. There's a lot of acreage on that island and there's room for plenty of room for anyone who wants to choose a "best" image and tell us why!