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!
JA from MNPP here, with another example of what's become commonplace these days - the teaser for the trailer for the movie. In this case we have a preview for the trailer premiere of the second Hunger Games movie Catching Fire; the trailer proper will be unvelied during the MTV Movie Awards on April 14th, but for now they're giving us three whole shots amid flashes of fire and "Hosted By Rebel Wilson"-isms. We have a shot of the crowd waiting for Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), we have Effie (Elizabeth Banks, all cotton-candy'd up) about to lead them onto the stage, and we have a typically forced smile from everlasting sourpuss (with good reason, of course) Katniss as she greets her admirers.
I can't decide if this is more or less egregious an empty promotional tool than that seizure-inducer they released for The Wolverine last week before getting around to the proper trailer; that one had more images for us to look at (including a couple examples of shirtless Hugh Jackman, natch), but it compressed them into just a dozen seconds or so of strobe-like flashes; this one has fewer things for us to look at but it pauses long enough to give each moment a feeliing, a character beat. That robotic waving of Effie's hands, and Jennifer's grimace. (And I'm not the only one already happy to see the latter's face again, right? The Oscars were only a month ago but I already missed her.) And then I can't decide how depressing it is that this is a conversation I'm having with myself. And then I get distracted by another shiny thing and forget my momentary consternation til the next time. Ooh shiny!
In our ongoing 'get to know The Film Experience community' project, here's another Reader Spotlight. This time we're talking to Tony who grew up overseas and now lives in Texas. He sent me the nicest note once about the site that really cheered me up on a down day.
What's your first movie memory?
TONY: I spent my entire childhood watching Disney movies. It was literally everything I did when I wasn't in school. They were mostly dubbed in French so it was a little bit of a revelation to rediscover them in English when I grew up. But my very first movie memory that I can recall semi-vividly is watching The Beauty and the Beast with my cousins. I was so captivated that I had to move to a different row in the movie theatre to sit away from my cousins because they were distracting me so much.
I love it. A well behaved moviegoer from the start! When did you start reading The Film Experience?
TONY: When Nathaniel was drunk on Moulin Rouge! I must have found the site by trying to read everything related to the movie. That movie was and still is a dizzying experience. I was hooked on "Film Bitch" at the time. Checked the website every day. I was in Lebanon at the time. No one around me knew what I was talking about which made it all the better!
Three favorite actresses?
I have a very open mind about actresses. Almost any actress can win my heart with the right role. Nicole Kidman is my absolute favorite, though. Ironically my first memory of her is Batman Forever. I thought she was the perfect woman! Moulin Rouge! came and sealed the deal. I can't think of anyone else who combines the same amount of talent, style and courage. The choices she makes are quite admirable even when they don't pay off and auteurs are lucky to have her. Isabelle Huppert is another favorite of mine. Such a powerful presence. Her words always manage to cut through the screen. Third is probably Cate Blanchett. I miss her!
Take one Oscar away. Regift it.
I think the oscars are like a time capsule. It's always fun to go back and contemplate what the Academy chose to reward in a given year and for what reason. And for that I usually don't talk about stolen oscars. But if forced to choose I would take away The King's Speech's oscar and give it to The Social Network. I thought that was a bit embarassing. I mean the latter was clearly clearly the superior movie by any standard.
If you were in charge of Hollywood for a year...
I would greenlight all the cold political thrillers. Think Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Cerebral well acted well designed movies with great stories are my favorites. Also international movies. Like Babel but better.
Have you ever broken up with someone because of their taste in movies?
I don't know if I've broken up with someone because of their taste of movies yet but I definitely can see that happening! It's okay not to be a huge movie fan but it's not okay to be a huge fan of the wrong movies! I kid I kid BUT I can't promise that I won't secretly judge someone who declares The Life of David Gale one of their favorite movies (true story).
first and last puzzles
the first line of dialogue and the last image from a movie
...okay what have we learned this year? Teamwork, sportsmanship, how your friends look naked."
Can you guess the movie?