Tag Archives: short films

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

The Lonely Island is a comedy trio consisting of childhood friends Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer. They became known for their popular digital shorts on SNL, many of which, like Lazy Sunday, went viral, for comedic songs like Jack Sparrow, featuring THE Michael Bolton, and for movies like Hot Rod and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. If you like them, you probably love them, and if you love them, you’re in for a treat. Especially if you also have a soft spot for late-1980s-era major league baseball.

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience is a 30 minute short streaming now on Netflix that’s the supposed never before seen\heard rap collaboration between steroid bash brothers Jose Canseco (Samberg) and Mark McGwire (Schaffer) of the Oakland Athletics. I don’t give two shits about baseball (especially not historical baseball from another century), but Sean did and does and had an especially appreciative chuckle for all the references they got right.

The rap album consists of many memorable musical numbers, literally something for everyone, between such hits as Bikini Babe Workout, IHOP Parking Lot (featuring Maya Rudolph), Oakland Nights (featuring Sia, who looks an awful lot like Sterling K. Brown in a a wig unworthy of the real Sia), and my favourite, Daddy, which explores the mountainous daddy issues behind the Canseco-McGwire shenanigans.

Sean wondered how – not if, but how – high they were when they wrote this stuff. And the answer can only be: extremely. So high. And yet I was sober when I watched it and I still dissolved into fits of giggles (a credit cameo featuring “Joe Montana” had me gasping for breath). It’s light-hearted and doesn’t dare take itself serious for a single split second. The narrow theme of the “visual poem” (a la Beyonce’s Lemonade?) ensures that the songs are punchy and topical, if not always sensical. But you didn’t come for the sense. You came for the nonsense, and they’re flooding the diamond with it.

Samberg and Schaffer are both hilarious in their terrible mullet wigs, but it seems like everyone who pops up in these videos are having a riotously good time. The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience offers locker room injections of satire and parody, and they will PUMP YOU UP.

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Shorts: Ready To Go

anigif_enhanced-23110-1444243585-11Lance is bringing his cat to be put down. It’s time. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Whether he’s emotional or nervous or lonely, he’s ready to pour his heart out, and an unsuspecting old lady on the bus doesn’t have much choice but to listen. In just under 10 minutes, we get to know Lance quite well – and even better in the film’s last 5 seconds or so.

It’s a bittersweet little film that reminds us how important pets are in our lives, and how bereft we are when we lose them. Putting down my childhood mutt Patches was seriously one of the most wrenching things I’ve ever done in my life and I’ve only been able to let doggos back into my life after extracting from them solemn vows to never, ever die. We brought Patches to the vet at the end of his life, perhaps not quite his natural end, but an end that we chose in the hopes that it giphy-downsizedwas best for him. The first shot was to settle him. His little legs gave out and he collapsed on the cold metal table. He was wrapped up in a Star Wars blanket and placed in my arms. The second shot stopped his heart. He looked like he was sleeping, but for once not chasing cars in his dreams. We left him there, my mother and I. I left him there, and we cried hot tears in a mini van. My friends offered hugs, and even a greeting card, the ‘blank inside’ kind with a generic flower on the front. Today condolence cards for pets exist, a testament to the place they’ve taken up in our hearts sirga-the-lioness-excited-dogand homes. But for many of us, cats and dogs are more than just pets, they’re family. I suspect for Lance, Galen (the cat) was his only friend, hence the great unburdening on the bus.

Do domesticated animals really think the thoughts and feel the emotions we ascribe them – or are we merely deluding ourselves by anthropomorphizing them? As our social circles grow narrower, and our ability to truly connect with other people seems to dim, perhaps pets are our last secret keepers. With seemingly unconditional positive regard OVYBbQ8for us, a dog is loyal and steadfast in a way that few if any people in our lives will be. When Lance brings his only friend in to the vet, which of them is truly “ready to go” – the cat who doesn’t know what’s coming, or the human who doesn’t know how to say goodbye?

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SXSW: The Shorts

Are We Good Parents?

Director: Bola Ogun

One day before school, a daughter lets slip she’ll be shopping for her homecoming outfit, and her parents are floored to find out that a certain “Ryan” will be picking her up for her first dance. As soon as the daughter’s out of earshot, Mom and Dad are questioning their whole parenting motif. They’d always assumed she was gay. What have they done wrong? Is she actually straight or just rebelling, or has something they’ve done or failed to do made her feel unsafe to come out?

The script is flipped from the hetero-normative expectation that a kid is straight until you hear otherwise. It’s an interesting statement to make but one which might have worn thin with a less authentic-sounding script (by Hailey Chavez). But this is no after-school special; Are We Good Parents is genuinely funny, thanks in large part to Tracie Thoms and Sean Maguire, who really tap into the self-doubting roles of two loving parents to a straight kid. This short film has big heart but it really makes you think about the assumptions we make not just as parents but as a society, and what ‘coming out’ really entails.

A first-generation American from Nigerian heritage, Ogun was born and raised in Texas and has a bright film making future ahead of her. Her film is making its world premiere at the SXSW film festival on March 10 and screens again March 12 and 15 as part of the Shorts Program 3.

 

The Coffin Club
Director: Briar March
This short is a documentary about a club formed by senior citizens in New Zealand. Through a lively musical number, the real members of the club tell us how they’ve formed a club that makes their own coffins. Sure they save some cash with their hand-made confections, but the best part is how they personalize their final resting places with glitter, paint, and pictures of Elvis. The film is 3 and a half minutes long, the whole thing sung (with Jean McGaffin and Kevin Quick providing spirited vocals), and it covers the snacks they nibble on between their morbid arts and crafts, and the trouble they got into from local funeral homes who felt their bottom lines were being hurt.
I am several decades too young and not a joiner by nature but I am desperate to be a member of the Kiwi Coffin Club. These are people who know that a box is just a box – but why not make the thing beautiful? They’re demystifying death, and preparing for it in their own way, putting their own stamp on a funeral that is usually designed by others. But it’s also clearly a social thing, with lots of camaraderie. If the club is looking for new members, I’m a great beaker and I have my own glitter, a glue gun of course, and a whole drawer full of ribbons. I’m not much of a singer, but I can snap and believe I look quite fetching in a top hat.
This doc is just minutes long but I felt like I’ve made some real friends. I could have watched for hours more. The production is great, and director Briar March turning the thing into a musical extravaganza shows us there’s more than one way to flip death the bird.
This film screens in the Documentary Shorts 1 block on March 10, 12, and 15 and honestly, it’s a whole lot of fun.

Olaf’s Frozen Adventure

Anna and Elsa ring the bell to mark the beginning of Arendelle’s yuletide season, their first since the gates have reopened, but then the crowds disperse, leaving the Frozen ladies to contemplate their lack of holiday traditions. Moved, their good buddy and everyone’s favourite snowman, Olaf, goes off in search of other people’s customs in order to find the right ones to adopt.

Originally Disney planned for this to be a televised episode but as production continued they felt it was too “cinematic” and deserved to be on the big screen, which is how it wound up in front of Pixar’s Coco. It’s only the second time that a MV5BMTg0MDc1ODY2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODg3MTE2MjI@._V1_CR0,60,640,360_AL_UX477_CR0,0,477,268_AL_.jpgnon-Pixar short is in front of a Pixar film (the first time, for Toy Story, was the Roger Rabbit short, Roller Coaster Rabbit) but like any blended family, the Disney-Pixar merger has now been solidified, and when better to spend time together than the holidays? In fact, the two do seem to be appropriate companions since they’re both about appreciating different cultures. However, audiences in Mexico were less than thrilled with the “short” (it’s 21 minutes!); impatient to get to the movie that pays homage to their country, they rebelled until theaters dumped the short altogether.

Like Frozen Fever that came before it, the ladies seem to be confronted yet again with emotional loose ends, as it were, which means this short serves as a bridge to the inevitable sequel. And Olaf is evolving too. A kid favourite, the child-like snowman with a sense of wonder has always entertained, but in this short, he’s becoming more thoughtful and self-aware. He’s not just a side-kick anymore. And at 21 minutes, this short has time for 4 new original songs; That Time of Year is a particular stand out, and I was tickled by the mental comparison between Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) knocking on villager’s doors, and Gad doing door to door with the ding-dong song Hello from Book of Mormon.

Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is fun in a giddy kind of way and fans of Frozen will be glad to revisit their old friends – though I do wonder if the fans aren’t sort of ageing out of the Princess phase by now. But Elsa and Anna still have a long way to go before their healing’s complete, so there are plenty more ways for Olaf to save them, and he’s always going to be enchanting as heck while he does it.

Laundry

Kids ruin everything. They especially ruin sex. Carly is a happily married woman who just wants 10 minutes alone with her husband for some quality time.  He’s definitely on board for the same. But try as they might – and they do try – the kids are always interrupting. Eventually Carly finds pleasure rather by surprise, making a sharp point of what exactly a mother might find…orgasmic.

Director Becs Arahanga is a mother herself so the inspiration behind this short film is quite personal – and what parent could possibly fail to relate? Although only 9 minutes start to finish, New Zealand’s Arahanga images her film as a rom-com, and there’s a definitely will-they-or-won’t-they appeal. Her direction is jaunty and to the point. She manages to give us a sense of Carly’s family even as she makes the greater point of the universal yearning for intimacy, and the finding of pleasure in unexpected places. Carly is instantly relatable and her struggle looks and feels authentic. Without a second’s lull, Laundry is never less than fun. It’s an ode to marital horniness and the little fuckers who make it all impossible.

 

The Drop In

I enjoy short films because they are their own genre with their own rules.  Unlike feature-length film, there’s no standard runtime, only an upper limit of 40 minutes (including credits) in order to qualify for Oscar consideration.   The fact that shorts usually jump right into the action makes the genre feel freer and less predictable than feature films.  I also like that shorts tend not to use a standard three-act narrative structure (exposition-rising action-climax), forsaking it for the sake of moving right to the heart of the story.

The Drop In is only 12 minutes long, but in that time the film manages to delivers two big twists that took me by surprise (which I won’t reveal here).  The film starts with a seemingly innocuous encounter that soon turns into a tense, high-stakes confrontation.  Even before anything significant is revealed, that tension is apparent between the film’s only two characters. We may not understand why these two are in conflict but we know, whatever the reason, that this face-off means big trouble for Joelle, a Toronto hairstylist who agreed to stay late to help out a new client.

This short feels like the start of a TV series and the abrupt and inconclusive ending left me curious to see more. That’s often the best place to be, with interest piqued, trying to guess both what came before and what comes next.  But sometimes both past and future are better left unknown, and I think The Drop In makes the right choice by telling this story in short film form, rather than to try to make it feature length.  After all, the first rule of show business is to always leave them wanting more, and The Drop In does exactly that.

Shorts: Fantasia

Sleazy Pete: At less than 12 minutes long, Sleazy Pete still manages to go through 55 gallons of fake blood. That seems extraneous since Sleazy Pete is a priest who lives by the principle “Love thy neighbour” but the convenient loophole there is that the homeless aren’t neighbours to anyone so are therefore ripe for the killing. If you love B-movie gore, this one is wall-to-wall apocalyptic violence

Don’t Ever Change: Karen Hickman is newly paroled after spending her entire adulthood in DontEverChange-CyndiWilliamsprison for a crime she committed when she was 17. She’s in the midst of reconnecting with her biological daughter when a “fan” shows up with an inappropriate request. The productions values are great, the writing is fun; in less than 10 minutes director Don Swaynos gives us something truly satisfying…although I wouldn’t have minded even more!

The Story of 90 Coins: A man is much more serious about his relationship than his girlfriend is. As a compromise, she agrees to be wooed for 90 days. Every day he leaves her with a coin. At the end of 90 days, they’ll either have enough money for farewell drinks, or a marriage certificate. Sure it’s hella romantic but it also puts our poor heroine in the unfortunate position of having to choose between love and career. This short film is gorgeously shot, and if you’re in the mood to have your heart strings yanked upon fiercely, there are buckets of tears wept in the 9 minute running time.

The Madame In Black: A woman was burned for witchery, and centuries later, children still remember her with a game wherein the very brave call her name 3 times into a mirror. This short horror is perfectly edited for maximum tension.