By AMY NICHOLSON
By JONATHAN KIEFER
By INKOO KANG
By STEPHANIE ZACHAREK
By CALUM MARSH
By NICK SCHAGER
By AARON CUTLER
Ambition,Success,andShortsaboutDorks. That title says it all. Married with Children's Ed O'Neill stars in Eric Murphy's SteelValley, the true story of a law student's grassroots political campaign in the Midwest.
Cal State Long Beach Shorts. Films from Long Beach State, including Brian Fischer's peculiar offering L'HistoiredeBillyMatter, in which a man must employ a time machine to send himself a plastic lobster . . . or face dire consequences.
Chapman Shorts. Shorts from Chapman University, including Stacey Kattman's ChangeofHeart, in which an obsessive-compulsive accountant tries to regain control of his life.
Columbia Shorts. A collection of shorts including ExtremeMom, an engaging, heartfelt glimpse into the bittersweet life of an overextended mom who gets a new "infant" added to her mix: her declining mother. Well-acted by the lead actress.
Down Under Your Shorts. They're Australian short films. Get your minds out of the gutter, people.
Furries, Zombies and Father Christmas. What on earth do these three things have in common? Well, aside from being the three least sexy things on the planet, they're all the subjects of this collection of short films.
Getting Your Shorts in a Twist. A collection of shorts, some comic, some dramatic, in which characters face a moment of extreme crisis. Towering, fearsome character actor Richard Moll (Night Court) stars in Travis Davis' Boy-Next-Door, in which a fellow has an unfortunate encounter with his next-door neighbor.
Growing Into Shorts. A collection of shorts about that Awkward Age, including Jim Cantiello's DirectingRye, in which an amateur videographer directs his teenage son's school musical production of TheCatcherintheRye.If you're a Salinger buff, that's a show you want to see almost as much as you don'twant to see it.
Irish Shorts. Shorts from Oir'land, including Peter Foott's self-explanatory entry TheCarpenterandHisClumsyWife.
Life in Shorts. A collection of shorts highlighted by ScatteredSmotheredCovered, an engaging look at that Southern staple: the waffle house. This was among the best documentaries the Weekly prescreened, but clocking in at less than 40 minutes keeps it out of the full-length division. Matthew Serrins focuses on one particular waffle house, its loyal workers and its even-more-loyal customers. This could easily have been filled out to make a full-length doc by adding the history of the particular waffle house he filmed. The show also includes Exactly, a dramatic short starring Rosie Perez.
Mocks and a Doc in One Shorts Block. I'm going to have the title for this collection of mockumentaries and one documentary stuck in my head all damn day. Features one mock-educational short with the genius title Billy'sDadIsaFudge-Packer.
OCC Shorts. Films from one of the best community-college film programs out there, Costa Mesa's Orange Coast College. Included is Matt Michael's TheFamilyPlan, about a girl from a family of hit men who is less than enthused about joining the family business. It's a premise deserving of a bigger budget and better acting--two forces that combine to undermine the final product. Michael fares better with his emo-esque music video, Nothing, Oh Nothing. Jeff Coffman's Fifty Years of Filmmaking displays fine cutting, pacing and music as it presents the lifework of cinematographer John Stephens, who specialized in road-race footage. The documentary relies on Stephens narrating his story in voiceover or staring into a camera, and, unfortunately, as a narrator he makes a great cinematographer. Brent McDonald's Duck Hunted, Ben Bronstein's Clarity, Steve Russo's Intrigue and Samson D. Jebai's Premonition round out an impressive bill from a strong film school. Take that, NYU!
On Golden Shorts. A collection of shorts featuring three goodies. TheActis amazing. Debra Jo Rupp, the mom on That '70s Show, gives a gut-wrenching performance as a standup comedian who spends her nights using her husband as a comic device (à la Phyllis Diller's Fang) and her days at his bedside as he slowly dies. Peter Rowe's RightHook:ATallTail, making its world premiere, is likewise excellent, a very clever tale about a fly fisherman who gets hooked into a life lesson. PETA should adopt this. Just as funny--and life lesson-y, come to think of it--is Daniel O'Connor's A Wing and a Prayer. Christian Potenza (hilarious) is a disgruntled customer who gets more than he bargained for when he tries to rectify his chicken-wing order at a greasy spoon. Co-star Katie Bergin turns in a nice performance, too.
Oscar Shorts. The lineup's highlighted by Chris Landreth's 2005 Academy Award winner Ryan, in which the filmmaker introduces us to Ryan Larkin, the influential Canadian animator who is now living on Skid Row.
Panties (Girl's Shorts). I see England . . . I see France . . . I see a wide-ranging collection of American short films about women! Well, yeah, it don't rhyme so good, but cut me some slack. Sara Rashad's Taharawould have been excellent subject matter for a full-length film: a drama about the backward, Third World practice of female circumcision. Although Rashad's short is very well made, the story ends quite predictably. The show also includes Intermission, an unsubtle comedy featuring former StripMallstar Julie Brown.
Queen Mum's Knickers (er, U.K. Shorts). A collection of English shorts including StillLife. He sees dead people . . . and shoots their photos in 1940 England. The director has a great sense for framing shots for maximum emotion. This is one of the most fully realized shorts (or films, for that matter) in the festival, from the writing to the music and costuming--all excellent.
Sex, Drugs, and Rockin' Shorts. A collection of rockin' shorts, including Ramsey Mellette's RockOn, about a guy who gets a Whitesnake song stuck in his head and can't get it out. Personally, I'd kill myself. No question.
Short-A-Licious. A selection of shorts from the U.S., Canada and Germany, including Hugues Dalton and Jeff Garton's Lift, an American short about an elevator operator who develops a dialogue with a girl who has a phobia of elevators.
Short-Animation-O-Rama. Cartoons, and lots of 'em, including David Conlon's Octafuzzy, in which a fuzzy pipe-cleaner man is all that stands between the world and apocalypse.
Short Illusions and Mad Delusions. Shorts about people on the brink of madness, including Gina Levy and Eric Johnson's Foo-FooDust, a grim study of a mother/son pair of drug addicts, a grim study of a mother/son pair of drug addicts.
Shorts Amore. Shorts about this crazy little thing called love.
Shorts and the American Dream. Mostly dark shorts about crime, featuring Chris Dollard's Show & Tell, in which a student brings a gun to school only to learn that his teacher is armed as well. Whew . . . awk-ward!
Shorts Are GAY GAY GAY! Well, I think that title's not quite accurate. Spandex short-shorts are gay gay gay. Ruby-spangled shorts are gay gay gay. But movie shorts are not, by definition, gay gay gay. Except for these. These are very gay indeed.
The Shorts at the End of the Universe. So even when I finish writing these endless blurbs, there will still be more shorts awaiting me in the great beyond? Somehow I'm not surprised. This show includes James P. Gleason's Antebody, about a man who discovers, to his considerable consternation, that his dead body is in the morgue.
Shorts Bloody Shorts. A collection of horrific short films with a title that's plenty horrific all by itself. Bloody shorts! That dry-cleaning bill is gonna be a killer. Anyhow, the evening's fare includes Jake Kennedy's We All Fall Down, in which a dead girl returns to haunt her killers in a chiller rather obviously inspired by the recent Ringu/The Ring franchise and 25 years' worth of slasher flicks. Sadly, it's just as clichéd as all the rest of 'em.
Shortus Dramaticus. A selection of dramatic shorts featuring Tamela D'Amico's Volare, about an Italian boy struggling to fit in at his new American school.
Six Feet Undershorts. Sometimes I think the people who devise the titles for these shorts programs employ the Burroughs-ian cut-up method, in which random blocks of text are jumbled together to create surreal and deliberately perplexing juxtapositions. And then they tack the word "shorts" on the end.
Sofa King Funny Shorts. Heh heh. Say that title aloud. Get it now? Heh heh. This collection of comedy shorts includes Suny Behar's Chaos Theory, in which a chance encounter turns a lovelorn goofball's life upside-down. It's a clever little gem propelled by the physical comedy skills of actor Donovan Oakleaf. Both he and Behar will be heard from again.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Shorts. Well, that's it. The goofiest shorts title of all time. Having seen it, I can die happy. This sprawling collection of shorts is aimed at the young'uns, with such entries as Beat Boxing, in which Sock Puppet Grand Master Sock dazzles us with his mad gangsta skillz (See, I can still speak the language of the streets. I'm not old.) and Coffee and Coco, Alex Johnson and Connor Stoyke-Riley's short animation based on the myth of Kali.
USC Shorts. Films from the University of Southern California film department, including Elan Glasser's Induction, about two best pals scheming to avoid the draft.
Viva La Shorts. A collection of shorts with a Latin flavor, including Jean-Pierre Jacquet's Contrapunto, a sensual animated offering set to an Argentine tango.
Wicked Shorts for the Witching Hour. A collection of dark, campy shorts. Everett Aponte's Samuel DeMango follows a sheltered boy with mango coursing through his veins who tries to elude Death and his controlling mother. Quirky, yes, and it took some talent to make this, but unfortunately this short has no compelling reason to exist. The evening also includes shorts with titles like Gay by Dawn, Needle Anus and Deliverance: The Musical. Sensing a theme?
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