There are many solid feature-length films on the bill at this year's Newport Beach Film Festival, which shifts into full gear today and continues through Thursday, April 30. But some of the best stuff pre-screened for your consumption were shorts, in particular these eight animated and live-action diddies. All are shown in the Edwards Island Cinemas at Fashion Island in batches with other shorts, which explains why some showtimes given match other films listed here. Just go with it . . .
BECAUSE YOU'RE GORGEOUS
The Lion King gets lampooned, big time, in this computer-animated shorty. Employing the safari look and bouncy music evoking the Disney behemoth, South Africa's Brent Dawes focuses not on a feline but a warthog with a spectaclur mane. Too bad he's encountered the greatest threat of all to one so vane: a really bad hair day. Edwards Island 1, (949) 640-1218. Sat., 1 p.m.; Edwards Island 2, Sat., 3:45 p.m.
This may be my favorite. Thomas Hefferon's Irish comedy short finds a young fellow confession his sins to his parish priest inside the confessional, only to be subjected to the third degree by the inquisitive pastor. Telling only what he needs to before receiving his absolution, the chap then joins his buddy in the pews to quickly end this little nugget on a very clever note. Edwards Island 2, (949) 640-1218. Today, 4:30 p.m. and Wed., 4 p.m.
Any office drone who has had to put up with soft jazz wafting from a neighboring cubicle will relate to the main character in American writer/director/animator Michael Stern's short and unsweet little computer-animated riff. Kenny G, consider yourself warned! Edwards Island 1, (949) 640-1218. Sat., 1 p.m.; Edwards Island 2, Sat., 3:45 p.m.
London writer-director Chris Jones concocts a whopper of a fish tale . . . with a twist at the end worthy of M. Night Shyamalan. An old man and a boy, perhaps his grandson, share a love of fishing. But when the lad begs to be taken to the pond on the day of a loved one's funeral, the gent doesn't quite know how to break it to the boy that it's not exactly an appropriate time for leisure activities. Or perhaps it is the only time. Not to give too much away, but let's just say all is not as it seems. Edwards Island 2, (949) 640-1218. Sun., 11:45 a.m.
GRANNY O'GRIMM'S SLEEPING BEAUTY
This animated short from director Nicky Phelan ingeniously uses computer animation to reflect the "reality" of Granny O'Grimm telling a bedtime story and hand-drawn animation worthy of Rocky & Bullwinkle's Fractured Fairy Tales to reflect the wild tale of Sleeping Beauty being spun. Dual spinner Kathleen O'Rourke strikes perfect chords with her writing and vocal work as Ms. O'Grimm, who shares her monologue against beauty obsession (which apparently sprung from an Irish comedy stage act) to an increasingly freaked-out, curly-topped child. Edwards Island 2, (949) 640-1218. Sat., 3:45 p.m. and Wed., 8:15 p.m.
HIS GOOD WILL
Yeah, yeah, this review already ran in print and online. But you can't miss it. In this American-Canadian production, director Cayman Grant has Will (Donis Leonoard Jr.), a poor little black boy, collecting bottles anywhere he can find them in a small town on a hot summer day in the 1950s. After turning his bounty in for spare change from Mr. Cooper (James Avery), Will goes to a diner filled with white customers and waitresses for a plate of "fried potatoes." Don't watch what ensues if watery eyes and a lumpy throat bother you. Edwards Island 2, (949) 640-1218. Today, 2:30 p.m.
Sandy Smolan needs to work on her filmmaking--this short documentary comes across too much like a dry solicitation vehicle for donations to Heifer International--but the compelling story cannot be denied. The women of a poor village in Nepal had been kept down forever by their patriarchal society. Everything changed when a female villager receives a goat from Heifer, the group that lets you ease guilt about the overcommercialization of Christmas by letting you "give" the more fortunate livestock and farm equipment donated to the world's impoverished. The mother's life improves dramatically, her fever to learn and capitalize on the gift spread among other females and it is now the women who support the families in a region where the average yearly income had been $270. Edwards Island 2, (949) 640-1218. Wed., 6 p.m. and Thur., 1:45 p.m.
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One day a week, elderly Mr. and Mrs. O'Leary (Des and Doreen Keough) spice up their sheltered death march with the help of happy faced pills supplied by their friendly neighborhood drug pusher. Tea time, dancing, afternoon television, walks in the park and hanky panky--all fortified with Ecstasy--give the couple a new lease on life. But their bliss is suddenly interrupted by a pounding on the front door. Irish director Conor Ferguson's comedy short will entertain young and old, perhaps opening a whole new line of dialogue (and commerce) between grandparents and their grandkids. Edwards Island 2, (949) 640-1218. Sun., 11:45 a.m. and Wed., 4 p.m.
Tickets are $8-$12 per screening. Galas, parties and receptions generally cost extra. Call (949) 253-2880 or log on to newportbeachfilmfest.com for tickets and other festival details.