Two films could claim to be the must-see of Mood Enhancer, a popular shorts program at Tribeca. The first is Onion Underwater, a slick little acid trip of a movie about a future time when a drug exists that can erase your memory for short periods of time. It doesn't just erase data like who you are and what you're up to in life, it also erases your ingrained memories of things like water and chocolate cake, so you can experience those things over for the first time. We begin in a photo booth with a girl awakening into her no-memory high -- she has three friends charged with guiding her through this experience, each of them sporting brightly penciled eyebrows, which seems like a reasonable fashion accessory of the future. They take her to a pool for a game of Marco Polo, which is a cavalcade of new sensory information for her. Mood Enhancer posits an intriguing little near-future, bathed in bright, hot colors. Casual conversations are peppered with future-speak like "Did you hear the last frog died today?"
The other film that some will come away loving is Color Me Olsen, about two twin brothers who decide to come out to Hollywood to make it, and end up directly in front of Mann's Chinese Theater, where they meet Superman, Oz's Dorothy and a rococo pirate who can't quite name himself, lest he get served with a cease and desist order. These impersonators convince the twins to take on the persona of Mary Kate and Ashley Olson, which they do, thinking this will be their ticket to stardom. The wigs and makeup are a little more comfortable than they planned on, and they eventually begin to believe that they are Mary Kate and Ashley, and start acting accordingly. One brother tells the other: "I'd never go on vacation while you were in rehab." At first their impersonation act is a big hit, and they become the stars of the sidewalk in front of Mann's, but fame comes and goes, and eventually a downward spiral ensues. There are a handful of genuine laughs in this one; Bryan Singer is credited as executive producer.
I am Bob is more like a conventional film than an experimental short -- it just tells its story very quickly. Bob Geldof is in the back of a limo, talking business -- "I don't do Romania, just Africa" -- when an unexpected detour lands him at a little backwoods British dive where they are having a celebrity look-alike contest. When his limousine pulls away from the place without him, thinking he's still in the backseat, Geldof is stranded without money or identification. Out of options, he enters the contest as 'Bob Geldof,' hoping to win the prize money and be on his way. There are plenty of funny moments as impersonators each take turns on stage doing their thing. As you might expect, the plot thickens when Geldof finds that there is another Bob Geldof in the contest -- which Geldof will prevail? There's a nice rendition of "I Don't Like Mondays" to round things out and after its over, you'll be surprised how much story they were able to pack into a film that I'm pretty sure ran under twenty minutes.
Lawrence is an intriguing entry in the program, but not a very eventful one -- we follow a loon as he goes around the city talking into a tape recorder and then playing it back to himself, as some sort of substitute for interaction with other people. He never really talks with anyone, and at a public laundry he stares at a girl until she breaks the stare and walks away. The idea may be that they have some personal history that drove him crazy, or maybe he was just working up the nerve to actually make contact with another human being, but then lost his nerve -- it's hard to say. The ending is interesting, but I won't give away -- it's certainly something worth seeing once. Less successful is My Biodegradable Heart, an animated short featuring two kids on a seesaw, spouting boring environmental bromides about how long it takes styrofoam to decompose, and what not. This one is a real waste of time, especially when you consider that it has a credit reel as long as the film.
Compared to the Express Stops Only program, which we also reviewed, Mood Enhancer has a high percentage of turkeys. There's Biodegradable, which we've mentioned, as well as The Water and the Milk, which is about an old woman and her cow, and is just as boring as that description makes it sound. The cow gets stuck on a little island in the middle of a pond, and this makes the old woman sad, basically. There's also Tell it to the Fishes, which commits the cardinal sin of wasting Gerard McSorley. The film gives us two mob guys standing upright on a beach, their feet encased in cement blocks. Eventually the tide will come in and drown them. This sounds like an intriguing setup, but the film goes nowhere to the point that you're checking your watch ten minutes in. Finally, there's Heart of Whistler, which involves a girl on skates trying to deliver a heart to some doctors who need it for a heart transplant. There are some clever camera setups, but the story attached to them is non-existent.