Here's another batch of shorts that are screening at Fantastic Fest in Austin this week in front of many of the festival's feature films. (I've already written about one batch.) I've had the most fun watching all the shorts -- I'd forgotten how much I enjoy a film that resolves itself in less than 15 minutes. There are still so many shorts I hope to see during the festival and wasn't able to review beforehand, like Les Petits Hommes Vieux, It Came from the West and In the Wall. The festival programmers have told us so many times how sick and appalling Gary's Touch is, that I'm simultaneously warning myself away and feeling like I ought to give it a shot.
Phil Mucci's horror short The Listening Dead won the best short award at Fantastic Fest last year. Now he's back with Far Out, a gloriously groovy short about a swinging party in the 1960s, with a twist befitting this festival. The setting reminded me of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and a brief chat with Mucci this week confirmed that he was thinking of Z-Man's parties too. I was especially impressed with the authentic look of the party and costumes, down to the last detail. This would have fit in nicely before Grindhouse, although it's a fully formed film and not a fake trailer. Screens before Hell's Ground.
King in the Box
Every year, Adam Green (Hatchet) makes a short film for Halloween with a bunch of his friends. Last year, they cooked up King in the Box, about a Halloween night when Jack in the Box plans a takeover of Burger King. I loved Jack's wife giving trick-or-treaters soggy burgers instead of candy, but the movie only gets funnier from there. If you're not at Fantastic Fest this week, you can watch the film on YouTube. Screens before Spiral.
The Little Gorilla
This film feels like an genuine childhood experience. A little boy who lives in sight of the Empire State Building watches King Kong (the 1933 version) and mixes this with his desire to climb the scary monkey bars at the nearby park. Can he muster enough bravery and defy his skeptical older brother's expectations? It's cute without being twee, and the ending is perfect for a film screening at this festival. Screens before Blood, Boobs and Beast.
Monster Job Hunter
This short was made in Austin, so you know I'm a little biased right off the bat. Monster Job Hunter is about a video-game fanatic who is forced to battle the cutthroat world of ... the job interview. The film is live-action, but cartoonishly so, and contains some excellent special effects. I loved the excessively nervous main character, but I now have my own fear of accidentally ripping my resume in half while waiting for a job interview to begin. Screens before Wolfhound.
After we read a foreshadowing quote from Sigmund Freud, a young man creates a cute little hand puppet that quickly develops unexpected personality quirks. The animation is entirely hand-drawn -- filmmaker Patrick Smith also created the Zoloft Dot, although this is more sophisticated. Deceptively simple, perhaps a little predictable, and wholly entertaining. Puppet has won awards from at least a dozen film festivals, and deservedly so. Screens before The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
I might not have realized this film was directed by Bill Plympton if I hadn't seen his name on the credits -- I tend to associate the animated filmmaker with the squashed-up style he established in earlier shorts (25 Ways to Quit Smoking was a favorite of mine in college). This time Plympton ventures into noir, with a film set in an impossibly tall hotel where mysterious deaths occur night after night. The culprit is absolutely brilliant. The perfect type of short to watch before another movie -- distinctive style, a little amusing, and above all short. Screens before Princess.
This dialogue-less live-action film from Norway won a Palme D'Or at Cannes in 2006. It's set in a grim-looking world where gravity doesn't affect humans, so everyone has to wear sturdy metal boots and strap themselves into bed. One man, however, escapes from bed one night and starts to feel restless in his heavy boots. It's an oddly poignant film with bizarre touches. Screens before Maiko Haaaan!
Tyger is a lovely Brazilian short loosely based on William Blake's poem, and incorporating several different animation styles. A tiger, which is obviously a puppet operated by several people, stalks a big city at night and transforms everything in its path to the elements of a jungle. I particularly liked the way the jungle transformation was portrayed, with bright golden tendrils of leaves and stems unfolding into the cityscape backgrounds. Screens before Aachi and Ssipak.