Sunday, April 11, 2010

Aspen Report #2

Aspen Shortsfest wrapped up last night with the two strongest programs of the whole event. Friday had its share of memorable pieces, which coupled with Saturday's strong effort, helped salvage an otherwise mundane festival.

Friday's Programs (Seven & Eight): The first set of shorts on Friday featured
several stories centered around kids. Two that stood out were "Franswa Sharl" and "Rita." Sharls is based on the true story of a vacationing Australian family and the outgoing son who enters - and wins - a girls beauty pageant.
The short was funny, sweet, and the lead was really captivating. It was a great all around family short. On the opposite side of the kids film coin is Rita. The story centers on Rita, a blind girl who soon finds herself forced outside the comfort of her home and taking a chance she's always wanted to. A majority of the film is close on Rita's face so the audience sees how she reacts to what she - and the audience - can't see. It's a filmmaking tactic that worked very well.

The second program had more dreck, some snakes, and two pretty good shorts. "Yellow Belly End" was an interesting animation that is absurd and quirky. A man dressed as a bird watches people dressed as assorted members of the animal kingdom jump to their deaths. The short was well-paced, funny, and strange - just my type of short.

Saturday's Programs (Nine & Ten): Saturday brought out the best of all the programs with two strong sets to finish out the festival. Program Nine delivered one great short after another, headlined by "The Queen," "Mother of Many," and "The Six Dollar Fifty Man." Queen was a charming fantasy tale about a young man who is quiet, shy and overlooked at his school. As he closes up the family laundromat one night, a random encounter with a classmate sends him into a beautiful fantasy. This piece was short, sharp, and featured Pat Benatar in the soundtrack (bonus points). Mother was a wild animation about a midwife with graphic depictions of women in labor. Six Dollar was a New Zealand short about a young, illiterate man who lives in a fantasy world all his own and the women who love him. The short was clever, imaginative and fun. The young lead (seen above in all his red and blonde glory) was quite good - he was deep, emotive and captivating.

The second set of the night was a proper send off for the festival - several awesome pieces of animation, a couple of taut thrillers, and a sweet romantic-comedy that was tops of the fest. "The Art of Drowning" was a visual stunner that looked at the act of drowning and whether or not, in the throes of death, one's life passes before his eyes. "Wolves" was a strange animated short about dreams, reality, and love's missed opportunities. "The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger" was one of the newest films from Bill Plympton and contains all the insanity one would expect from a Plymptoon. "Battered," "Cigarette Candy," and "Roar" (a SLIFF alum) were deeply moving, well produced dramas that strengthened the final program. More shorts like those sprinkled throughout the fest would have made it thoroughly more enjoyable. The closing film, "God of Love," was a snappy, jazzy love story that put a twist on Cupid folklore. The short was one of those rare student films that transcends the boundaries of academic limitations and exceeded even the best of major productions. The piece was funny, smart, well photographed and hit all the beats of a well produced piece. It didn't have anything unnecessary or over-indulgence of the filmmakers. It's a piece I definitely hope to bring to St. Louis in November.

I'll conduct a fest wrap-up tomorrow, but for now I'm just ready for bed. I'll part by saying the festival was a lot of fun and it was great to see so many shorts in a short amount of time by actually being in a theater. In the coming weeks, I'll work on following up contact with the many pieces I'm interested and I'll keep you posted on the progress for the SLIFF programs this fall.

No comments: