Microcinema’s monthly Independent Exposure program has returned for a 9th season, bringing with it the possibility for more great shorts from many different countries, and even more so the chance to befuddle, please, and make audiences laugh, at such venues as the 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco and the Axiom Theatre in Houston.
While the theme of the season premiere’s selections isn’t readily apparent by the title, the focus is on shorts that need little more than sound effects and music to pull them through, with the remaining ones using dialogue for various reasons.
Oh! China! ^ *1/2 ^ Directed by Jeffrey Charles
For every good experimental short that tries its best to reach audiences with its thoughts, there’s always one to ignore the people watching and just sink into an act of mental masturbation. I don’t doubt the need for experimental works in cinema for the simple fact that people want to play around with various conventions and methods in making their films. “Oh! China!” is only 39 seconds long, and “Let’s Go To China!” first pops up in various spots against an orange background, followed by a huge mess of photos and graphics, including an animated male swimmer. Mental masturbation at its worst.
Sky Ranch ^ *** ^ Directed by Sheridan Shindruk
Continuing the dominant theme of shorts with nothing more than sound effects and music is this experimental piece explaining the construction of a fictional airport called Sky Ranch. Through on-screen text, we learn of its conception and later on, sample many proposed airport maps that could end up being Sky Ranch. “Sky Ranch” may be focusing on one airport but at the same rate, it could describe the construction of any number of real-life airports.
Post Apocalypse Now ^ **** ^ Directed by David Fenster
Through rotoscoping (not the “Waking Life” type), and with nothing but a sky blue background, a lone cloaked figure walks along an empty Earth, with a pumpjack, a “76” gas station, and a McDonalds still standing. At certain points, the figure turns to the camera and speaks in a strange tongue. The figure might be Death, or it might be a being from another planet. With what is being said, it could also be a propaganda video for an alien race trying to convince its own to join up in the fight to conquer the rest of the universe, by using the barren Earth as a background. It was a wise move to leave the actions of this figure open to interpretation.
Nobo ^ ****1/2 ^ Directed by Diginoise Media Lab
While I have an aversion to the idea that a robot could exhibit the same emotions and quirks that humans do (love, curiosity, anger, jealousy, etc.), I don’t mind a film showing that, so long as it works well, without resorting to the usual schmaltz that saddles a movie like “Bicentennial Man”. “Nobo” is about a robot as well, a little one that’s never seen what’s outside before. He’s always worked deep within the gears of an ominous factory, its metal clanging all day long, its gears squeaking and shifting, and there’s always some rhythmic pounding coming from somewhere. Then again, maybe that’s the metal too. After a butterfly flies into this place, landing on the robot’s face, the robot is curious about where it came from and what else might exist. The computer animation in here is astounding, capturing with amazing detail the scratches on the robot and the gears that spin inside it. This astonishing work of animation should be marveled at more times than one.
I am not sleepy ^ ** ^ Directed by Jossie Malis
This slight waste of space involves a schmuck of a guy who is sitting on a sidewalk, eating a banana, while his voice-over informs us that he can’t understand why he was sitting on a sidewalk, chowing on a banana, considering that he’s hated them all his life. Soon, he gets up and just starts walking, but not before he encounters a person with a huge baby-faced head that tells him that he’s in danger by a being that’s risen out of the water, with a black umbrella, who distorts whatever buildings it walks by. The dialogue’s nothing to fart at, and the only good parts here are the distorted ones.
Get the Beer from the Fridge ^ *** ^ Directed by Mark O’Connell
One thing about writing for this site is that many times, you will end up encountering the same filmmakers more times than you would if you were reviewing the weekly multiplex offerings or art-house flicks. Case in point, Mark O’Connell, whose work I first saw in his compilation, “Just Kill Me”. Here he’s filmed someone, most likely himself, getting a beer from the fridge, and has painted each digital image in this. The light reflecting off the fridge is enough to make you wince, in the way it’s painted, but it’s most certain that millions of people will be able to relate to this.
Three Minutes Out ^ ****1/2 ^ Directed by Shizuko Tabata
“Childhood”, which appeared in Microcinema’s “All-Animation Edition” sparked with creativity in a piece of paper being smoothed out, followed later on by a person coming along inside the piece of paper and smoothing it out again. The only problem was in the middle, where it crinkled, crumpled, folded its own corners, and more. It seemed to go on longer than necessary. With “Three Minutes Out”, there’s a marked improvement here by Tabata, who this time, has a woman hold a piece of paper, while activity goes on behind her in a time-lapse state. What appears on the paper as she holds it is where she’ll be next. For example, she’s at the shoreline at the beach in one scene, and the paper shows a Ferris wheel, and that’s where Tabata cuts to next.
three ^ ***1/2 ^ Directed by Nick Peterson
A couple decides to head out on a beautiful day since it’s their day off. One of the women wants to go check out all things art and the other (who looks younger than her) just wants to walk around, taking pictures with her camera, even to the point of making some people uncomfortable, including a man and a woman who are reading a book together, and notice her. After she takes their picture, they get up hurriedly and walk away. The only way they speak to each other is by glances and stares, illustrating what Nick Peterson is going for in showing different forms of communication in his “communication” trilogy, “three” being the last of it.
Beauty School ^ **** ^ Directed by Amy Nicholson
In big cities, such as NYC and Los Angeles, there are so many ways of life in each, so many options that you can waste your time with, that it’s absolutely staggering. Not to mention the number of jobs in these cities that exist as well. And let’s not forget the education opportunities in each city such as…the New York School of Dog Grooming. Yes, there actually is a school devoted to this, owned by Mary Iucopilla, who bought it off Sam Kohl, who’s claimed to be the guy that wrote the bible on dog grooming. I’d believe it and not only that, but I like any documentary, short or long, that has students of dog grooming getting grossed out over the fact that they have to shave around the dog’s a*s. Yeah!
Dacari and Donnell’s Demo Tape ^ **1/2 ^ Directed by Jonnie Ross
As Independent Exposure wound down last year, I was left with “How to Cope With Death”, by Ignacio Ferreras. It’s not a bad way to end the season and be left waiting for me. Luckily, now that there’s a new season, any bad shorts at the end of any of these programs can be brushed off with an, “Eh, it sucked,” and not much time to wait for the next lineup. “Dacari and Donnell’s Demo Tape” is not one of the bad shorts, but it just looks kinda ridiculous with twin brothers lip-syncing to rap music, which as it turns out, this audition tape was shown on Jenny Jones and Maury Povitch, though probably not with the way Jonnie Ross has manipulated the image, causing the boys to twist at one point as they’re just spinning around slowly on separate platforms while standing still. It generally makes a point about parents trying to force their kids into the act of seeking fame at an early age, but you know what? It’s all just something to look at with the visuals, blow it off, and wait for the next edition.