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By Rory L. Aronsky | June 9, 2003

In this new “Independent Exposure” program, there is a heavier mixture of experimental films as well as animation and it couldn’t be better. The wonderful thing I’ve found with the program this time and the last time I reviewed it (“May Flowers”) is that there is great talent lurking in these short films that should be seen. Without further ado, awaaaaaaay we go…………
Tokyo Meltdown ^ **1/2 ^ Directed by Thomas Muller ^ “Useless”, “Selfish”, “Trash”, “Digital”, “Zen”. Those are some of the words you’ll find flashing by very quickly in this one where images of Godzilla are shown along with a heck of a lot of other stuff. Could this guy possibly be displeased with Tokyo in some way?
Employee Orientation ^ ***1/2 ^ Directed by Gregory McDonald ^ Gregory McDonald has taken it upon himself to put his own narration over 8mm film footage that was shot at a 1967 Detroit Diesel company party by his father. McDonald, narrating as one of the workers, talks about the legs of women that he likes, when homophobia strikes the guy toward the end. Suddenly, he has feelings for one of his male co-workers. It does get a little ridiculous, but it’s fun.
Falling ^ ** ^ Directed by Julian Dahl ^ Footage of some rollercoaster rides…a blonde begging for something not to happen…a chick in blue hair screaming about something…and the total comes out to: Some decent shots here that illustrate my love of rollercoasters, but that’s about it.
7 Cats ^ **** ^ Directed by Laura Di Trapani ^ HA! I knew it! This animated piece focuses on seven cats walking out a door toward seven milk bowls and later on, they are sitting on a wall. Right off the bat, this felt like a piece that Sesame Street should use, should the head honchos on the show feel like using the number 7 one day. Well lo and behold, the biography for Laura Di Trapani on the Microcinema website reveals that she did win an Emmy for her work on Sesame Street. However, it doesn’t mention what work of hers was honored with the award. “7 Cats” is very well made and certainly brought back memories of sitting in front of the TV as a tyke, watching Sesame Street.
C-Flat ^ **** ^ Directed by Jim Minton Beautiful animation permeates this short that tries to visually interpret a David Gascoyne Dadaist poem from the 1900s. In other words, you’re looking at French surrealist poetry here. The most interesting verbal element featured is a green parrot who speaks in tongues.
Suspension ^ *** ^ Directed by Jon Nowak ^ A guy sits, strapped to cinderblocks while the hit man towering over him tries to extract a confession. Match that with the fact that the hit man has a heavy belief in Jesus, as well as some good performances and you have an interesting film here. While the actor playing the hit man goes overboard at times, the man staring death in the face speaks worlds with his silence.
One Trick Pony ^ *** ^ Directed by Ben Coonley ^ Ready to learn how to dance the Texas Two-Step and the Cotton Eyed Joe to the music recording in a toy pony? If you thought, “What the hell?” when you just read that, you most certainly are. This is an ok film with the person on screen speaking occasionally by just moving his mouth up and down while narration takes care of the rest. In some small way, it is kind of funny to see a couple try out the Cotton Eyed Joe to the music of a toy pony.
Rude Roll ^ ****1/2 ^ Directed by Rick Raxlen ^ This is great! Rick Raxlen uses photo-illustrations from how-to-books and animation to create this short on how to dance ska. The coolest thing here is the chalk-like drawings found toward the end.
Silence ^ ***** ^ Directed by Troy DeRego ^ To date, this is the best experimental film out there. This is an exploration as to what silence is and what it looks like. Both audio and visual methods are used, audio being narration by various people ruminating on what silence is. Such answers are, “Silence is comfort,” “Spirituality,” “Silence is a bird standing on the side of a lake,” and more. There is one man whose voice dominates the proceedings later on and his thoughts are both frustrating and incredibly insightful. One answer from him is, “Silence probably allows one to explore the world in new ways.” The greatest thing about this dude is when he finishes his last thought and then says, “Silence is a complicated topic.” This, after all he talked about in regards to silence.
Visually, super 8 footage shows the inside of a piano making a “wave”, cars driving on the road, etc. Ok, my thought about what silence is: You know how you are in bed and you close your eyes and you can start to feel yourself drifting away into the subconscious? That’s what silence is. It’s that time before you head into the dream state.
Velvet and Rat Skins ^ ****1/2 ^ Directed by Evan James ^ Hand-drawn and computer animation come together to represent two different worlds in this dark, futuristic tale. We are first introduced to a young, curious boy who is without clothing, save for the bottom part of himself and is itching to break free of the leash that is binding him. Then the camera pans up and we soon head into another place where a little girl is lorded over by a dominating scientist. Soon enough, these two worlds come together in a story with a clear message: Despite changes in the technology of our world, we should all be able to get along. This short provides some hope for that.
Tom Hits His Head ^ ***** ^ Directed by Tom Putnam ^ Employing the services of actor Morgan Rusler to play himself, Tom Putnam narrates this wacky short about the time he hit his head when he passed out at the doctor’s office. Panic attacks and dizzy spells followed along with the impulse purchasing of a Hazmat suit and visits from the devil, who tells Tom that he’s the Antichrist, and demonstrates that with a chalkboard to count out how many letters there are in his first, middle (Andrew) and last names…6-6-6. Oh, by the way, the devil’s head comes from a baby doll. The way that I knew this was an absorbing film is when I started counting the letters of Tom’s name even before the Devil himself got to doing it. The writing’s great and you’ll probably get just as absorbed by this one, too.
Compositions in Red and Yellow ^ **** ^ Directed by Roger Beebe ^ With the exception of Jon Jacobs, I don’t always expect to see new works from the filmmakers I review so quickly after their previous works. Yet, this turned out to be quite interesting as I saw Roger Beebe’s “The Strip Mall Trilogy” on the “Urban Visions” DVD and here he is again with “Compositions in Red and Yellow,” a film that shows that no matter where you go in this land we call the United States, there always will be a McDonald’s somewhere. Not only that, but the footage taken of state signs and subsequent McDonald’s locations is set to the song, “Hands Across America” making this somewhat funny as well.
Lost Moment ^ ***1/2 ^ Directed by Selina Herbert ^ A simple one-and-a-half minute offering shows a little girl tucked deep under her bed covers with a flashlight on, thumbing through pages of a book. It will no doubt remind people of times they’ve done that; times that comic book fans finally got the issue of that certain comic they always wanted, times that prepubescent boys found their first copy of Playboy or whatever their parents’ pleasure was, and even times where that good book being read had to stay open, despite calls from parents to get to sleep already. This is a great look at simple innocence.
For screening times and venues, visit the Microcinema website.

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