As evidenced in three of his short films, “Lucky Day,” “Death Warmed Up,” and “The Inflected Afflicted,” Phelps Harmon makes movies out of moments. Running under five minutes each, the films—unrelated in terms of plot and character—highlight examples of a person’s daily routines. “Lucky Day” breathes life into the adage, “when at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Written by and starring the director himself (as is the case with the other two shorts), “Lucky Day” consists of one scene. A man sees a quarter on a sidewalk. The 25 cent piece glistens in the sunlight and beckons the man to pick it up off the ground. Instinctively, the man flips the coin in the air and plays heads-or-tails. He guesses wrong the first time. Determined to win at least once, the man tosses the quarter four more times. On the fifth try, he strikes metaphorical gold.
“Lucky Day” is only one and a half minutes long. It’s short and to the point. “Death Warmed Up,” isn’t much longer but doesn’t really make or have a point. Approximately seven things happen in “Death Warmed Up.” A man wearing a poncho wakes up from a night of beer-chugging. He looks in his kitchen for food, microwaves two trays of ice cubes for drinking water, and makes a sandwich out of a pizza. The man returns to the couch he was sleeping on and turns on the TV. He eats his pizza and watches “Passport to Paris” starring Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. The beginning credits end and the man falls asleep. It’s somewhat funny to see the man wearing a poncho, but so what? “Death Warmed Up” won’t enlighten you, but the final short will.
“The Inflected Afflicted” is the longest and possibly the strongest of the three short films. Constructed as a deceptively non-linear story, “The Inflected Afflicted” tests how much attention you’re paying to the images presented. You see a man (Harmon) sitting on a bench. He’s wearing khakis and an un-tucked, button-down shirt. He’s also sporting a pair of trendy sunglasses. There’s also a woman (Sara Silver) who has a date with him. Over the course of the next three minutes, you see the same man but he’s in varying degrees of “tidiness.” In some shots, he’s not wearing the shades but a pair of regular glasses and his shirt is tucked in his pants. The film also reveals how the man obtained the sunglasses as well as one of the bouquets of flowers that he gives to the woman. Apparently, not only is he cheap (the flowers came from a trash can), but he’s also inclined to steal (the shades were swiped from some guy (Mike Hamblin) reading in the park). It’s unclear whether the woman is aware that her date isn’t much of a gentleman. Moreover, it’s hard to tell if the film is non-linear or is playing backwards. “The Inflected Afflicted” is open to interpretation in that respect. You won’t realize it until it ends and then you’ll have to watch it again to be sure.