A few of the shorts featured here reach deep into eccentricity and the strange and for what it’s worth, you might feel like you want to jump into these worlds, if only to sometimes escape the sometimes too- normal state of life (depends, however, on the life of whoever might be reading this).
Winner Winner Winner ^ *** ^ Directed by Denise Ohio ^ Carnivals are a real blast, what with elephant ears, stomach-sickening rides, and the presence of always-reliable carneys. But sometimes the rides will make you sick and you spend part of your time there with your head in a trashcan spewing all kinds of stomach gunk. Denise Ohio, on the other hand, sees carnivals in a different way, comparing them to filmmaking. Everything’s all bright and colorful and fun, everyone seems to have a good time, and it seems sexy as hell to jump in on the action. But, as Ohio points out, in terms of filmmaking, the games are rigged, and you find yourself without enough money to play, which can be incredibly frustrating. Of course there are risks, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play.
Naked Ladies ^ *** ^ Directed by Denise Ohio ^ An on-screen question is posed: Why should you bother being any sort of artist? Many answers are supplied, including a few Old Reliables such as “The voices tell me to,”, “The drugs,” and “To get rich and famous.” This, while a camera pans over certain parts of a naked woman and the “real” answer is whipped out: Naked ladies. I…guess, I don’t know. That wouldn’t be the ONLY reason to try to be some sort of artist, though it can be a mighty fine motivation, among many others.
First Kiss ^ *** ^ Directed by GB Hajim ^ When it comes to outer space, there’s so much to explore, but you just gotta be careful about who you play tonsil hockey with. Two girls in space, animated in such a cool manner, embrace and start to lock lips, and out comes a very long tongue from one of them.
Twinkie Clock ^ ** ^ Directed by Mike Walsh ^ Is that expensive alarm clock pissing you off each morning because it wakes you up? Essentially, that’s what it’s supposed to do, but don’t go throwing it across the room just because of that. Don’t try this method either: Twinkies as alarm clocks. “Twinkie Clock” tries out some humor by suggesting that all you should do is unwrap a Twinkie and place it on your bedside. We see the same sleepy guy who was about to throw said alarm clock across the room, wake up with a start and smash the Twinkie. Yeah, real smart buddy. First off, the Twinkie doesn’t make any discernible noise to piss you off and second, now you’ve got Twinkie cream all over your hand. Twinkie Clock is also suggested for those naps that may occur in places like movie theaters. Lovely. Moving on.
All Filler ^ **** ^ Directed by Jim Steendahl ^ So far, with my miniature pinscher/Italian greyhound, Simon, I’ve managed to get him to roll over and give me a high five. In the first of a bunch of very brief works by a comedy troupe called “All Filler”, we see through the eyes of a white-haired dog who’s reading the newspaper, glasses on its face. As soon as his master gets home, the glasses come off and then it’s time to eat. In the second bit, there’s a parody of Madeline, the mischievous French girl found in many children’s books. This time, she’s grown up and kicking a*s. For any of you familiar with the work of Anne Geddes, infant photographer, meet her brother, who’s not happy at her sister’s success. A very pretentious man, protective of his work, he provides an interview along with a look at how he gets the results he wants when it comes to taking photos of grown men in diapers. The final bit for “All Filler” is entitled “Pizzaboy”, which introduces us to Walt Pohl of Pizza Shack, who talks about the job, and even some crank delivery calls he received. Poor bastard. The entire work is uneven, but there are many moments throughout that keep everything moving nicely.
Corporate Nation ^ **1/2 ^ Directed by Christine Rose ^ A guy at McDonalds questions what he’s been told: “I’m responsible for killing 900,000 Americans a year?” And all this schmuck is doing is chowing on some French fries. That’s right folks; it’s time to play “Blame The Big Bad Conglomerates”. One person is responsible for killing the rainforest, another for 9/11, and another for slave labor, all by helping corporations make a huge profit by keeping their wallets open and empty. One nation under many corporations. Yeah, we know.
Stalling ^ ***1/2 ^ Directed by Stephen Sonneveld ^ Watching someone sitting at their computer terminal doing work is just about as fun as a hard kick in the face. All this purple-shirted guy wants to do is read his copy of “The American” by Henry James and looks longingly at it, only to be jolted out of his thoughts by a fussy computer, that at one point causes him to fold up a tissue, stick it on a pencil, and wave it at the computer. Soon enough, nature comes calling and it’s off to the men’s john and one of the stalls in there. A taller, uptight guy walks in while our hero is on the crapper and proceeds toward the bank of urinals. Instead of hearing the obligatory pissing, the sound is now played by the tinkling of piano keys that soon become faster and faster. After that, you could only expect someone to have to take a really huge dump and by the way that guy’s running, you can only suspect that Mexican food had something to do with it. With his business, we’re treated to a full-blown orchestra while the deed is being done. And it only gets better from there.
The Day The Mimes Pushed Back ^ **** ^ Directed by Michael Field ^ An arrogant d******d walks through a public park with two of his buds and soon comes upon a mime going through the motions of his act. He decides to go and bother the mime, but his two friends back off and decide to head elsewhere, in what definitely seems like a major act of foreshadowing. The jerkwad pushes the mime around a bit before pushing him completely down to the ground. The next day comes along and the same assclown walks through the park, only to encounter the victimized mime, who’s formed a mime posse to deal with the “problem”. It builds from there as the mimes gather even more mimes and at one point, the mimes can’t take an average floor fan and act as if a hurricane is about to blow them away.
Inertia ^ ****1/2 ^ Directed by Keith Bearden ^ Strangeness; one of thy names is Keith Bearden. Because of Bearden, you wouldn’t mind settling for a guy who does nothing but go on his daily paper route and then…does nothing, would ya? The fun begins with the film acting as if someone can’t decide what channel to settle on. I know the feeling. 23,456,178 channels and there’s nothing on. First, there’s any eyeful of kids in Hitler masks, doing the “Heil Hitler” arm pose and then comes an advertisement for “Phone Sex for Chickens”. After that, it’s time to settle down for the adventures of a guy who delivers newspaper for the Morning News Tribune and the many customers he encounters. They range from a crazy lady who obviously has not spoken to anyone in ages (she’s even made candles in the shape of human hands…”Handles), to a beefy moron who’s suddenly learned about the joys of air fresheners for cars. He relates a story to our inert hero about how he and his buddy puked in his truck one time and it smelled like “beer, pizza, and puke.” One pine tree air freshener later and according to him, the truck now smells like “a f*****g forest”. Long after the delivery route has been completed, the guy’s friend comes over and first demonstrates his new strobe light, followed by a show of shadow puppets, which includes Peter Cottontail in a porno. Fun!!!
The Waiting Room ^ ***1/2 ^ Directed by Ken Westermann ^ One of the producers of Shortkutz also does some filming and this is one of the results. An SUV wreck has brought a woman into the emergency room of a hospital and doctors and assistants are working busily around here. Pan down and you’ll find that she’s on the floor. What in the hell? Well, as it turns out, she’s just going through an out-of-body experience and during the time she spends before the inevitable happens, she wonders about various things such as whether her friend, who was with her in the car, made it, and how she can’t die this week because there are so many things to do. The ending is incredibly poignant and Ken Westermann made the right decision to end it where he did and once you see it, you might agree.
Jack Strange, Literary Hero ^ **** ^ Directed by David Hanagan ^ Take David Lynch, Dr. Seuss and any other absurdities you might recognize if you ever chance upon watching “Jack Strange”, and you have one of the most satisfying shorts ever to delve into the surreal, the strange, the wacky, and the wonderful. Jack Strange finds every situation unfolding around him to be as his last name is. First, he is chased, jumps off a tower and his work floats all over the city. He runs, trying to retrieve every piece of paper that contains all the words he holds dear, in a work that’s very important to him. Along the way, he’s mocked by a man and a woman in costume, performing Shakespeare and comes upon the characters that he writes about, including a tall, curvy woman in red pants and short black hair who asks him to play something for her on his typewriter. When he explains that he can’t play anything and says what it’s actually for, she wonders why he carries it around if he can’t play anything on it. Some sort of evil force seems to be on Jack’s tail as well as his words are changed around to the point that a character appears that he never wrote about; a little girl who insists that she can be found within his words.
With the extras on “Volume I”, you’re introduced to what makes Shortkutz attractive time and time again. There’s the usual (and well-organized) filmmaker bios that also point you toward many websites, some of which are now dead links. An audio commentary by Ken Westermann also lurks on the disc and it’s one that’ll ring true for many a filmmaker. I’m sure Westermann liked how his film turned out in some ways, but he does express displeasure at how certain things had to work. The film “cuts like a pig because there were no master shots to use,” Westermann explains at the very beginning. He also points out certain little details, such as the x-ray that’s held up in one shot. That x-ray is the spine of a dog. It’s refreshing to hear a commentary that doesn’t verbally play kissy-kissy on the hiney. Westermann does have his appreciation for various crew members, but keeps it down to a minimum. Very entertaining to listen to.
In the “Promos & Trailers” section, you’ll find a trailer for a film called “Dreamers”. A female narrator, playing a psychiatrist explains that the people in this film suffer from CFDS, or Chronic Filmmaking Dream Syndrome. Patients tend to fantasize about themselves making movies in Hollywood and suffer years of unemployment. It’s well-cut and it looks like it’s worth a full look. Also, remember the review of “First Kiss” a long while back? As it turns out, it was a clip from a futuristic TV show that’s being developed by “First Kiss” director GB Hajim and Shelley Doty. There’s lots of debris floating in space, and it’s about a band on a ship in space, playing “gigs at joints that would make Coltrane shiver.”
3 demo reels get their space on the disc as well. There’s one for an actor named Mark Pinckney who displays quite a talent for thumbing through the sections of a newspaper fairly quickly, while taking out the extra stuff such as coupons and the comics. He seems to also favor a few outta-the-way roles, such as a stint on National Geographic’s Amazing Planet where he plays the captain of an alien ship and, along with his crew, explores many different locations on Earth. In this particular clip, his pilot’s landed on the top of a pyramid, rather than beside it. It doesn’t help that the damn thing’s teetering and what makes it topple off is only mildly funny. The rest of his reel’s ok.
The second one is by a DP named Adam Berman. There’s a great commercial that he DP’d on where a car is trying to start and suddenly, a pair of shoes flies out of nowhere and hits the windshield, cracking it slightly. An “Auto Glass Specialist” van pulls up, the guy gets out, takes off the damaged glass, and… you’d think we are watching a car’s glass being repaired, but he takes off the TV glass, leaving us with “lottery balls”, as I call them, for only a second and he puts new glass on, wipes it up and is on his way. Berman’s work in the various clips is nicely done.
The final demo reel is by Martijn De Man, a music composer who hails from Norway. The music’s very plucky at times and seems right for a children’s film or two and then switches right into a serious piece. Finishing it off is an advertisement for indieclub.com and an interview segment with Ted Sod and Sandy Cioffi on a film called “Crocodile Tears”.
Just cough up the green and you’ll have a subscription to a DVD magazine where the value is incredible. Better hurry up because the new issues are becoming more attractive by the month. But don’t worry. Volume I is still hanging around the Shortkutz website as well…along with Volume II, III, IV, and the newly released Volume V.