SLFS 2011 Review: Shorts Program 6, Comedy Shorts
Shorts Program 6: Comedy Shorts includes 11 individual short films of various comical style, for a total running time of 80 minutes. Played consecutively, these films offer a broad and entertaining showcase for independent comedy filmmakers in the St. Louis area.
FLUFF (4 minutes)
Directed by Anthony Meadows and shot by Tim Bowe, FLUFF is an awesome action-mystery-thriller ode to all the kick ass genres of cinema. The comedy is inherent, as the film is cast entirely with colorful, handmade puppets. The central character, a stuffed bear, meets up with a stuffed horse named Lewis (voiced by Tim Gowan) about a strange black disc (a button). As they flee from danger together through the woods, they run into a freaky shot-out stuffed bear-thing named Martin (voiced by Tyler Meadows), who joins them in a violent fight to the death with two sock monkeys seeking the black disc. Carnage ensues, culminating in an open-ended “what happens next” moment. The marionette-style animation of these puppets lends to the cheesy goodness of unmoving mouths and occasionally visible fishing lines controlling the puppets movements. Those who like TEAM AMERICA, MEET THE FEEBLES, or Triumph the Insult Comic Dog will probably eat FLUFF up with a spoon.
BLOODFEST CLUB: DOWN ON THE FARM (7 minutes)
BLOODFEST CLUB: DOWN ON THE FARM is a short, comedic documentary on the making of the trailer for THE BLOODFEST CLUB, a brilliantly obvious horror-comedy hybrid with a certain John Hughes influence that is planned for production in 2012. Directed by Ken Calcaterra, this behind-the-scenes glimpse sets the mood by opening into a Benny Hill frenzy of high-speed filmmaking antics, set to quick tempo banjo music, which transitions abruptly to a heavy metal title. The film interviews the various cast and crew members, more than willing to share the ever-present abundance of indie-horror production war stories and battle scars. On the flip side, the support given the filmmakers from their community is addressed as well. This is a great opportunity to be entertained, while also learning about the exciting, and sometimes dangerous, lives of local indie filmmakers… and about the dangers of working with gerbils.
BOOM BOOM (8 minutes)
Larry and Terry Ziegelman co-wrote and co-directed BOOM BOOM, a dark comedy short about two friends who bump into each other over coffee. Ahmed (Karthik Srinivasan) sits nervously by himself when the loud and obnoxious Jamal (Behzad Dabu) recognizes him and imposes on his solitary coffee. Once Ahmed finally acknowledges Jamal as a friend, the film slips into absurdity hyper-drive, placing the two characters’ serious business of being Jihad suicide bombers on public display, making no effort to conceal their sinister purpose. The film is a, unapologetic satirical mocking of the rules and culture of Muslim extremists, with Ahmed and Jamal delaying each other as they debate and fantasize about what will be waiting for them on the other side, oblivious to the world around them. BOOM BOOM is either hilarious, or highly offensive, depending on your outlook, but the goal is to make us laugh, a goal at which the film succeeds.
GREENTHUMB (3 minutes)
GREENTHUMB was written and directed by Curtis C. Craig, and shot and edited by Daniel Parris, who also had his feature-length documentary GIVE A DAMN? premiere during this year’s St. Louis Filmmaker’s Showcase. The short film plays mostly as a montage, with a man going through his daily motions of hydrating himself, then hydrating the lawn, inadvertently discovering a novel solution for sustainable gardening. As the viewer, once you get past the baffling question of why this man chooses to do what he does, the film becomes a sort of parable for setting an example for others. I know, it sounds like a stretch, but what I took away from viewing this short film was a light, humorous approach to conveying a rather simple, environmental message.
HELP WANTED (3 minutes)
Another short film written, directed, produced and edited by Ken Calcaterra, HELP WANTED is a silly silent comedy about a stoner dude trying to get a job at an ice cream shop. His hopes of free ice cream are repeatedly dashed when the young female clerk refuses to consider his proposal, but the man persists. One ridiculous attempt after another, from a hand-written resume to the most lavishly lame disguises, the film finally comes to a conclusion. There will be some who undoubtedly enjoy HELP WANTED, but the juvenile humor just isn’t my taste. If this is something you’re into, then by all means enjoy the show!
IT’S A SYMBOL (16 minutes)
A man named Maximus (Steve Gibbons) walks into a grocery store. Queue the lavish orchestral music as Maximus selects a single red rose. IT’S A SYMBOL, directed by Jamie Koogler, follows two actors’ tedious and nerve-racking wait for this rose to finally die. Maximus is an annoying, overly energetic ham. On the other hand, Stacy (Dawn Davis) is the dead serious, pretentious type who demands the rose be dead, as a symbol for her character’s mental state. These two acting partners quibble and bicker back and forth like an episode of The Honeymooners or I Love Lucy, struggling to work together on their scenes. IT’S A SYMBOL plays like a soap opera, if the soap opera was cast by Saturday Night Live hopefuls. As silly as the premise is, silly as in Curb Your Enthusiasm, the film works as a throwback to ’80s era sitcoms. Maybe it’s just my interpretation, but it makes the craziness of the film enjoyable.
LIVE BY THE SWORD (14 minutes)
Written and directed by Stephen Jones, LIVE BY THE SWORD begins with Dale (Matt Wills) sitting at home with a plate of nachos, watching TV when an infomercial for discount swords catches his fancy. Dale is a geek, nothing wrong with that. His t-shirt that reads “Shakespeare Hates Your EMO Poems” tells us he’s not bashful about his geekness. The samurai sword arrives in the mail and thus begins Dale’s creatively destructive adventure. He gets carried away, using the sword in ways it was never intended, and taking it with him to inappropriate places. Like so many stereotypical trigger-happy, gun-loving ’70s era Dirty Harry characters, his sword fills the absense of a female companion in Dale’s life, until he meets Natalie (Kelly Nienaltowski), a woman with similar interests. On a purely technical front, LIVE BY THE SWORD suffers from a number of poorly lit night scenes, making parts of the film difficult to watch properly, otherwise the film is a fun, quirky boy-meets-girl story with a delightful touch of MALLRATS at the end.
MUGGED (5 minutes)
Director Andrew Saunders’ short film MUGGED begins with a creepy through-the-knot-hole shot of someone watching, as a man walks by, busy talking on his cell phone. The man becomes the victim of a mugger, but what becomes excrutiatingly apparent, however, is that the mugger may be the true victom… of a Cable Guy type of unlikely stalker, who follows the mugger everywhere, believing he and the mugger are now friends. The man is an annoying, rude and clueless combination of Jerry Lewis and Kevin James, ultimately leading to a likely and anticlimatic ending. The film is enjoyable, but doesn’t do quite enough to make itself as original as it could have been. MUGGED stars Josh Wibbenmeyer and Jordan Bowlin.
ROBBERS (8 minutes)
Written, directed and edited by Nick Young, ROBBERS screams slapstick right from the start. The two robbers (David Appelbaum and Hubby Clark) exhibit the same level of skill as Harry and Marv from the HOME ALONE films. As it turns out, ROBBERS is very much like the HOME ALONE movies in this sense, except for the hero. Instead of a smart-mouther little kid, the robbers must deal with a drunk man (Devin Penn) whose wife left him for his best friend and has nothing to lose. It’s a nice twist, but not a terribly massive leap from the obvious inspiration. One thing ROBBERS has going for it is a witty, adolescent yet adult sense of humor that comes through in the dialogue. I enjoyed the film for what it is, which is purely meant to be popcorn humor, an adult take on a familiar family comedy.
TIEUR EMBUSQUE (6 minutes)
Alternately titled “Sniper,” this black and white short film starts out peaceful, shot to evoke a serene feeling, complete with relaxing music and cutaway shots of pretty flowers gently swaying in the wind. A man (Jeffrey Glickman) removes a bag from the trunk of his car and takes a stroll through a park full of people enjoying themselves. No one seems to notice that his bag looks suspiciously like a gun case and that he appears to be headed straight for a tower in the center of the park. The music gradually takes a decidedly darker turn as the man ascends the tower stairs, a segment of the film I particularly enjoyed for it’s Hitchcockian visual flair. Even the composition of frames takes on a slight influence of German silent horror as the story reaches its climax. The tension slowly builds until the agonizing, unbearably brutal conclusion assaults the viewer as well as the innocents in the park. Co-directors Jordan Oakes and Hal Scharf take a simple premise and run with it, creating a cinematically strong film that bends the rules of traditional comedy, with an added twist at the end.
THE WORLD CHAMPIONS (7 minutes)
Two slackers with no muscial talent jamming out until one of the slackers’ parents return home. This is how THE WORLD CHAMPIONS begins, with these two daydreaming losers fantasizing about “when they make it big.” All of that changes while surfing the Internet for possible band names when they stumble upon the world champion apple pie eater. Suddenly, their delusions shift from becoming rock stars to setting a world record, believing this will reward them with respect, money and babes. They set out on a series of attempts to break a world record, any record they can, with fame in their eyes. From fastest time running a 100-yard dash, to most spin kicks to a tree in 20 seconds. After going through countless failed attempts, they have a mutual epiphany. THE WORLD CHAMPIONS was directed by and stars Matt Basler and Train Mayer, evoking Justin Long and John Belushi in their appearance and personalities.
Shorts Program 6, Comedy Shorts will screen during the 2011 Stella Artois St. Louis Filmmaker’s Showcase at 9:30PM on Tuesday, August 16th at the Tivoli Theatre.