24 September, 2012

Short Take: RIFF roundup

From top: "Life Through a Lens," "Shoot the Moon," "Douglas," "HowardCantour.com"

The two dozen shorts I saw at the Rome International Film Festival was a mixed bag. Overall, the quality was pretty good. Many of the blocks were grouped together very appropriately, and the shorts attached to features were usually there for a reason, whether it was for quality or thematic purposes. These are hardly astute, scientific observations; just thoughts on what I saw.

"The Winking Boy" - A clever Australian short. Funny, well cast. Homemade feel to it, but with skill.

"Waking Up" - One of the most affecting shorts at RIFF. A lively film about death. Moving, smooth flow. Great music by Gareth Coker.

"In Our Hands" - Very professionally shot. Dense atmosphere, thick like smoke in a tunnel. Time-lapse shots of train aren't in keeping with other aesthetics, but aren't prominent enough to detract. Good score by Sigur Rós.

"Ready to Talk" - Light where it needs to be, heavy where it needs to be. Two great leads in Andres Faucher and Tamara Arias.

"Douglas" - Filmmaker Brandon Vedder does a great job conveying the frantic anxiety of our central character and ultimately his rise above it. Andrew Makishima is a giant Joseph Gordon-Levitt (which is awesome). Received the most whispers out of any short I was in the audience for.

"Apocryphal" - Shot in Mexico City's fascinating Santa Fe district, but the audience is kept disconnected until the film's still unsatisfying final moments.

"Shoot the Moon" - Reminds me a lot of Guillermo Arriaga's "The Burning Plain," with rich, complicated chemistry between mother and daughter (the extraordinary duo of Pamela Bowen and Rachel Grate). Cast has plenty to chew on. Audience is left feeling helpless and angry, but very heavily invested.

"Cluck" - Annoying and creepy. Simply not a fan.

"Leak" - Overlong Israeli short, gives the audience no good answers for anything that goes on.

"HowardCantour.com" - Shia LaBeouf's directorial debut starring Jim Gaffigan was one of the festival's highlights. My notes simply say: "Whaaaaat! Love it."

"Life Through a Lens" - Ellenor Argyropoulos's film was the single best short film from RIFF. Read more here.

"Kinetic" - Moody and offers limited explanation, but solid entertainment.

"Goose Family" - Would've made more sense as a narrative rather than a mockumentary. Carries an appropriate loneliness, but lacks much soul as everything is laid out in voiceover.

"Stuffed" - Sorry, my notes just say: "meh."

"Everything's For Sale" - Sleek, well-done Georgia short could have been beefed up enough to be a feature with expansion of subplot. Jeff Rose has Tom Cruise's fervor, Kate Guyton is the heart of the film. Director Eric Haviv has firm grip on minutiae.

"Grenouille d'hiver" - I saw this at the Atlanta Film Festival as well. Charming the first time, tiring every time after that.

"Caves: The Social Underground" - Beautifully shot, but plays like an infomercial for caves. Earnest in efforts to convince an audience of something already universally admirable; comes across as overselling. Music stolen from a candle shop somewhere in Gatlinburg. Nonetheless, high quality photography and a nice change from other programming. Will screen at the Savannah Film Festival.

"Stand Up or Shut Up" - Starts off pretty low, gradually rises much higher with an affecting finish.

"Superhero" - Screened at the Macon Film Festival. Nice to see familiar scenery such as Mercer University and The Rookery. Alison Hastings full of passion and wonder. Film starts off cute-as-a-button, slows a bit, resumes radiance with best use of sparklers this side of "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Winner of the jury award for Best Narrative Short.

"Next of Kin" - Lovely use of Floyd and Bartow Counties' rolling hills and red clay. A bit too expository.

"Love's Got My Goat" - Starts off with a nice ode to Atlanta, but that was about all I liked. Cute, I guess.

"Blue" - Dalton's Firehouse Film Festival winner. A bit Hallmark-y, but still moving.

"Carbon for Water" - Raises more questions than it answers (How readily available are new filters? Do you have to replace the filters after a certain amount of time or use? Are there projections for regrowth of forest?), but well made. Nice to see focus on one of Africa's more quickly developing countries, Kenya. Winner of the jury award for Best Documentary Short.

"A Story of Our Hero (to 1910)" - Chris Giddens has something special here. It feels a bit incomplete because it is. The history of cinema isn't the story, but the filter through which the story is told. Looking forward to this project continuing.

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