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bob the moo
(list no longer kept up-to-date....sorry)
In the Company of Insects (2020)
Wonderfully droll and reflective
Writer, director, and narrator Duncan Cowles recently lost his grandfather, and in processing his loss he decided to film insects in his garden. The footage of this is engagingly simple and detailed, but it is the narration that makes it such a strong film. Cowles records his narration in a way that comes over incredibly genuine and heartfelt. It is of course carefully crafted and produced, but the simple footage contrasts so well with the meditative thoughts of the narrator trying to cope with the bigger picture of life. With a wry Scots' view, the narration is amusing but engaging in how it deconstructs things but yet is very down to earth and normal (even munching biscuits while musing) and it makes for a strong film. The footage slips into the background while remain relevant, leaving a reflective Scottish man to easily do enough to capture the viewer.
Amazing craft used to tell a delicate story
An old owl lives alone, having dedicated her life to pure religious living for her God. As she nears the end of her life she reflects on these decisions with a certain amount of regret that they appear to have led her to live her life alone.
Although there is a lot to say about the plot of this short film, it is hard to start there when the animation is so impressive. Delivered in stop-motion, the film is so natural looking in terms of its movement, its light, and its attention to detail, that at times I almost forgot it was stop-motion because the word "stop" seemed in conflict with the fluidity I was seeing. I'm a sucker for this type of animation anyway, but it is endlessly impressive when done really well - and this is done hugely well. As I've often felt with great stop-motions, I was impressed by how the animation is only the delivery - the writing and characters are very well done too (if I ever managed to make a stop-motion animation, you can be assured it would not even be as good as Ben's in Parks & Recreation).
Here the plot is both simple and complex; on one hand it is as simple as a repressed spinster looking to release a life of pent up passion, but at the same time it is a touch more than that because it brings in the detail of the religion, the sadness of some aspects, the humour of others, and it makes for a complete picture with shading and detail - again, very similar to what the animation itself does. The manner of the telling makes it easy to follow the character on her journey, even if at times it can be a bit too on the beak, and then at others it is a flight of fancy very open to interpretation. Both work though, within the wider span of the film.
Very impressive short film, in a range of ways.
Better than expected because of how well it does the universal elements
A stripper fails badly at a private show for a couple of 'open' sexuality; this leads to a more relaxed interaction which in turn brings her and couple close, and into an active threesome relationship.
The concept, and the sheer weight of buzz words in the material I read about this film did put me off initially, but actually this was a really good film, mainly because of how focused it was on the universal elements, and how well Jade was directed and able to deliver on them. The couple, the specifics of their lifestyle, and a few other glossy elements all edged on being cringe (from my perspective), but the core elements were charming, grounded in humanity and recognizable in the way it has awkwardness, uncertainty, need, trust, and other familiar relationship elements within it. I expected it to fail at the romance element because of how counter-culture it was, but really it worked because the counter-culture element was the frame and not the content (just like 'straight' romances, even if I don't recognize that); and it is the 'human regardless of specifics' bits that make it work.
The Waiting Room (2019)
A tough sell but an honest and engaging look at cancer treatment
Victoria Mapplebeck's previous short films have been very personal and drawn from her own life; 160 Characters remains my favourite as it was the first I saw and took me by total surprise by how good it was, but the approach continues in other films and remains effective. The Waiting Room sees her go from diagnoses through to treatment for cancer and out the other side; she films things from her POV, and also includes herself and her son in scenes. She mixes the approach well - at times we sit staring at a chair in a waiting room much like she would have done lots of times, then at other times we have rapid editing of vomit and pills - again, representing how it all rushed on her. With contacts with family and discussions with her teenage son, the film feels very personal but yet accessible and relatable.
There are absurd moments in here, which remind us that this is real life - the doctor at the start explaining cancer using mixed metaphors of terrorist cells in the UK, and spread of seeds in a field, is amusing because of how odd it is; and there are moments of happiness and joy too. Mainly though it is tough to watch because it doesn't look away from anything - whether it is the physical impact on her, or the mental/emotional impact on her family. I'll not try to tell you that this is 30 minutes you'll thank me for, or can't afford to miss, but in what it sets out to do - it succeeds.
Exit 12 (2019)
Engaging and heartfelt documentary
A documentary about the stresses produced by conflict/war, as viewed through the experiences of those involved with the dance group Exit12. The group was established by a former marine, as a way for him to work his way through challenges associated with service, and as a film it is quite a honest story which allows time to talk, but also makes space for the art to breath as well. In doing this it will mean the viewer needs to go with both, and perhaps the ballet sequences will put some off, but probably not too many as I think the blend of it all works well to produce a story with human roots, and with a connection to something greater than we expect.
The film avoids politics, but there is certainly an edge to the idea that vets and 'patriots' do not come in one mould or ve(R)sion that is uniform. The story of the subject is small but inspiring, as it shows a person connecting with something that matters to them, and helping themselves and others in the meantime. It runs a little long, and I didn't think it connected all the subjects perfectly, but it was engaging and heartfelt, and worth seeing for that.
The Artisan (2019)
In a small community in Cuba, the passing of the local doctor is marked. Outside of this we see an artist, who did not attend the ceremony, but yet has a connection with the late woman. The film follows his personal journey to grieve.
Shot in Cuba, this film has an air of authenticity that blesses it and makes it work beyond its subtle touches. The cinematography helps it a lot because it looks great throughout, and has a real feel of the place - not the place I know as a tourist, of old cars and people trying to scam me, but rather a place of people and community - which I don't know in this country, but I know exists in places and this particular place must be no different. This foundation helps the film, because it is something that draws on the universal but yet not specifically known - which is the grieving process. Generally speaking we all process things differently and in this film we re allowed the space to be with the character for them to find their own way and time. It is done in a way that feels genuine, and the lead actor produces a character within this place and time that adds to that sense. It is subtle and simple, but it has more of a punch than you may expect.
: The Visitation: Straightforward but livened up by several good aspects
Following the strong serial Kinda, The Visitation was always going to struggle a bit for me, and in a way it probably helps it that it is a bit of a throwback to the old black and white days of Doctor Who. At least, it feels that way at first because it often seemed back then that every other serial was raiding the BBC historical drama department for costumes and actors - and this has that same air to it. The androids and lizard creatures sort of change that up a bit, but it doesn't matter because generally the serial feels like a bit of relaxed fun, playing to Who standards, and not rocking the boat too much with big ideas.
The plot is straightforward, but has some nice historical context built into it (eg the link to the plague), but ultimately it goes from point-to-point in a very easy to follow way. Often these serials can have lots of padding in them, but it wasn't the case here and mostly things feel to be moving forward rather than looking for ways to fill time or create moments for the sake of it. It doesn't make it a great serial or hugely memorable, but it is quite enjoyable for the various aspects. Performances are solid; the companions are kept busy but not overly used, although Waterhouse still managed to nark me. Davidson is good but I noticed that in a few moments his Doctor has an impatience to him that I'm not sure works (one moment in particular where he snaps at Tegan's dig at the Terileptils not leaving a forwarding address). He does enjoy himself alongside Robbins though - and the latter gets the balance right of making a colourful character but not making him too silly or out of place. The Terileptils are rubbery of course, but they are pretty decent villains, and the androids are imposing in a sluggish-but-unstoppable sort of way.
A bit basic and 'by the book' but it still works well as a solid enough serial, with a handful of effective elements making it rise above its structure.
Doctor Who: Kinda: Part Four (1982)
S19: Kinda: Surprisingly engaging and interesting considering it looks at first glance like a standard 'Brits v's natives' tale
This serial quickly looks like it is going to one of the fairly standard "atypical British colonizers in space resulting in doctor helping primitive, but interesting, culture overcome". Seeing this early on (complete with 'It Ain't 'Alf Hot Mum' characters and even pith helmets), I was pondering on what awful joke I would make in this comment about me "kinda" liking it - and then how I could change that once I understood it was pronounced like the chocolate company. In the end it turns out I didn't need either because this serial is surprisingly strong - and is additionally surprising as it comes off the back of several so-so serial in this new era.
Rather than being simplistic, the story brings in lots of ideas and concepts. We have the standard 'British v natives' but it is subverted with concepts of circular fates and controlling entities. For the practical we have mechanical battle suits to remind us this is sci-fi, mind control, telepathy, and other ideas. All of these work well too - not just thrown at the screen then forgotten. Even the 'villain' of the piece works pretty well in the end, even if the effects have dated. With so many ideas all working, the 4 episodes flew by and felt very satisfying.
It was helped by the sets looking good, but mostly by how good the performances were. Davidson didn't excel but he did his work and was a decent Doctor throughout. Sutton is side-lined for some reason, but her absence helps the plot fee less cluttered (I maintain that 3 assistants is too many), but the downside I saw was that suddenly I've lost the one I like the most. Waterhouse remains limited but he was okay, but Fielding's Tegan was great here. She has a complete side-plot that is intriguing and troubling and she performs all of it really well - much better than the standard 'scream and run' performance. In the guest roles we also have strong turns from Cornes and Sanders, but it is Rouse that really impresses with the range of his character and how much of an impact he makes on the serial at any given point.
Overall a really interesting and engaging serial that has a lot of aspects of strength that add to the whole.
S19: Four to Doomsday: Decent delivery of good ideas, but too much padding and not enough edge
After a lacklustre start, Four to Doomsday seems a decent entry early in the Davidson era. The plot sees the TARDIS land within a mysterious ship with a lot of technology and mystery; originally they had been trying to get to Heathrow to drop Tegan off to catch her flight. While that would have made for quite a boring four episodes, I honestly would have taken it if it got rid of one or more of the assistants, as they mostly feel like they are cluttering up the show, and at least Tegan and Adric actively irritate me. Anyway, it doesn't take long for the Doctor to realise that bad business is afoot, starting a race against time to save Earth.
As this serial settled in, I was quite enjoying it as it felt like there were lots of solid interesting sci-fi ideas and concepts being rolled out, and it did seem more interesting and focused than the serial before. Mostly this was the case, but unfortunately it doesn't bring a lot of things home. Now, having them as ideas and detail is all well and good in and of itself, but it did bother me that the serial clearly had space to fill, but didn't do so with good content. Instead what we got was lots of ethnically diverse dancing which adds nothing that I could see - the nature of it also means that it offers no sincere claim at diversity either (although maybe it did back in those days).
Davidson is better here than in the first serial, but he is playing it safe, not doing anything too colourful or animated - but he is solid. Waterhouse continues to bother me; not sure if it is his performance or his material but he always seems wooden and not offering much to like. He is helped by Fielding, who I found out of place here - the dialogue clunks and she can't make it work. Sutton has a better character and her Nyssa works better with the Doctor than Tegan. The supporting cast here are decent; Johns is good value, and finding Bert Kwouk was a nice surprise in a minor role. Not a great serial though, but decent enough in terms of ideas and events.
S19: Castrovalva: Fairly unengaging story as it takes too long in the setup and offers too little in the delivery
Not quite sure of the media hype and fuss made back in this era when the Doctor changed hands, but certainly it seems to be far from the 'announcement show' and big 'special' episodes that we get in the modern shows. By contrast this serial feels almost apologetically introducing the new Doctor with soft touches and a generally open approach to who he is. He spends a lot of time pitched just below the previous Doctor in terms of manic running around, but still able to command a situation and resolve it; his cricket whites suggest a more 'controlled' character too - but we'll see. I don't remember how it goes, even though my earliest Who memories are of Davidson in the role as I started watching around this time.
As a serial itself, it seems to spend too long getting the Doctor on his feet (literally) and the plot is left too long to really flesh out. Some decent ideas in there, and a 'classic' villain too, but it didn't really engage or excite me as I would have liked the opening of a new Doctor to have done. Davidson is fine though, and ironically seems the most comfortable despite having all the pressure on him. Of the companions I don't really care for any - characters or performances; it also feels really cluttered having 3 of them kicking around. The supporting cast are so-so, and although it isn't really his fault Ainley is the Master in the same way as I have Rolex and Bell & Ross watches that I got in China - they look very much the same and they do tell the time, but they're really not the same quality as the original.
We'll see how the season settles into the new Doctor, but this first serial doesn't offer a great deal to get overly excited about, even if it does have some nice ideas and elements.
Doctor Who: Logopolis: Part Four (1981)
S18: Logopolis: Mostly unremarkable aside from the headline (SPOILERS)
Despite the title sounding like a Scottish copyright regulatory body, Logopolis is a planet where the inhabitants do complex computations in their heads, somehow keeping the universe together. A white figure tells the Doctor to go there, an old villain arrives, new companions are introduced, and (unbeknownst to me while watching) a new Doctor is too. For such a busy serial, it is surprising that it feels padded and dull. The plot doesn't zing as the return of the Master suggests it should, nor does it carry the weight that the end of Baker's era should.
Deep down there are interesting themes - everything is crumbling, decaying, and breaking down; it is interesting because there is the feeling even retrospectively that the fading away of Baker is somehow related to a dip in the show's quality. If this is a deliberate theme then it is not used well because it does little with it apart from have lots of bits of the set fall down (although the sets look so basic here that one wonders if their crumbling was not just fortuitous and not by design). Outside of this we have a lot of characters being moved around but not doing much; considering the stakes are so high there was also a lack of urgency, and the presence of The Master didn't seem that big of an event.
The cast are mostly uninspiring. Baker does his usual stuff but not much to play with here. Ainley tries with a thankless task, but it was probably a mistake to try to copy a better performance, as opposed to just make the character a new one. Waterhouse, Sutton, Fielding - all very am-dram at times. Baker gets a good send-off, with some reflection of villains and companions etc - not quite the full 'gay wedding' we get with modern Doctors, but nice nonetheless. Aside from this though, it is quite an unremarkable serial, mostly due to uninspiring plotting and sets.
A Woman Like Me (2017)
Interesting how it jumps shoes and perspectives
A Danish woman who is deaf and blind travels to Nepal to meet another woman less fortunate than her who is also deaf and blind.
I loved the (apparent) simplicity of this, in particular in contrast with how much it does. Experience-wise I liked the near silence of it, and aspects such as the representation of the deaf/blind person's perception; however it is the jumping between shoes and perspectives that I liked most. The Danish woman feels sorry for this Nepalese deaf/blind woman because the Danish woman looks (forgive the choice of word) at the Nepalese's situation and feels so sorry for her based on what she doesn't have. This is contrasted by a shot of the woman seeming to be enjoying her time on Earth rather than lamenting what else she could have had.
It is really well done because for most viewers, we probably have been thinking the same about the Danish woman - "how awful", but then consoling ourselves with the thought that she is at least getting out and about. The ending makes us look at our own perspective and realize it rolls down hill like this, and it made me put it wholly to one side in my mind.
What was left then was just the sense of humanity - of all the people involved trying to find the best life they could live, of supporting one another, and of feeling empathy towards others. It is the core of the film and in a world where consideration and empathy can often feel like dead languages, it is reaffirming to see it - and additionally so to see it done in the clever way that this film does it.
Engagingly tense in structure and detail, works well for keeping it tight
A couple are driving home on a snowy night when they come across a man standing in the middle of the road. This is where the film starts, and more or less this is where it stays for the majority of the running time. The film is presented in one continuous static filmed from the back seat looking out towards the front window. This framing and steady shot puts the viewer in the scene, with no editing around or breaking up the drama. While the threat of the silent stays forever in our view, the couple get to bickering a bit, and show that maybe they are not as helpful or as selfless as they would like to think.
In the context of this, I thought the ending was mostly very good; I saw a lot of negativity online about it, but for me it worked right up till the very, very end where another intervention is seen, and this intervention seemed less in line with the characters than the decision they had made just seconds prior to that. Despite this it works well, but I wish it had ended 10 seconds earlier than it had.
Standard 'proof of concept' sci-fi short
If I watched fewer short films then maybe I would like proof of concepts more than I do. Such films though tend to be basic, and quite often they are not showing that the story is worth spending longer on, or that there is a massive world to explore, but rather than they can do some cool effects with limited budgets so why not give them more. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but Skywatch is not it, as it has cool shots of drones, a big celeb cameo, a topical element, and some cool threatening scale. What it doesn't offer though is anything in the way of development or depth.
The film is slick enough for what it is, but it is never nothing more than an effects reel. The use of teenagers speaks to a Spielbergian approach, but this too is superficial in its nature and doesn't really deliver anything beyond that and it certainly doesn't deliver anything other than this link to that director. Effects are good, but it is too direct in their use, and there isn't any genuine tension, risk, or thrills. It isn't 'bad' but only because it is so produced, safe, and bland that there is little to elicit a strong feeling either way.
Subtle, and more effective as a result
Two actors, a director, and a DOP all get together in a room to do a rehearsal of a scene in order to get framing and actions all aligned ahead of the shoot. The scene is a romantic moment between the two leads, and as it plays out the actress finds herself gently moving beyond what she is comfortable with.
This had the potential to be a preachy film, pushing a political agenda which draws in those that don't need to be reached but isolates those that do. In fact it manages to avoid that trap totally, and is a much more thoughtful and convincing piece by how subtle it is. On the face of it this means that the film doesn't do a great deal - there is not violent pressure or a feeling of threat, nor are any of the 3 males pushy or aggressive (indeed just the opposite). What plays out is the actress politely taking extra steps and finding herself in a position she is not comfortable with, but at the same time not feeling she can say no. The end credits play out her reflection on this, but we already understand her feeling as we have been there when it was occurring.
It could have been possible to look at the actress and criticise her for not just speaking up, but the film nails the journey so well that it is actually easier to see why she didn't. I'm sure some online commenters will still see it that way, but for me the film put me in the situation really well, and the actress had the perfect natural performance to make it work. Very nice piece of work - it very much just lets you see it yourself, without telling.
My Moon (2018)
Incredibly creative in the design; assured and satisfying in the delivery
Although I tend to see a lot of well-meaning and so-so short films, I consistently look to this form for places where great creativity can be found. My Moon is a great example of that as it has such great design across it that at times I was bamboozled by how the creative process worked that came to this perfect whole. The story consists of a love-triangle between the earth, sun, and moon - with the earth being the key player in the middle. This idea is built around as each body is given a convincing character/motivation to work with within the film; and the design and delivery of that character fits this core concept. We feel for the characters - in particular the tragic moon, who knows that he cannot compete with the sun, even though he knows the earth needs him too, and he her. The relationship drama is well played out in terms of story, but visually is where the film impresses most.
It flows from the start in a way that just makes sense, even though at times it didn't, if you see what I mean. The design of the 'bodies' and how they communicate and interact was not 100% clear to me if you asked me to describe it, but watching it I knew that it all worked and made sense. It looks terrific too in terms of the craft, but mostly it is the way that it is all part of a greater whole that makes it so impressive - this is not a 'looks great but no substance' film that you'll see plenty of online. It is a great animation in the areas where it matters the most.
My American Surrogate (2019)
The absurd tone clashes effectively with the seriousness of the subject
This is a film that looks at a company offering Chinese citizens access to surrogate mothers in the US; it focuses on the woman who owes the company, and her own upbeat journey to have a child through IVF and surrogacy. This implies that the film will be a solemn affair but in actuality it is presented wit ha quirky soundtrack and upbeat tone that would be me associated with a quirkumentary on a weird but harmless subject. The approach shouldn't work, because it seems so at odds with its topic - however it works not only because of this contrast, but also because it does fit well with the subject of the film - Qiqi.
Quqi is a lively woman who seems endless energetic and driven; all through the film we follow her. The lively music suits a film about her, because she seems quirky, fun, odd, and a good subject for the quirky profile document that this feels like. However the strength of the film lies it in not being interested in that at all. Instead what the viewer takes from the film is a sense of discomfort over the ethics of trading in human life, in poorer people renting their reproductive organs to richer people, and the general commoditisation of the whole process of childbirth. All that plays underneath in a way that is evident enough to make the contrast with the tone obvious, but not so much it feels inappropriate, or too little that it belittles. It is perfectly pitched as a documentary because it brings a lot from the viewer without pushing it down our throat.
As playful as it seems, it is thoughtful and intelligent, offering no questions or answers, but guiding the viewer to do that themselves.
Intimate and well delivered
A middle-aged professional woman goes to buy from a different drug-dealer while her regular is out of town. She meets 19-year old dealer Randolph, and they proceed to a spot to buy and then subsequently smoke. While they talk they find some small connections being made.
The odd-couple finding common ground thing is hardly fresh territory, but yet this short makes it feel that way by virtue of how organically and slightly it develops its relationship. It is essentially a two-hander played out mostly in one or two locations, but it is the writing and the performances that make it work. The characters talk and they reveal little things that inform other things as they talk. The little hints are well observed - these are things hard to write because they are things we all notice in others but would struggle to explain or describe perhaps. These small cracks are perhaps most obvious if we see someone talk about someone that they secretly dislike - they maybe drop a different tone or phrasing when discussing them, or some physical mannerism suggests it. In this film we get little things within both characters that are clear enough to see but not clear enough that it feels obvious or forced.
The actors deliver off these well, and they react to the little things they see too. It feels very natural and unshowy, and intimate as a result. It is not mind-blowing or deeply moving, but it is tender, simple, and effective in how it is constructed and delivered.
Martha the Monster (2019)
Engaging in the world building and subtext, but best in the convincing lead character
There is a lot going on in this short film, so it is to its credit that it retains its focus on its strength, which is the "humanity" of its lead character. The focus is the titular Martha, who tries to put herself out there in an unwelcoming world, but finds herself retreating emotionally with each impact and sometimes even before. This occurs with plenty in the background - her world is one of creative monster designs, crammed into a world of being second class citizens to the humans. There is material linking to commentary on racism, sexism, intolerance etc but these are all the bed for the story, not forced down the throat of the viewer.
Instead we get plenty from Martha and her small journey of discovery. She is fragile and it comes over in her body language, facial expression, and voice - all very impressive considering she is a large ginger monster puppet. Leaving that aside for one moment, even without the puppetry aspect, the writing and delivery of the character is strong enough to make for an engaging film. The technology adds to this, because the puppetry is strong in the design and in the delivery. The use of CGI on the faces occasionally doesn't wholly convince - but only very occasionally; otherwise it brings so much to the character - not just the tech, but the detail and finding of the character such as what is going on in the eyes, and how well that one specific aspect of the whole connects to the other aspects.
Really impressive in its detail (puppetry and writing) but it is the dedication to its title character that makes it much more than a showreel.
Le Mans 1955 (2018)
I came to this thinking that it was somehow connected to the film Le Mans 66 (in the US as Ford v Ferrari) but it is not. Instead it is the story of a tragic accident that occurred during the 1955 Le mans 24 hour race.
In telling the story the film is impressively cinematic. It is an animation but it has great shot selection and 'cinematography', which combines with a strong colour palette and sense of the drama and tragedy. This produces the foundation on which the fire plays out. The delivery of the moral drama is perhaps a bit rushed, but this sort of comes with the territory in a short film, and it compensates for it by some dramatic moments, and solid voice work. The scale of the animation is impressive; technically it shows some limits in its movement, but mostly it is impressively designed and delivered - while the story means you are not focused on the elements of the film so much as you are on the whole.
Luisa and Anna's First Fight (2019)
Energetic, amusing, and charismatic bit of nostalgia of silliness
There is a great energy to this short film, and it is delivered consistently across several aspects, meaning it joins up well. The film is about the frivolity of youth, where consequences are not always appreciated and high-spirits for the moment means things can get carried away. This is shown in a comedic way as the two lead characters try to find a rumoured fight, always seeming to miss it despite everyone buzzing about it. The feeling of peer pressure, of hype, and of teenage gossip is convincing and realistic, and it gives a nice edge to the energetic performances and delivery as the film heads to a nicely reflective but unrepentant ending.
The time period isn't wholly clear here - there are phones but yet it has a 90's or 2000's feel; the key thing is that it is set in a past, and it feels very nostalgic and innocent - and these qualities seem to function across viewers, since I grew up decades ago in the countryside, but yet this still felt like a past I could relate to. The two lead performances nail it, as they have the breathless energy and feeling of immortality of that age, and are keen to impressive and be "in". They fit well with score and direction to produce a nicely engaging and cheering short film.
Judas Collar (2018)
Effective and technically impressive
Film's ability to anthropomorphize is nothing new, but yet this short film manages to feel fresh and surprise while doing just that. Taking a real situation, the film inserts feelings into a camel who has been tagged with a tracking collar so that it will lead exterminators to packs of other camels. Judas Collar is dialogue free but yet it uses music, editing, and cinematography to excellent effect in so much as it tells an emotional story on a way that works. If you take any specific element out of it, it probably doesn't work at all in the way it does as a whole, but all together it produces an effective story out of very little.
Technically it must have been a huge undertaking to shoot; it is in the Australian outback, and involves animals and helicopters - not sure the detail but it sounds hard! The score does a lot of the heavy lifting back in post, but the shot selection and story-boarding of the action is the key thing that gives us expressions and feelings for the music to elevate. An unusual short film for sure, but a surprisingly good one.
In Sound, We Live Forever (2018)
Interesting in early stages but flattens out at the end
The title and the concept drew me in; the film opens over a still scene, but in the sound we have the voices and noises of what appears to be something that already happened - so we see the aftermath while also experiencing the build-up. It is an interesting idea and makes the film feel unusual. When violence comes (and of course it is does in a short billed as a "horror") it seems it hit extra hard for being entirely aural in nature, with the still images contrasting. At some point the sound catches the on-screen action, and at this point it fails to really build on the good idea of the first half, and instead it is much more obvious and straight forward. There is just about enough good will to get you over this though, if you were really into the concept of the first half - but personally I found it quite engaging as a concept, less so as a film in and of itself.
Hard not to feel the shock value was the focus, which makes it feel cheap and crass (TOTAL SPOILERS)
A young girl (10) is left alone with her aunt, who proceeds to have a run at her own profanity-laden version of "the talk". The young girl listens to this, but in her mind she is understanding it very well.
This is a hard film to unpack, mainly because it feels fresh and interesting in what it is doing, but it is the manner in which it does it that leaves it feeling tawdry and cheap. I'll break it into two halves (or 95/5 by running time). The 95% sees a "colourful" aunt giving an inappropriate sex talk to her young niece. We do not know what triggered this, but certainly it feels that the aunt is enjoying a moment where she is able to convey wisdom - it does not feel like many of her peers would particularly listen to her, and there is a feeling of this being an ego boost that she gets to hold this position. This is an interesting aspect of this, but instead the film choses to play this character for her colour and dark comedic value and leaves the viewer in the uncomfortable spot of wondering why such an inappropriate lecture to a child about sex is being presented in this way. It feels weird and tawdry, and the fact that the child is pretty static throughout means we do not get much from her.
The 5% of the film adds to this feeling. In this moment (and this is the spoiler), we continue the periodic focus on the young girl who appears to be on her back, and in the final seconds we see a very adult male arm interact with her. The implication is very clear that the young girl is being sexually abused by a man - then the film ends. As a moment of shock value, it works, and the contrast between the slightly comedic tone of the rest of the film and this sudden seriousness adds to this, but there is nothing but the shock. It makes the child even more of a prop than the rest of the film, and it tells as nothing other than why the girl was maybe so silent throughout. Outside of the shock it leaves nothing - two terrible adult relationships for this young child, both using her for their own benefit, but with no commentary, no place where the child can be reached, and only a tone that suggests the whole thing is a plot device.
The end result is that it feels tawdry and cheap as a whole, itself feeling that it is exploiting the child at its centre to get its shock value and edgy-points.
A bit light on substance but creative in the concept and visual design
In some form of facility, humans are training to be animals by dressing up as them and acting out. As the camera pans across the facility, we understand more.
Although it involves climate change, the survival of species and other such grand sci-fi ideas, Floreana is not as deep or weighty as it may seem. It has quite a nice reflective tone to it, but ultimately it is more beauty than substance. I'm sort of okay with that here though, because the beauty is in the concept as well as the animation. The closing of the film has a neatness to it that I found quite pleasing and a little affecting, even if thinking about it for a second meant it crumbled by how little we knew. The animation flows wonderfully, scrolling sideways across rooms and information, looking good as it does it.
I think it in the end it is more about the aesthetics and concept than it is about substance, but it works very well on those terms.