Shorts #22

Today’s Shorts: Baby’s Day Out (1994), Gone Girl (2014), Irene (2014), Horse (2014), Leviathan (2012), Lucky Number Slevin (2006), Island Of Lost Souls (1932), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (2007), The Adventures Of Prince Achmed (1926), TV Ping Pong (1978), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

Funnier, more endearing and more entertaining than it probably should be, Baby’s Day Out is a masterclass in how to play an audience a repetitive gag yet keep them engaged.

We all know that Baby Bink would, in reality, die, fall off of a building, be stepped on, squashed or at least seen by someone. Yet, we all also known that this movie has a nearly 100 minute run-time to fill and can’t depict any harm coming to the baby – much less it being pulverised by a 350 pound gorilla. We then know that, some way or another, the three schmuck bad guys are going to mess up and fall on their assess. But, the creativity and the pacing of these cyclical events – which are made to escalate until the finale – mask the formula and the predictability with a good dose of coincidence, cheese and character.

So, whilst this isn’t a truly brilliant film, and whilst it has its faults in the acting department, it is easy to love and a comedic feat in regards to screenwriting.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed this more on the second watch than the first. Going into this, all I could remember were the contrived elements of writing and the awkward tone. Not much else was memorable. On this watch, I was confronted by the same faults for the first half of this movie, but, it grew on me. So, whilst it still felt like many moments were empty and contrived, that things weren’t paced brilliantly and that there is too much plot and a not enough character or story, I came to enjoy the this film for what it is. In particularly, the exploration of truth, lies and hysteria put meat on the bones of this story, leaving this is a rather horrifying narrative about making too many wrong moves with the wrong woman.

All in all, this is a pretty good movie, it has its ups and downs, but it held its own against my, somewhat unwarranted, sceptical presumptions.

Irene is a truly tremendous short film that is essentially about being trapped in a cycle of personal and familial necessities coming into conflict. In such, it follows a single, young mother who lives with her son and mother who attempts to find love again.

Whilst this didn’t have any subtitles, with my very limited understanding of Spanish and with thanks to the minimal dialogue, I managed to keep up with this film. However, the absolutely brilliant lead performance of Liliana Biamonte transcends words, capturing all of the emotions and beats of this narrative effortlessly with silent expressions and gestures. Supported by the sumptuous cinematography that uses warm hues and colours perfectly and the subtly impressionistic direction, this short then exudes pure cinematic expression, leaving there no real need for subtitles.

Paced with concentration and focus, Irene is utterly immersive and well worth the watch. Check it out here:

A spectacular showcase of animation, editing and experimentation, Horse is a surreal mesh of images that imply abstract themes of impersonation, conflict, violence and illusion. In such, this short seems to use repetition to slowly move through time, implying the cyclical nature of these themes as we hurtle towards what is ultimately an image of a ticket and then triumph. Do the two figures – the front and back end of a pantomime horse – then fight amongst one another to see who is the better? Or do they merely break out of their disguises and put on a show that they are the primary people to profit from? Or, is this is an amalgamation of this implication of a battle between oneself as well as a show of self-destruction put on for attention? Assuming the latter, this seems to be about the concept of in-fighting between any unit made up of more than one person. It could then be about a relationship, a family or even a larger community. And in turn, it questions the point of the fighting and the illusion of unity, the pantomime horse, itself.

Whether you question all of this, or simply enjoy the animation, Horse is a film to check out:

Leviathan is a documentary masterpiece that, in my opinion, rests in the same realm as Man With A Movie Camera. Whilst Vertov pushed his technology to its very edge in the late 1920s, Castaing-Taylor and Paravel push the modern GoPro to its artistic limits with realism that embodies an awe-inspiring kind of truth.

In essence, Leviathan is everything that Hutton’s At Sea isn’t. Instead of having you stare rather pointlessly at impersonal and distant images of a ship, Leviathan brings you almost too close to the characters and elements of a fishing vessel. The result of this is a hypnotising tableau of intricate detail and alien perspectives that is sometimes so hyper-realistic and raw that the camera’s invading eye leads us into a surreal and abstract realm that breaks the fourth wall and has us marvel at the spectacle of this concept and technology barefaced.

One of the most ethereal films I’ve ever had the luck to fall into, Leviathan, if it manages to resonate with your interests, is undeniably one of the greatest movies ever constructed.

Lucky Number Slevin is an incredibly smart movie, one that is, first and foremost, hyper aware of itself as a piece of cinema. With an astounding script, one that manages innumerable moving parts with pure ease, and some acutely playful direction that brings together Godard, Hitchcock and a classic Hollywood vibe, Lucky Number Slevin is about a slick as movies get. Added to this, there are a plethora of great characters brought to life with seemingly perfect casting choices.

As a thriller of sorts, the endless twists and turns kept me on edge, and I did prematurely figure out the end, but the ending is very satisfying as it balances themes of coincidence, destruction and nihilism with a nice touch of romance and forgiveness that really left things with a genuine sense of completion. Without wanting to say anything to spoil this, I’ll say that the only negatives of this film concern a few continuity mishaps and that this certainly feels like a one-time-watch. In such, I couldn’t imagine myself watching and enjoying this as much a second time around. However, I’ll only know that with a re-watch. So, with that said, I highly recommend this movie to anyone who hasn’t seen it.

Island Of Lost Souls is a phenomenal pre-code picture based on a H.G Wells novel that is seemingly both a retelling of the Frankenstein myth and a precursor to The Planet of The Apes. In such, this combines horror and science fiction with violence, torture and sexuality in a way that only a pre-code picture could. As could be expected, this was then very controversial in its day and was banned in some countries for decades.

However, there is more than just pre-code spectacle in this picture. Within we find some great moments of direction, genuinely horrific and violent moments, brilliant costumes, sets and cinematography and a compelling story. Whilst this is not an incredibly smart picture, it does chase after a few controversial topics of evolution and the consequences of humans tinkering with biology quite well. As cliched as this topic has become over the years, considering the context of this film and the way in which its story is told, Island Of Lost Souls is a particularly impressive film, and another example of a pre-code picture that makes you wonder “what if…” in regards to the rise of censorship in Hollywood.

Sweeney Todd is, somewhat ironically, a beautiful tragedy, one with astounding songs and brilliant characters. Whilst all the performances aren’t universally excellent and the CGI has aged badly, this is a film I can return to at anytime.

In essence, Sweeney Todd is about tragic characters who fail to find love, and so resort to evil, violence and revenge to the consequence of becoming a monster that can never be loved, and cannot accept love, no matter how much they, themselves, try to love others. We see this with almost every single one of the main characters with the youngest and most innocent falling victim to an initial act of vanity intertwined with an abuse of power. An age-old story, Sweeney Todd is essentially about a place that bleeds rubies: in this film, London, archetypally, any place in which vanity and revenge chase their own tails.

The Adventures Of Prince Achmed is a wondrous fantasy adventure that amalgamates many different strains of One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights) into an hour long piece of cut-out animation, making it the oldest surviving feature-length animated film. (Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs would be the first cell animated feature film in case you’re wondering).

The aesthetics are what make this film so brilliant; the use of the figurines and colour tinting brings a simple, yet magical, quality to this fantastical story – one which felt very familiar thanks to some iconic sequences that can be found in a plethora of other fantasy films. And a note must be made on the cinematic nature of this film. Despite being 2-dimensional, this never feels constrained and flat, instead bursting with energy and life. For this and so much more, The Adventures Of Prince Achmed is certainly worth the watch.

This is a short and somewhat simple experimental film that plays with video tape technology made by Ivan Ladislav Galeta.

In such, it uses what was a somewhat new technology – though video tape technology was invented for television in the 50s, it spread around the world in 70s because it became cheaper and so available to the public – to film two men passing a ping pong ball back and forth to one another. Taking advantage of the rhythm and repetitive motion of this game, various different trick cuts and exposures are used to warp the reality. The result of this is cinema being used to provide an alternative perspective of what is a very mundane subject, which in turn produces a commentary on cinema’s developing abilities to manipulate space and time to create new perceptions of reality. Check out this short experiment here:

King Kong vs. Godzilla is a good candidate for one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I stay away from bad movies as I don’t find them novel or fun, but I was hoping that the many filmmakers who made this movie would have some dignity. Apparently not.

There’s no need to make a comparison to the original Godzilla out of respect here, and there’s little need to mention the original King Kong either. King Kong vs. Godzilla is bastardisation smacked onto celluloid with pritt stick and cheap glitter. You’ll find better cinema by going eye level to watch children play with their toys than you would watching this film. Nothing at all works; the sets, the costumes, the direction, the script, the comedy, the performances, the sound design… everything sucks. Maybe this worked a little better in ’62, but if I hear someone call for more models and costumes in modern movies as opposed to CGI, I may slap them in the face with this movie.

If you want to watch this… good luck.

*Note. I watched the English version.



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Blood Of The Beasts – Graphic Truth

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