Three Short Films by Jordan Mears

14 Apr

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Santa Run

Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Here’s a delightful lump of coal for your stocking come Christmastime. Written, produced, and directed by Jordan Mears, the 10-minute short “Santa Run” is a Christmas fable that can best be described as “naughty.” It’s a crude, vulgar, profane, shocking dark-comedy that is also unique, original, and imaginative.

“Santa Run” is mostly made up of dialogue, and so it belongs to the group of independent short films that are created by the thought, “I have no money; I’ll write funny jokes.” (See my review of Daniel Campbell’s “Antiquities” as well.) I honestly have no idea what was going through Mears’ mind when he decided to write “Santa Run,” but I’d like to know.

The concept is inventive, to say the least. The film takes place on the night before Christmas, just a few minutes before midnight, as (get this) two Santa Claus clones sit in a car and prepare to deliver gifts in a certain neighborhood. Apparently, Santa Claus can’t deliver presents to every child in the world in just one night—his scattered clones do the work for him. Santa doesn’t even go out to do what he should be doing (“Santa Claus gets to sit naked in a hot tub full of eggnog,” one of the clones complains to the other).

One of those clones (whom we learn has dyed his hair and shaved his chin, in contrast to his partner who resembles the traditional Santa Claus) is a rebellious young man who decides not to go through with this this Christmas. This leads to an argument between the rebellious Santa clone and the good-natured Santa clone…and I can’t believe I just typed that.

Despite that silly premise, this is about as dark a Christmas movie could possibly get (with the exception of sexual activity in “Bad Santa” starring Billy Bob Thornton). Both Santa clones constantly spew profanities (it’s more shocking to hear the “traditional-Santa” say “f***in’ quit” than to hear the “rebellious-clean-shaven-Santa” angrily yell to the sky, “I f***ed Mrs. Claus!”); one of them snorts cocaine and drinks booze; they both talk about having sex with Santa’s elves (herpes is even mentioned at one point); and the resolution of the argument, without giving anything away, results in a tremendously dark matter. “Santa Run” may open and close with shots of Christmas decorations in a suburban neighborhood, but the central section is anything but jolly.

It’s weird how this twisted short film “Santa Run” works, but it is original and it is intriguing, and Mears’ script hardly lets up on how devious the tale can get (though I wonder what a feature-length script of this idea would look like). The acting is somewhat natural, as Shannon Dellapelle (as the traditional Santa clone) and Ryan Heumier (as the rebellious Santa clone) deliver convincing banter with each other. The cinematography is surprisingly well-handled. And more importantly, I did laugh. That was the intention of “Santa Run” to begin with—to shock and to amuse. It did its job well.

NOTE: The film can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=md8avhcwPhI

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Mime Time

Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Mime Time” is yet another imaginative short film from the very talented, creative young filmmaker Jordan Mears, who also made the 10-minute dark-comedy “Santa Run.” While the tone is somewhat lighter now, for “Mime Time,” the inventiveness is still as impressive. What’s the premise? A young street mime must find a new job before is evicted from his apartment. Enough said, right?

I don’t think so.

Seen entirely in black-and-white and virtually no dialogue, the short begins as a talented young street mime (Shannon Dellapelle, from “Santa Run”) is performing on the street, when he is upstaged by a “rocker” mime who performs air-guitar. His decrease of tips (one dollar) forces the Boss Mime to revoke his license—I swear, I am not kidding; there is a Boss Mime that sits behind a desk in a dimly-lit office, and sports white makeup with a black mustache and (get this) exaggeratedly-thick black eyebrows. I don’t care who you are; that is hilarious!

Anyway, the mime is also about to be kicked out of his apartment and has to find a new job soon. This leads to a very funny montage in which he looks through the newspaper want ads and imagines him in certain positions, such as telemarketer, therapist, and even singing-instructor. What can you even say about this? It’s so out-there and so damn funny.

The ending, or rather the “punchline” of the film, I wouldn’t dare give away, but I can truly say it’s beyond hilarious…and yet oddly touching at the same time as well.

“Mime Time” is a treasure. It’s funny, it’s touching, and when all is said and done, it’s just a wonderfully-inventive short film created by a truly talented young filmmaker.

NOTE: The film can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryl7KluBoaM

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A Way Out

Smith’s Verdict: **

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

I can’t blame Jordan Mears for wanting to experiment with something new in filmmaking. Usually known for his wildly-creative short films “Santa Run” and “Mime Time,” Mears tries his hand at directing and co-writing (with Rachel McGee) a serious drama. Unfortunately, while I give credit for effort, “A Way Out” is mainly a rushed, unsatisfying melodrama.

The film is about two sisters who live together—one is in her early-20s and works as a waitress at the local bar in a small community; the other is just about to graduate high school. When the older sister learns that her younger sister has been accepted into college, she learns that she can’t fully pay for tuition, and so she tries to figure out how to handle the situation.

Now let me just state that I am not saying that the drama in this 13-minute short film isn’t legitimate. I’m saying that it’s too rushed for me to care. With a film with this short amount of running time, it’s difficult to make it work effectively. As it is here, there’s hardly enough room for development to make its dramatic payoff fully satisfying. For this to work, maybe at least another 10-15 minutes (in addition to further work on the script) could have allowed for more to tell, and then there would be that chance of pulling viewers further into what’s occurring in the characters’ lives. As it is, in my opinion, there just isn’t enough to work with here.

The film isn’t a total failure, however. F.E. Mosby is quite good in the lead role; she and Johnnie Brannon (as her friend and co-worker) share a nice, credible scene in which they talk about how to pay for Mosby’s sister’s college tuition; and Mears certainly shows his growth as a director (the opening shot that shows the goings-on in a bar, where the lead character works as a waitress, is chillingly realistic). But the dysfunctional interaction between the two sisters is unoriginal, the younger sister is too much of a brat for me to care about whether or not she winds up going to college (and her obligatory mood change, into better understanding, comes so sporadically that the shift doesn’t work), the ending is rushed (we get just one shot to clarify a dramatic payoff, and then boom! Credits roll), and “A Way Out” just wasn’t as effective as it should have been.

NOTE: The film can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRR9Cfx_iu4

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