4 LRFF2015 MIA Shorts (Under 5 Minutes)

10 May


Reviewed by Tanner Smith

This is a collection of mini-reviews for four short films that were made in Arkansas and selected to screen at the 2015 Little Rock Film Festival. And when I say “short,” I mean “short”, like “under five minutes.” But I still have a few good things to say about them, and when the films are posted online, I’ll link them all at the bottom of this page.



Smith’s Verdict: ***

Scott Eggleston’s five-minute short, “Meredith,” is about a young couple (played by Jordan Neill and Hannah Culwell) on the night before they move out of their apartment, as Neill confesses his infidelity to Culwell with a woman named Meredith, whom he works with, and the night becomes unpleasant for both of them.

There isn’t a lot I can say about this one without analyzing the ending, thus giving away some major spoilers, particularly two important twists. The film is set up as one big joke, with the ending delivering the punchline. It’s funny and effective, but I can’t talk about it. So I must sum up the overall film quickly—Eggleston’s direction is solid, writer Chris Henderson’s dialogue is mostly well-chosen, Neill and Culwell’s acting are fine, and the ending, like I said, is funny and has been properly set up all along. It also delivers three important messages in a relationship—be faithful, be honest, and think before you share certain things.

That’s about all I can say about it, unfortunately; again, without giving anything away, it’s a funny short that I recommend.


Not Interested

Smith’s Verdict: ****

You know those annoying door-to-door evangelists who you know mean well but are so darn cheerful that every time you see them, you wish something would distract them if not stop them from bugging you and your neighbors? Well, it turns out all you have to do is bring two of them in front of the same targeted house and they will fight each other in mortal combat. At least, that’s Matthew Thomas Foss’ solution in his minute-and-a-half short, “Not Interested.”

With no dialogue and a neat visual flair, “Not Interested” is simply a “fight video” but a well-made one that was quite fun due to its insane filmmaking style. It begins with a well-dressed, joyful Morman (Paden Moore) about to step forward to a suburban house when a similarly-dressed, similarly-cheerful rival (Harrison Trigg) joins him. Suddenly, they’re staring each other down, as Western music plays (and something rolls along the ground, representing a tumbleweed, but it was so quick, I couldn’t tell what it was). Then, techno music kicks in as the two head for the door and then brutally fight each other.

With quick editing, nice camerawork, fast-motion, slow-motion, sound effects, and even a “hayah!” sound when one of the men strikes the other, “Not Interested” is a wild, strange short that’s fun to watch. Do I wish it went further in its wildness? Absolutely. But how much more could you do in a minute-and-a-half?


Perfect Machine: MatchMaker

Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

One of the Made In Arkansas selections at last year’s Little Rock Film Festival was a two-minute short called “Homefront,” for which its director, Eric White, was nominated for Best Arkansas Director at the LRFF Awards. Despite its very brief running time, I managed to turn out a full review for it. And I find myself able to get as much material out of this companion piece as well. (Despite that, I added it to this four-mini-review post because…it could be longer?)

“Homefront” and Robin Sparks’ “MatchMaker” are part of the same series of short vignettes that show more background of the world within Jarrod Beck’s UCA graduate thesis film, “Perfect Machine,” a 20-minute sci-fi short that takes place in a dystopian future where all citizens are forced against their will to comply to the new system of government for a “perfect” society. “Homefront” was about two rebels who escaped for a better life in isolation, while considering how limited their life choices are for the future. “MatchMaker” shows how people in this society are matched together.

“MatchMaker” is about 30 seconds shorter than “Homefront,” and while it doesn’t take as much of a dramatic narrative approach as that short, it’s still very effective, especially when you consider the context. The world that surrounds “Perfect Machine” and the other vignettes is a fascist civilization in which everything is decided for society members by their leaders, no matter what. They decide what they think is best for the people, and this unfortunately includes matching people together so they each have a “perfect mate.” Personal choice is not an option in this future; whomever they are matched with, they are stuck with no matter what. As described in the short, you are examined and then they run your DNA samples into a computer system so your match is easily found.

This isn’t an explicit factor in the finished film, “Perfect Machine.” It’s just mainly one of the aspects of this universe addressed in the vignettes to give a sense of background. With that said, as I watching “MatchMaker,” I couldn’t help but imagine what it must be like for those who are matched together through science and not by nature. Imagine a story about two people in this dystopian future who are unfairly matched together, don’t love each other, but have no choice but to carry on with this forced relationship. That would make for an intriguing film (a longer film, also), but it’s not the one I’m reviewing right now. “MatchMaker” got me thinking of what it meant, as did “Homefront,” and in that respect, it works well. Like “Homefront,” it’s effective on its own. It’s also a good-looking short, taking place inside a sterile-looking laboratory, in which a young woman (Alisa Harral) is tested by two doctors (Maddie Arey, Michael Tatum), that resembles the future presented in “Perfect Machine,” with the right amount of soft lighting and decent visual effects. The cinematography by Mason Kindsfater works well too. Even at a brisk minute-and-a-half running time, “MatchMaker” is an effective short film.

NOTE: The finished film, “Perfect Machine,” is also screening at this year’s LRFF. I’ll get to that review soon.


Stranger Than Paradise

Smith’s Verdict: ****

No, it’s not the 1984 Jim Jarmusch indie masterpiece. It’s Johnnie Brannon’s minute-long “microshort,” as it’s labeled. This short film is only one minute long. But what a minute it is! This is a great short film—it’s sweet, poetic and well-staged, and it’s also funny and even challenging.

Brannon directs the short and also stars as a cemetery worker who watches as a grieving widower (Jason Willey) brings roses to his late wife’s grave, when along comes his wife (Alli Clark) who has come back to cheer him up. They share a nice time together in the cemetery, frolicking like a couple happily in love, but as the cemetery worker looks on…the man is all by himself.

The film’s humor comes from the contrast between reality and fantasy. We can put it together that the woman’s “ghost” is not real but rather a manifestation of the widower’s loss. It is funny when the couple holds hands and skips along the grass, and when it’s revealed that the man is only skipping alone, with his arm extended to the side where his wife should be. (And for that matter, it’s also funny when Brannon’s character reacts to each silly moment.) But strangely, it’s also kind of touching when you consider that he’s trying to recreate a time that was and will never be again. By the end, you have to decide for yourself: will he let go? Will he continue to weep for the memories or to treasure them instead?

The short’s look mixes color and black-+-white, with color in the fantasy world and B+W in reality. I think this is a brilliant move that makes for obvious but still effective symbolism for how Willey’s character sees the world both with and without the love of his life. This is a short comedy-drama with something to say.

With the aid of a moving music score by mobygratis (www.mobygratis.com), “Stranger Than Paradise” is a beautiful film, proving that you can tell a moving story with just one minute of running time.

NOTE: I learned this film was made with only one camera battery with 20% of battery power left, so Brannon had to shoot the whole thing in a hurry. I should be surprised by how well it turned out, but Brannon, Willey, and Clark, who worked together for the 48-Hour Film Project, can write, shoot, and edit a solid film in two days, I believe they can film something of good quality in one hour.

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