Film Review – Denver Film Festival Short Films Part 2 (2018)
These short films will be playing at the Denver Film Festival from October 31st to November 11th. Head over to the DFF’s website to purchase your tickets!
The nice thing about being a movie critic is getting to watch films from a festival you don’t have the money to fly to and attend. Bet you wish you could join MovieBabble now (you can, by the way — there’s links in the comments and on the right sidebar).
Without further ado, here is part two of the Denver Film Festival short film reviews! (If you want to read part one, click here.)
France, 16 minutes. Directed by Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas.
Skip Day is an intimate peek into the lives of the high school seniors of Pahokee — a small, predominantly African-American town in Florida. As is tradition, the Monday after prom is “skip day,” which means the seniors skip class to hang out at the beach all day instead. While they sunbathe and splash, we get to be privy to their conversations regarding college, the future, and what they’re most looking forward to.
I’m going to be completely honest: this was not the best short to start out my DFF short film binge. I know that directors Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas were trying to go for something deep and philosophic, but it just didn’t work out. The lack of any music, the fact that we don’t get to know any of the teenagers’ names, and the low mumbling volume of the conversations really makes for a disappointing movie. The film could have been a modern-day American Graffiti (1973), exploring the intimidating transition from high school to college in just sixteen minutes. Instead, I felt like I was watching the Huntington Beach surveillance cameras they have playing at Hollister (does anyone else know what I’m talking about?).
Honestly, the most exciting part of this short was the old lady picking up shells and putting them into a Dole fruit bag during the credits. However, I will give credit to Bresnan and Lucas for the serene mood they created for their short. It was nice to relax for a minute.
U.S.A., 9 minutes. Directed by Sean McCoy.
Starring: Mark C. Fullhardt, Pete Mullin, James Sawaya, Dennis Wit
This short film explores a more sinister theory regarding “The Beaning” incident of August 16, 1920, when Yankees’ pitcher Carl Mays killed the Indians’ Ray Chapman with a deadly spitball. It attributes the death and the subsequent rise of the Yankees to baseball stardom to elements of Satanism and the Illuminati.
Maybe it’s just me, but I just didn’t get this one. It tried to hard to be a thought-provoking art film but it only made me laugh. The visual effects were comedic; I mean, I thought we left screen melts and red eyes in the 80s. And the evidence for some sort of Satanic cult in major league baseball was scant, if not nonexistent. Also, there was a Wilhelm Scream when the ball finally hit Chapman and I almost cried because it was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.
It wasn’t all terrible though. I especially liked the psychedelic color sequence used right before the beaning, as it reminded me of Vertigo (1958). Not only that, but the font choice and the decision to use title cards like a silent movie of the era really gave it an authentic feel. And then the Illuminati came and ruined the vibe (LIKE THEY ALWAYS DO). Honestly, if they director Sean McCoy had merely toned down the effects a bit and gave me more evidence for his claims, it wouldn’t be too bad of a film.
USC Graduate Thesis Project
U.S.A, 19 minutes, Directed by Ewen Wright.
Starring: Sarah Hollis, Elijah Reed, Davey Johnson
Falling is the story of three different people in this absurd world. Karen (Hollis) keeps going on dates with men who try to wrench that frown upside down and mansplain her. Michael (Reed) faces racism and police brutality in an absurd standoff. Harold (Johnson) suffers from some sort of psychosomatic disorder which forces him to crawl the streets instead of walk. Their lives intertwine in the most mysterious ways.
Just when I was starting to lose hope in the crop of short films I chose to watch, Falling came out of nowhere and rocked my world. This is by far the best short film I have ever seen. From the explosive introduction, I was absolutely captivated. The visual imagery is stunning; from the garbage can full of pills and electronics to a smiley face balloon smacking Harold in the face, it was rife throughout the film. The issues represented were diverse, as was the cast, and everyone can take anything away from this film that could be a metaphor for racism, sexism, mental illness, and apathy towards others.
This film comes at you all at once, which can be kind of overwhelming. I personally think director/writer Ewen Wright tried to take on one too many topics at once, but I don’t entirely mind. It was so well-crafted, so well-cast, so well-paced, and overall such a great short that I wouldn’t care if he tried to shove ten more topics in there. For a simple 19-minute short, Wright created a spectacular piece that tells us to look beyond the people saying “Everything is fine” to see what’s truly wrong.
U.S.A., 19 minutes. Directed by Sara Newens.
Footprint is a simple documentary showing how different people react to seeing the memorial at the World Trade Center site. There is no narration and instead we get to hear different people speak in different languages and dialects about what happened that day and their personal stories as we also watch their visual responses to the memorial.
It made me cry. Need I say more?
There were times when I giggled, like when the Spanish tourists were discussing the memorial and then decided that it was “pizza time.” Sometimes I was angry, like when the two lovers seemed to be oblivious to the sobbing tourists next to them. And there were times, like I said, where I cried, like when I watched a man put his hands on the memorial and begin weeping.
I loved how real this short film was. I appreciated how there was no narration or voiceovers — it was people telling their stories about how they remember that day or what they know about it; it wasn’t just some documentary you would watch in school. The cinematography was crisp and very powerful for the subject matter. Plus, we get to learn a bit about the symbolism of the memorial from a tour guide.
Footprint really put me through a lot of emotions in a short amount of time and I really enjoyed the catharsis. It’s definitely an event we should never forget, no matter who we are.
U.S.A., 5 minutes, Directed by Shawna Schultz
Starring Deanna Amacker, Rion Evans
Carrier is the short story of a rapper catching a ride home from a ride-sharing service, only to find that the driver knows a little too much about him.
That’s it. That’s all they could fit in five minutes.
First of all, the cinematography looks like it was filmed on a camcorder for a middle-school theater class. Then there’s the horrible rap lyrics that are referenced too many times for me to be comfortable. And the acting? Let’s just say that Tommy Wiseau could have greatly improved this one (though he could greatly improve any film, to be honest).
I think there was supposed to be some revenge story going on but I couldn’t tell because all the female lead did was growl and yell maniacally at the rapper. And there was a baby involved somehow, but it really wasn’t explained. Also, she wanted to kill him with the tiniest box cutter I’ve ever seen; it was about the size of those safety ones they give you at Walmart. And I think the most unbelievable part of all of this was the fact that it all took place in a Prius.
To sum up, this was horrible.
Grade: F (because I still don’t know what the F— was going on)
Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on The Denver Film Festival, or these short films? Comment down below!
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