For this week’s Shorts Round Up, we check out some great shorts including two animated experimental films one of which by film students, a thought provoking science fiction drama, and a riveting human drama.
If you’d like to submit your short film for review consideration, submissions are always opened to filmmakers and producers.
Albatross Soup (2018)
“A man gets off a boat. He walks into a restaurant and orders albatross soup. He takes one sip… pulls out a gun, and shoots himself to death. So…why did he kill himself?” Director Winnie Cheung takes the time to develop an animated documentary to help decode one of the oldest riddles that many people have gone over for years. The Riddle has even been around since the beginning of the internet, and “Albatross Soup” explores the nuances of the riddle, and the events leading up to the conundrum of the riddle all with amazing animation by Fiona Smyth.
Although it is a documentary, Cheung doesn’t give anyone face time, but instead uses much of the voices set among excellent animated sequences to help emphasize the inherent sanity of the riddle. The cryptic riddle is a masterful take on cryptic storytelling, allowing more of an idea of what we can interpret through human action, more than searching for some kind of ironic or funny cause as to why the man committed suicide. The answer to the origin is—disturbing to say the least, but it’s a great look at decrypting one of the more fascinating riddles ever conceived.
Robert Enriquez’s drama is a nice slice of life that explores two people from vastly different lives learning to connect through pain and turmoil as adults. A young woman goes to a pawn shop hoping to hock her gold for major money. When the teller offers her only a small sum she begrudgingly accepts. A moment later she shows up to trade in a precious ring that she’s kept from trading for years. “Cash for Gold” keeps a lot of the back stories of both characters ambiguous but we learn a lot thanks to great editing, and what we can mine from hearing and seeing what they’re going through.
The young woman is introduced sitting in her car looking at a picture of her son hanging from the rear view mirror, and we’re given a degree of understanding toward the teller who is being berated by his father before she walks in to the pawn shop. With excellent performances by Navid Negahban and Deborah Puette, we’re able to soak in so much of this experience through the delivery of dialogue and subtle facial expressions. “Cash for Gold” is a stellar human drama, one I strongly recommend.
Stephen Herman’s award winning science fiction drama reminded me a lot of Alex Garland’s “Ex Machina,” and it’s just as ambitious in the way it explores the concept of free will and the ethics of Artificial Intelligence. Nicholas Wilder plays John, a scientist that is interviewing Emma, a robot that has been designed for human companionship. Every day they interview her and every day she seems to be growing a stronger sense of awareness of her life. Even worse, she seems to be more prone to resisting commands and seems motivated to explore the world and defy her master’s desires.
With John seemingly connecting to the AI in weird ways, he comes in conflict with his partner Carol seems more and more resentful and begins to question his own commitment to his work. “E.M.M.A.” is a great science fiction tale with an interesting focus on the idea of existence and whether or not it’s wise to be conscious of our own imminent mortality. Charlie Gillette steals the movie as Emma, providing a convincing performance. While the editing could stand a bit more work, I enjoyed director Herman’s genre entry.
Thermostat 6 (2018)
“Thermostat 6” from the art school GOBELINS is a stark and haunting allegory for the future we face, and horror that it will surely cause if we don’t act quickly. Directed and animated by the talented team of Maya Av-ron, Marion Coudert, Mylène Cominotti and Sixtine Dano, we meet a Parisian family as they’re eating a feast for dinner. The daughter of the family is having a tough time focusing on dinner because of a leaky pipe situated directly above the dinner table. Despite her complaints and warnings that it will inevitably become a problem, her family ignores her warnings and complaints.
Soon enough it becomes a massive problem, and we experience the various reactions from her parents, baby brother, and grandfather who sits idly by. “Thermostat 6” is clearly a message about global warming and climate change, and a stark commentary about the fractions of society that are at odds over how to confront this dire situation. The final scene pretty much sums up how absolutely devastating this problem will become if we continue to split up rather than working to fix the problem standing in front of us.
There’s a very high concept behind what is essentially an amalgam of sub-genres for this short horror movie. It’s a revenge picture, a date movie, a thriller, a mystery, and a zombie movie all rolled in to one. I’m assuming that last note isn’t jumping the gun considering the movie alludes to such an idea. In either case, Ryan Russell Steele and Joseph Victor’s is a well done film with slick editing, I’m just wondering if the climax is about as on the nose as it feels. Is the victim of said revenge a zombie or just some kind of monstrous result of an act of violence? While the film could stand more exposition and clarity as to what led to this scenario that unfolds during “Verso,” I liked what the directors were going for.