The following six mini-reviews were pulled together from a series published in the Thursday "Prospector" of The Union newspaper, leading up to the eighth Nevada City Film Festival. "Anonymous," "Children Are a Gift" + "The Von," "Miraculum," "Script Cops," "The Frank Anderson," and "Tyger" are all short films. The dates indicate the date of initial publication. The series also included reviews of the feature length films "Just Like the Son" and "Girls Rock" on Aug 9 and 16 respectively.
Anonymous (July 26)
When you go to a film festival, especially a program of short films, you should expect some weirdness. You should want some weirdness. Quality weirdness is tough, and the 7th Annual Nevada City Film Festival has some of it for you.
"Anonymous" is an ambitious and impressive tackling of a story that intertwines reality and counter-reality. It gets extra points for not stumbling anywhere and for never feeling ordinary or too full of itself. Throughout its 20 minutes, "Anonymous" also gets extra points for being self-indulgently stylish without tripping on its choices of color and sound and awareness.
The lonely writer in "Anonymous" is not alone. He lives with his alter ego, who writes his story for him while he sleeps. He co-exists with his neighbor who lives across the hall, the woman who lives with him for the length of an elevator ride, who lives on the pages that come from his typewriter.
"Loneliness is my only way out," says the "Anonymous" one. But that is only what the waking man types. The man in his sleep knows differently, as can you in a darkened film festival theater.
Children Are a Gift + The Von (Jul 26)
Filmmaker Corey Creasy grew up in Nevada City. In a few minutes, his "Children are a Gift" riffs on a simple phrase: "Wipe my butt." While this film is about as insubstantial as one can make, it is a head-shaking, smile-provoking asset to any short-film program.
Another brief treat sharing the program with "Children are a Gift" is "The Von." Please, this pairing is not indicative of some stilted focus that might cause you to pooh pooh the film festival, but it does prominently deal with soiled underpants. "The Von" actually contains some substantial insight into childhood. However, not to oversell it, it is simply short-form movie fun.
Miraculum (Aug 2)
A miracle is "any amazing or wonderful occurrence" or as so many are inclined to believe, "a marvelous event manifesting a supernatural act of God." The film "Miraculum" starts with the camera focused on a recently born child. Its half-hour journey to the final camera shot is set in the Middle East.
One family in the story is Muslim, the other family, Christian. Violence between sectarian groups pepper the daily headlines. The two families are close friends - professionals sharing modern, civilized society. Though it occupies very little screen time, they discuss issues. They discuss the need to discuss issues. They discuss not discussing anything too controversial.
It is not clear whether the parents understand the relationship between the adult daughter of one family and the adult son of the other family, or whether these parents would allow themselves to understand. It is clear that these two adult children think they know what their parents are unable to understand.
The story, so deftly set in the Middle East, is not about horrific war or war's horrific infrastructure. There is only one act of violence represented on screen. Simpler than horrific war, but in its way as consequential and controversial, that one act of violence turns its eyes from the miraculum.
Script Cops (July 26)
It is quite a coup to make an effective short film that brims three times over with in-jokes.
"Script Cops" unabashedly steals the format of the show "Cops." Whatever your opinion of that very successful bit of "reality television" - indeed, whether or not you've ever seen the show - you will enjoy how perfectly "Script Cops" captures this lowest common denominator of law enforcement theater.
Since the enforcement officers are not merely cops but script cops, the next level of comic sendup is that all the perpetrators are wannabe screenplay writers. We all have a sense that people who write screenplays must live in some illicit frame of mind, or at least we all have long exposure to television and movies produced from bad scripts. "Script Cops" busts them hilariously.
Finally, "Script Cops" is filled with off-hand references to highly creative and successful screenwriters. For all the attention paid to movies, most people probably don't recognize the names of the people who write the scenes and dialog we flock to see.
From its "copped" theme music to its final in-joke movie reference, "Script Cops" is a clever, well-realized eight minutes of filmmaking.
The Frank Anderson (Aug 2)
Breasts figure quite prominently in film. This common cinematic distraction knows no better satirical gander than "The Frank Anderson." Go and see why this 13 minutes of fun is titled "The Frank Anderson," not merely "Frank Anderson."
If this anatomical turn were simply about man-boobs, the gimmick would suffer from the kind of flatness that often weighs down such pat comedic cleverness. The makers of "The Frank Anderson" do the distraction justice by creating character chemistry and witty storytelling that carries further than sketch comedy.
Tyger (Aug 2)
Only one film is scheduled to be shown twice at the 7th Nevada City Film Festival. "Tyger" is a visual feast - an incredible short burst of imagination. Its five minutes radiates creativity and artistry. Its tone is what the potential of a short film is all about.
What force guides the Tyger's roar through a big city? The answer moves in a shade of black like you've never seen on film. Who - or what - inhabits this trans-animated city? The densely populated answer, boldly subtle and rather amusing, changes constantly. What fate is in store for this city? The answer grows and curls across the night without anything like an explanation.
This Brazilian entry into Nevada City's much evolved film festival will drop people's jaws. Some will not know what to make of "The Tyger." Some will know not to try to make anything of it. It is brilliantly what it is.