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Frenzy Shorts Reviews

Coming Attractions

A Consumer Guide to MFF 2000 Shorts

Film Fest Frenzy 2000

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Coming Attractions A Consumer Guide to MFF 2000 Features

Coming Attractions A Consumer Guide to MFF 2000 Shorts

Posted 4/19/2000

List of shorts is not complete.

Black Sheep
Directed by Aaron Woolfolk
April 30, 4:45 p.m. (part of the shorts program ³Other Worlds²)

An exquisitely delicate 25-minute short, Black Sheep is obviously based on the experiences writer/director Aaron Woolfolk had as an English teacher in Japan. Woolfolk's alter ego is Mickey (Jasha Godschilde), an African-American teacher of English as a foreign language in a coastal Japanese town who, as the film opens, is preparing to return to the States. When his friend Kubu (Tomo Omori) asks Mickey why he's leaving, he says it's because he's tired of being stared at, tired of having no one to talk to, tired of being "felt up in bars by drunk men who want to know if the myth is true." But Kubu finds a way to reach Mickey (whom she seems to be in love with), drawing his attention to the plight of Emi (Ai Sakamoto), a shy, sweet pupil who should be in special- education classes but is "mainstreamed" because her mother wants to save her from being an outcast. The moral lesson of Black Sheep may be a trifle simplistic, but the performances, especially Godschilde's sensitive but masculine Mickey, give the film surprising power. (Jack Purdy) A Clockwork Maury
Directed by Bobby Leddy
April 28, 11:15 p.m. (part of the shorts program ³A Real Barrel of Laughs²)

An increasingly skeptical film crew endeavors to interview Stanley Kubrick's increasingly strange "brother" in this wry short written and directed by Bobby Leddy. Clockwork goofs amusingly on the famous Kubrick persona, and on the lengths to which people will go to bask in the reflected glow of genius--and even the reflected glow of the reflected glow of genius. Mark Darby Robinson is a stitch as the loopy Maury Kubrick. (Andy Markowitz)Elevator World
Directed by Mitchell Rose
April 29, 4:30 p.m. (with the feature Forbidden Zone)

Looking for tolerance and tranquility among your fellow human beings? This witty, Macintosh-made animated short suggests that such an ideal might be found within the tight confines of an elevator, where "spatial harmony is the selfless goal of all who dwell within," and occupants might be found "riding together, in total equality, watching numbers." Director Mitchell Rose weaves appropriate Muzak throughout (listen for "Fly Me to the Moon") and scripts the piece along the lines of an infomercial for a New Age cult. Funny stuff. (Heather Joslyn)Happy?
Directed by Mark Street
April 28, 9:30 p.m. (with the feature Enter)

Filmmaker Mark Street travels around New York City on the eve of Y2K, asking a wide swath of strangers three questions: "Are you ready for the millennium?," "Are you happy?" "What's gonna happen?" Only a minority of the answers seem worth documenting (I'd include those of a bitter, cash-strapped senior citizen, and a beatific liver-transplant survivor who shows Street his scar), and the filmmaker further pads his 19-minute running time with still shots. Happy? might feel meatier if it were more concise, chopped down to only the most trenchant answers; by dragging out his modest concept, the filmmaker ends up with something that plays like an unusually arty TV-news feature. (Heather Joslyn)Hate * a comedy
Directed by Drew Daywalt and David Schneider
April 28, 11:15 p.m.

This technically accomplished short-film parody of the psycho-stalker genre lays an egg because its one and only joke is that the insane neighbor out to harm our hero (Paul Hungerford) is, in fact, a chicken. (Lee Gardner)King Gimp
Directed by Susan Hadary and William Whiteford
Senator Theater, April 27, 7 p.m. (with the short A Whole New Day), hosted by the directors and Dan Keplinger

This Academy Award-winning short documentary follows Dan Keplinger, a young Baltimore County man born with cerebral palsy, from his days as an adolescent in a special school to his graduation from Towson University. (The filmmakers, Susan Hadary and William Whiteford, work for the University of Maryland School of Medicine.) With only 39 minutes to cover 13 years, the filmmakers settle for the highlights, which means we never really get to know the other players--such as Keplinger's mom, clearly a strong-willed woman who goes to great lengths for her son--but King Gimp does convey the young man's tenacity and talent as an artist. Watching Keplinger work with his art teacher and paint his extraordinary self-portraits (using a brush strapped to the top of his head) tells you more about this young man than the interviews and footage that make up the rest of the film. (Eileen Murphy)Mike Malloy
Directed by Jeff Stacey
April 29, 9:45 p.m. (part of the shorts program ³Short Stories²)

Set in the 1930s (and filmed in Baltimore), this 25-minute short, purportedly based on a true story, details the sordid depredations of a group of criminals who take the indigent under their sleeve-gartered wings, get them to unwittingly sign life-insurance papers, and then hasten the Grim Reaper along to collect on the policy. All goes well until Tony Marino (Gerard Ender) and his cronies are confronted with an Irishman with a titanium stomach, one Mike Malloy (Jim Hild). Bartender and chief co-conspirator Joe Murphy (Jim Kinstle) tries to do in Mike with lavish helpings of booze, only to find him coming back for more . . . and more . . . and more. Rat poison sprinkled on oysters doesn't even faze our lad, and pretty soon the gang is resorting to tactics that will be their undoing. Mike Malloy is refreshingly offbeat, particularly with its period setting. But Marino's final soliloquy about America being the cause of his criminality is overly high-flown--he goes from thug to philosopher far too easily. (Jack Purdy)Obsessed With Jews
Directed by Jeff Krulik
April 29, 11:30 p.m. (with the feature The Scott and Gary Show)

Jeff Krulik knows what makes a good documentary film: Shoot people an audience will want to watch. Already a underground legend for his 1986 cult classic Heavy Metal Parking Lot, Krulik turns his camera on Neil Keller, a very, very talkative guy fixated on documenting Jews in the worlds of pro sports, film and TV, politics, etc. Krulik turns on his camera and Keller spreads out his ring-binders of memorabilia and starts spieling about the likes of baseball greats Hank Greenberg and Rod Carew (who confirmed to Keller that, contrary to popular belief, he is not Jewish). About the time Keller blabs his way back to the more obscure corners of his collection (a Jewish bullfighter?), Krulik rolls the credits. Obsessed With Jews is short (eight minutes), sweet, simple, fascinating, and hilarious. You may see more expensive, more elaborate, more ambitious short films at the MFF, but you will hardly see better. (Lee Gardner)Our First Fight
Directed by Jeff Jackson
April 28, 11:15 p.m. (part of the shorts program ³A Real Barrel of Laughs²)

Boy sleeps with girl. Boy doesn't call girl for three weeks. Girl invites boy to join her for a workout and leads him to a grungy downtown gym, where she puts on the gloves, drags him into a boxing ring, and proceeds to read his beads. "I'm not covered for this!" he yelps. "I just switched HMOs!" Writer/director Jeff Jackson plays the reluctant boxer, Billy, who insists, "I do not hit women. It's one of my better qualities." Carolyn O'Brien plays the woman Billy knows as Lena but the guys down at the gym know as the Black Widow. Jackson packs a lot of smart twists into his stylishly shot black-and-white short, including an acknowledgment of how an audience will react to the sight of a man hitting a woman. Earns extra comedic points for the grizzled cornermen who quote Nietzsche. (Heather Joslyn)Special Report
Directed by Bryan Boyce
April 30, 10:30 a.m. (with the feature Behind the Scenes at the Local News)

This four-minute short by Dangerous Squid Productions riffs on a single joke, but it's a corker: using computer animation to make it appear as though cheesy sci-fi and horror-movie dialogue is spouting from the mouths of network news anchors. See Connie Chung scream in terror! Hear lines from Ed Wood Jr.'s angsty transvestite epic Glen or Glenda? pour from a befuddled-looking Ted Koppel! Behold Tom Brokaw proudly proclaim, "Torture! Torture! It pleasures me!" (Heather Joslyn) Sporting Dog
Directed by Peter Kelley
April 29, 11 a.m. (with the feature A.J.'s Dogumentary)

A strange little tale about the one-upmanship games that marriage can fall into, Sporting Dog sets itself up as a slight mystery. A man named Mike, Mike's young daughter, and Mike's border collie, Tazzie, innocuously visit the park. Deceptively presenting Mike as something of a geek, the film briskly changes pace when it turns out Mike has a few financial problems that are making some scary folks very unhappy. Utilizing Taz's skill at Frisbee-catching, Mike is abruptly enmeshed in a daring gamble with much more at stake than he realizes. Although the intellectual craftiness of chess is mentioned, Sporting Dog ultimately feels more like a disappointingly stacked deck. (Luisa F. Ribeiro)Swinger's Serenade
Directed by Danny Plotnick
April 29, 11 a.m. (part of the shorts program ³Danny Plotnick's Wild Kingdom²)

A hilarious 24-minute exploration of an unknown part of the seamy American underbelly, Swinger's Serenade is a shot-for-shot re-creation of a script that appeared in the July/August 1960 issue of Better Movie Making, one of several publications aimed at the home-movie buffs who flourished in our pre-camcorder nation. Your guide through this bizarro world is The Professor (Chris Enright), who frames the action. The other three characters, Wife (Alison Faith Levy), Lover (Miles Montalbano), and Husband (Jay Hinman), have no lines, as all that old-time 8 mm footage was silent. But while mute, these characters speak volumes about the sub rosa kinkiness of the U.S. of A. during the final months of the Eisenhower era. Sure, Plotnick (a longtime favorite on the underground-film circuit) has cheated a little by adding a semi-surf-guitar music track no home-movie maker of the era could have conceived. But when you experience the Shocking Twist only Better Movie Making could conceive of, you'll forgive him. (Jack Purdy)The Tell-Tale Vibrator
Directed by Jill Chamberlain
April 28, 11:15 p.m. (part of the shorts program ³A Real Barrel of Laughs²)

During a tense dinner in her teensy Manhattan apartment, the mother of an overly perky young professional girl (Heather Bucha) asks, "Honey, are you seeing anyone?" Who--or rather what--the young woman is spending her quality time with is clear from the title. A brightly lensed, fun short film filled with Hitchcock references, Vibrator explores the shame of the romantically challenged, and includes a stirring performance by the relentlessly assertive title character. (Ian Grey) Twin Cousins
Directed by Rod Gailes
April 29, 9:45 p.m. (part of the shorts program ³Short Stories²)

A lushly shot 29-minute character study that could easily be expanded into a feature, Twin Cousins finds preteen Detroit buddies Boogie (Jasmine Carr) and Vonda (Azziza Bacote) at a crossroads in their friendship. Boogie's mother dies, her overwhelmed father returns to the military, and she's packed off to live with her reluctant, well-to-do Aunt Hattie (All My Children's Grace Garland) for the summer, after which she's to be sent to a Catholic boarding school. Meanwhile, Vonda sweats it out in summer school, stuck with the girls' archenemy, Nikki (Dayna T. Newkirk), as a study partner, and trying to raise her math grades in order to join Boogie at boarding school in the fall. Writer/director Gailes captures both the intensity and the mercurial nature of preadolescent girls' friendships, and his winning cast gives the story a feeling of authenticity. (Heather Joslyn) A Whole New Day
Directed by William Garcia
Senator Theater, April 27, 7 p.m. (with the short King Gimp), hosted by the director and co-star Katherine Narducci

Few (if any) short films at this year's MFF pack the star power this entry does. James Gandolfini, of HBO's acclaimed series The Sopranos, stars as Vincent, a tri-state-area working stiff who comes to in an empty apartment after a drunk; Sopranos bit player Katherine Narducci plays the wife he presumes has left him and taken everything but the bare walls. A Whole New Day looks good and Gandolfini successfully varies the same old dese-and-dose guy, but writer/director William Garcia fails to take his premise, his characters, or the scanty-even-for-a-short plot anywhere. A fixer-upper, for sure. (Lee Gardner)

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