The Austin Chronicle


Interviews and reviews

By Jess Sauer, March 17, 2006, Screens

Reel Shorts 1

D: various

Short programs are by nature a mixed bag, and Reel Shorts 1 is no exception. Its six films represent genres from documentary to surrealism, and production values from amateur to professional.

"Follow Me" is a beautifully shot but uneven film. Involving an earnest, nonthreatening stalker à la Lloyd Dobler, its strengths are primarily visual, with the exception of one sight gag that got the audience laughing but seemed a bit lowbrow and out of place. It's a pleasant enough film, but the lead actress' voiceovers are sometimes cloying and often riddled with platitudinous Carrie Bradshawisms.

"Shortstop" falls into a similar category as "Follow Me," lapsing occasionally into romantic clichés and melodrama. Still, the actors (also the filmmakers) are incredibly likable, and watching them change from two girls fighting over one guy into allies is heartening.

The program's sole documentary, "Viva Morrissey," may not have scooped the story on Morrissey's fanaticism in L.A.'s Latino community (Chuck Klosterman's 2003 piece on the topic made Da Capo's Best Music Writing; Jame SOMEONE's 2004 feature "Is It Really So Strange?" covered similar ground), but it's admirable for its human scale and for not imposing otherness on its subjects.

Two films go for ill-advised, punny titles. "Robot-ussin" is a Dadaistic stop-motion/live-action hybrid that addresses a question that's been burning in the public's collective consciousness for a while now: What an illustrator Robot-tripping about robots might see. The audience reacted more to the swear-laden credits than to the film itself. "Miles From Home," whose main character is named – wait for it – Miles, fares better, despite the cringeworthy titular joke. Especially notable was Joel David Moore's deadpan performance as an (almost) reformed slacker.

"A Short Film" is, appropriately, the program's shortest film, and also one of its funniest. Professionally shot and perfectly timed, its premise is too good to give away in these pages.

Though it might seem overenthusiastic to recommend an entire program on the basis of one short, closer "K-7" would make sitting through two hours of C-SPAN2 worth it. The film won Best Live Action Short at HBO's U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, and even its opening credits are stimulating. The acting is note-perfect, the script tight, and the look as crisp as a Hollywood feature.

"Shortstop" was the runner-up in the Reel Shorts Jury Awards.

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