Living up to its reputation as being the largest and most diverse short film festival in the nation, the 2018 Palm Springs International ShortFest brought a program with a unique selection of films. “And Now For Something Completely Different…” attracted guests who were interested in seeing shorts that were offbeat, bizarre, and far from the typical Hollywood blockbuster formula. Borrowing Tape has got you covered in rating these cinematic oddities and introducing you to the more artsy side of the big screen.
Don’t be dissuaded by the pretentiously long title; this animated short about a little girl longing to escape the undermining qualities of childhood doesn’t take itself too seriously. Abnie is not a kid to be underestimated when it comes to getting down to the important questions in life, like why companies purposefully misspell words on their products to be more appealing to youngsters and why old peoples’ skin turns wrinkly. Although the film’s adult characters can be a bit annoying, it goes with the disorienting quality of the animation style—a quick, zany flash of color coming and going like a fever dream.
This entry is not something that can easily be dissected through a review. Allen Anders is a stand-up comedian, performing his act at a nightclub with an all too eager crowd ready to laugh at any of his flat deliveries and punchlines. He repeats his routine again and again, much to the glee of his perm-haired, polyester-wearing audience. Call it what you want: an art piece, a dark comedy, a bad home video. Either way, Allen Anders gets the last laugh as being a morbidly depressing seven minutes of discomfort. Pixelated and faded as if recovered in a time capsule, the short is fascinating enough to keep you thinking about its meaning long after it’s over.
Nothing says whimsical and out-there than a box full of claymation goblins. This little creature community lives a stationary life inside a box. Everyone looks and acts the same, except for one pesky youngster who insists on going against the grain. The innovative concept behind this film promotes the idea of embracing originality and rejecting the notion of uniformity. Even without any kind of dialogue, the audience can sympathize with the creature’s desire to break away from the shackles of his dull life, literally thinking outside of the box. While this concept has been done before, The Box showcases an intriguing atmosphere that is refreshing to the eyes of seasoned filmgoers.
The old saying insists that music can soothe the savage beast, but what if that very same music can unleash something monstrous? Adam Brown and Kyle Kelley’s The Music Lesson depicts a cello lesson with an uncooperative young student and a fed-up music teacher. As a last resort, the instructor brings out a secret weapon that stuns her student in the most cosmic of ways. While it certainly is unexpected in its premise and ending, the short film is still an entertaining yet puzzling addition to the program. One of the most appealing aspects is that it leaves just enough mystery in the air for audiences to interpret what they just saw, letting their imagination run wild like the music notes playing throughout the film.
The name of this film is not a typo, but rather, an edgy way of depicting nostrils. While it remains unclear how exactly to pronounce it, (OO) is a South Korean animation that details what goes on inside someone’s nostrils as they carry on throughout the day. Making the complications of having a stuffy nose and sneezing fits all the more uncomfortable, the film seeks to entertain with flashing colors and a fast-paced energy. However, a major drawback is how repetitive the subject matter can get after a while. Mucus is really not that exciting of a thing to watch, even in all of its slime-green, cartoonish glory.
This next selection is one of the most intriguing of the bunch, as it acts as a sort of pseudo-documentary chronicling the life of a strange man by the name of Fernando Music. Fernando was born without hands, and having been abandoned by his astronomy-obsessed father, was raised by his mother who encouraged him to pursue his passion for writing. He eventually becomes famous for his bestselling books about space erotica, having his wife type up his words for him—since he doesn’t have fingers. The humor in this short is as bizarre as you would expect from just reading the synopsis alone. Observatory Blues takes great care in fleshing out its eccentric characters, most notably the slightly insane Fernando, expertly played by famed SNL writer Tom Schiller.
While still teetering on the strange theme of this film program, The Passage attempts to instill a more inspiring tone in its narrative. The film follows a man named Phil who keeps finding himself in compromising situations, usually involving a language barrier and people of different nationalities. Through his journey, he never speaks but still willingly engages with the people and cultures he comes across as he tries to escape nameless agents who continue to hunt him down. Presented without subtitles, The Passage is a comical representation of unity through action instead of dialogue. The audience is just as unaware of what the characters are saying as Phil is, but they are still captivated by the warm message behind the plot.
While it may not be the most aesthetically pleasing animation to look at, Perfect Town has a style very much unique to the rest of its cartoon counterparts. Consisting of skinny lines and vibrant, almost sickly hues, the inhabitants of a cliffside town must adhere to certain rules and appearances, or else they risk being kicked out of the very place other people are eager to get into. The plot is very nonlinear, providing a surreal perspective to viewers trying to wrap their minds around the jarring subject matter showcased onscreen. While the hand-drawn animation is something to appreciate, the idea of style over substance does not apply here.
Somewhere in a galaxy far, far, away lives a posse of space-bound dog defenders, fighting alien creatures that terrorize their planet. Director Sophia Schönborn’s six-minute animation is a pleasure to watch from beginning to end. Taking heavy inspiration from the likes of anime such as Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z, Spacedogs delivers with action-packed sequences and a finely detailed cast of canine characters. The film introduces its audience to a universe completely inventive and could easily work as a pilot to a new, full-length animated series.