Last year one of the best times I had at the Phoenix Film Festival was attending the shorts showings. Given the right talent, a short film can be much more entertaining and better made than a full length feature. Personally, when I’m given time constraints, such as the length of the movie, it forces me to be more creative. I was only able to attend one of the short presentations this year, but I found myself underwhelmed and disappointed. Check out each of the shorts below that made up “Sci-Fi Shorts B” this year to find out why.
Japanese Doctor Who
This was actually one of the better ones. I don’t watch Doctor Who so it took me a minute to figure out what they were trying to convey. This one stood out to me because even though it was spoofing Doctor Who it was able to transcend that by being just plain funny. It was shot in a way to mimic terrible Japanese TV shows and movies from the 70’s. It was great to hear the audience’s reaction to it as well.
The Temporal Party
This is where it started to go downhill for me. This one tells the story of a failing college student who proposes an experiment, a time travel experiment, for some extra credit. The experiment he proposes is the same one Stephen Hawking did, throw a party for time travelers, but hold off on the announcement until the following day. This would have been a cool story were it not for the fact that the character proposes the idea as his own and there is no mention of Hawking’s event. Intentional or not that bothers me.
I felt bad for the makers of this one and I hope they weren’t in the theatre when this showed. When watching independent movies and shorts you always need to go in with an open mind because these aren’t the most skilled people, but I admire the hell out of them because they are out there trying. This one just kind of missed the mark a little bit. When two scientists create a matter transport device they inadvertently create time travel, which in turn sends the world into chaos. When travelers from the future come back to try and stop them, things go from bad to silly which left the audience in stitches, unfortunately that was not the intent.
The Looking Planet
This was an interesting computer animated tale about the creation of the universe. Very similar to the planet creators from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, a race of aliens literally construct our universe. One very adventurous builder named Lufo stumbles upon a set of blueprints that contains the recipe for a very familiar double helix and sets out to get things in motion.
This one reminded me of another short I saw last year about a deaf woman who underwent surgery so she could hear for the first time. This one dealt with an old man who must decide whether to live in the present with dementia or take an experimental drug and live with only his past memories. Even though it was all laid out during the short, I didn’t really understand what was happening until I read the synopsis. It was an interesting idea that could have done a better job of explanation.
This one kind of caught me off-guard because it starts out like an episode of In Treatment. The couple in the short go back and forth about their troubled relationship and how she can never peel herself away from her job. I was beginning to wonder if they had accidentally attached this one to the reel when she decides to prove a point of not answering her work phone during the session and things all of a sudden begin to go nuts outside. The man eventually lets her answer the phone and it turns out she is indeed a superhero.
Set in what may have been a possible steampunky future or past, I’m not sure, Valiant tells the story of three outlaws who come across a missing girl and attempt to exchange her for their freedom. The acting, with the exception of the man who played the king, was exceptional and the visual effects were way beyond what I would expect for a short movie, unfortunately these weren’t enough to propel a lackluster story.
In short, no pun intended, the festival was not off to a good start for me, however the weekend held much better fare and a few surprises so stay tuned for more coverage.