Monday, July 15, 2024

Movie Review (Sundance 2024): A Selection of Shorts

The Rainbow Bridge begins with a comedic homage to 90s late-night ads selling the latest scam to anybody vulnerable enough to fall into the trap. The lunatic “scientists” in Dimitri Simakis’ short film may be onto something this time around. Promising to provide their customers with the ability to say goodbye to their beloved pets, Simakis baits the hook of the short with a premise that most audiences will be able to easily latch onto. Whether you’ve had a pet or not, such an opportunity clearly functions as an exciting possibility. Upon seeing the facility though, it’s apparent just how ramshackle this faux-operation actually is. Credit to the production design, because in all the vibrant props and set decoration is a ton of visual flair, that also feeds into the idea that, once again, these “scientists” are actually quite crazy.

The Rainbow Bridge was a part of the Midnight Short Film Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

Yes, Say Hi After You Die is ridiculous. But then again, grieving comes in all shapes and sizes for anybody and everybody who experiences it. And Kate Jean Hollowell’s short film gets at that exact idea. There is no “correct” way to grieve. Instead, there’s just living one day at a time. And if one day you happen to feel that your friend who has passed has taken on the form of a porta-potty, who is anybody else to judge? This is a very fun short, with a musical sequence that makes me really want to see what a full-blown music video from Hollowell would look like. Come for the wacky premise and stay for the creative rumination on what we go through during some of the darkest days of the human experience.

Say Hi After You Die was a part of the Short Film Program 4 at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

There’s so much static and extraneous nonsense in our lives due to technology that it’s a miracle anything gets done anymore. Ben Gauthier’s Flail is a frenetic short film that may as well be a cinematic panic attack come to life. Allie (Allie Levitan) is driving all across Los Angeles running errands for her boss’ birthday celebrations. But rather than just capture the usual concept of an assistant who is severely overworked, Flail displays the contemporary reality. From Tinder updates to various spam emails and push notifications for apps we likely used once and never again, Allie, and in turn the viewer, is inundated with countless pings. It’s a frightening experience that simply doesn’t let up, and all we can hope for is just a peaceful moment of quiet. This is a stressful watch, but it’s an incredibly tightly wound piece of filmmaking.

Flail was a part of the Short Film Program 4 at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

Thirstygirl is able to both beautifully and silently capture the ways in which our internal battles control our every waking moment. Writer/director Alexandra Qin is able to depict Charlie (Samantha Ahn) as a woman both out of control yet completely able to slip a mask on when with her sister, Nic (Claire Dunn). It’s a short that flies by, really only featuring three or four sequences, but they do what great short films do best: effectively convey a central idea while leaving a thought-provoking kernel behind for the viewer to contemplate even further.

Thirstygirl was a part of the Short Film Program 2 at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

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