Category Archives: Short

Rocky and Bullwinkle (2014, Gary Trousdale)

Is it really so hard to make a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon? It’s somewhat unfair to just crap on the writing (by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant), the acting (June Foray’s back as Bullwinkle but barely in it), the editing (it’s hard to say if Mark Deimel’s timing is off or if it’s Trousdale’s direction), or even that direction because the CGI animation itself is pretty bad.

The first scene with Fearless Leader (Lennon voicing and doing better than his writing anyway) laying out the plan to Boris and Natasha, Robert Cait and Lauri Fraser respectively, is iffy enough but once Rocky and Bullwinkle show up the animation takes a nose dive.

The short is nine minutes with credits. The filmmakers couldn’t manage to do nine minutes of mediocre work. Instead, it just gets worse and worse (in all departments). Whoever told the CGI animators they’d done a good enough job on the fur textures for the animals was either lying or the wrong person to be judging such things. The CGI is distractingly bad, which is something since the short rushes through its jokes like no one timed them. Especially the visual gags.

Though the animators don’t seem like they’d have been able to do appropriate facial expressions for the visual gags so whatever.

And whoever thought the Lady Gaga montage was a good idea was also wrong. It’s astounding how bad presumable “Rocky and Bullwinkle” fans are at making Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Gary Trousdale; screenplay by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, based on characters created by Bill Scott and Jay Ward; edited by Mark Deimel; music by Tony Morales; produced by Denise Nolan Cascino; released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Starring June Foray (Rocky), Tom Kenny (Bullwinkle), Thomas Lennon (Fearless Leader), Robert Cait (Boris), Lauri Fraser (Natasha), and Robert Ben Garant (Narrator).


What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1963, Martin Scorsese)

What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? is an absurd but arty comedy short. Director Scorsese mixes full motion video with stills, which sometimes do stand-ins for scenes—like protagonist Zeph Michaelis marrying Nice Girl Mimi Stark—sometimes just for expository stuff. See, Michaelis is a writer who gets a new studio apartment and can’t write because you can’t do even a nine minute short about a writer who can write. He becomes obsessed with a photograph he purchases and loses the ability to function normally. He just stares at the photograph.

Sadly, the photograph isn’t great. It’s a composite so Scorsese can manipulate it for narrative mileage, but even still… it’s not even compelling enough for poser Michaelis to fall in love with it.

Michaelis narrates most of the short; when he disappears in the last few minutes, it’s not initially a bad thing. Michaelis’s narration doesn’t make the character any more likable or amusing. It just keeps him around, because it’s his movie. But for the end to work, his narration’s got to go. Scorsese pulls it off like a Bandaid, refocusing attention on Michaelis’s friend, Fred Sica, who’s essentially a character witness for Michaelis. Right after Scorsese’s got this nice move of Sica repeating—word for word—Michaelis’s psychiatrist’s advice… the ending flops.

Scorsese’s intent is obvious and not aimed high at all; it’s an absurd but arty short, after all. Scorsese just isn’t able to get there with the script. It’s not funny. Occasionally, Nice Girl is rather well-made, lots of the still montages are beautifully edited—courtesy Robert Hunsicker—but it’s never funny enough when it needs to be. Scorsese can’t land the absurdist jokes; there’s one about Michaelis having a multi-day party in his efficiency. It’s a real, please laugh moment, ruining the serious filmmaking presumably going on.

But the lead up to ending with Sica repeating analyst Sarah Braveman? It’s cool. It’d be a save if the ending itself weren’t so… goony. Obvious and goony.

Cute cat and awesome King Kong reference though.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Martin Scorsese; director of photography, James Newman; edited by Robert Hunsicker.

Starring Zeph Michaelis (Harry), Fred Sica (Harry’s friend), Sarah Braveman (Harry’s analyst), and Mimi Stark (A Nice Girl).


Familiar Strangers (2020, Murat Sayginer)

Once the technology gets better, something like Familiar Strangers is going to be disturbing as all hell. Director Sayginer has created a bunch of heads, using deep-fake technology to look like various famous celebrities (Maggie Gyllenhaal and Luke Evans are the most spot on), and the top row moves one way, the bottom row moves the other way and you’re just seeing these disembodied, familiar heads look out.

Some of them look at you and gently smile—everyone’s in a great mood and seeing approximately 250 idyllic looking people smile at you is a nice feeling. Do you forget they’re computer generated? No, because the level of realism isn’t quite there yet. It’s movie stars rendered as happy video game characters. It’s not real. Yet.

Even stranger than the sensation of the “people” looking at you is the sensation of them not. Some of the heads don’t look out at the viewer, they look out at something else. So you’re waiting for the computer-generated Keanu Reeves to look at you and he doesn’t (I actually can’t remember this one for sure; Strangers has a high rewatch value if you’re trying to find you’re favorites; I forgot the second time through to see all the Chrises together). But you feel bad if you don’t get the “eye contact” and the smile.

Perfect musical accompaniment from Bach. I hope Sayginer keeps going with this kind of exploration; heck, I hope he comes back to it once artificial face generation is further along. Not being able to exactly recognize the stars would be better.

Also, a lot of them look just like Mackenzie Astin, which is very odd and seems to say more about Astin (and me for recognizing him in all these CGI faces) than anything Sayginer’s done. Like, I don’t think Mackenzie Astin made the cut for model inclusion here. He’s just apparently got the face Sayginer’s computer wanted to render.

Open the pod bay doors and so on.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Murat Sayginer.


A Terrible Night (1896, Georges Méliès)

A Terrible Night had me exclaiming, “Holy shit,” when the giant bug appeared. Or when it started moving. I’m not sure if it’s always in the shot. I’m resisting the urge to go and check.

The short is short—a minute—and one of director Méliès single shot films. He appears in the film as well, a fellow with a distinct proboscis settling in for the night. Once he’s got himself tucked in, a gigantic bug starts crawling up the bed and then onto the wall. Méliès’s sleeper is prepared with a flyswatter of sorts, but then it turns out there might be other bugs around.

Night captures the very human terror of a bug interrupting sleep, exaggerating it with the bug’s size; the special effects are limited—you’re so busy watching Méliès scramble to get the flyswatter, the bug gets from bed to wall almost instantaneously—but the simplicity of the bug’s movement makes it all the worse. It’s very hard not to ascribe intention to the bug and its movement, a certain disturbing malice.

Méliès’s instinct with the makeup—the nose is obviously fake—is good too. He’s concentrating the viewer’s attention throughout the frame, both with moving and non-moving parts. It’s very cool stuff.

The only thing wrong with Terrible Night is it isn’t long enough. Méliès does such fine work in the first minute, you’d love to see what he could come up with in a second one.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Georges Méliès; released by Star-Film.