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And the nominees are . . .

The good, the bad, and the libidinous
By IAN PAIGE  |  November 8, 2006

061110_ourfest_main
FAIRY TALE: Happily Ever After?

Thanks to all who entered the Portland Phoenix Short Film Fest and congratulations to all nominees. Here’s a sneak preview of the selections in the running for Film of the Year. Check out the winners in all six categories (the others are Most Creative, Best Production, Best Comedy, Best Drama, and Best Documentary) on Wednesday, November 15.

SUBURBAN FANTASIES directed by Ross Morin
You’re walking down a street. She looks at you. There are some trees representing God or the Unconscious. You’re in a chair. Now the chair is a bed. You hear synthesizers. You must be in a student film!

Teasing aside, Morin does an excellent job utilizing that clunky old 16-mm equipment to achieve a beautiful black-and-white, dreamy mise-en-scene that pushes his film a cut above the average iMovie fare. The short film follows the libidinous fantasies of a boy and a girl on a suburban street, unable to speak to one another due to the evil machinations of an advanced capitalist society. Dig?

The film features excellent use of industrial synth soundscapes to pull the viewer in and out of the characters’ fantasies. The sparse abstractions that lend a dreamy quality to the piece are still too tied to a narrative (damn those film professors!) leaving a sense of “neither here nor there.” I originally watched the DVD screening copy on a faulty player and the film skipped frequently, freely bouncing around the filmmaker’s original intentions and clocking in at about a third of the time. I must admit, I liked this accidental version better, but then I would have missed some quality cinematography by cameraman Jeremy Moss.

HAPPILY EVER AFTER directed by Shireen Rahman
Follow the hapless adventures of Sam, confused urban lesbian, and her confidante Anne, who catches our protagonist searching for men in the personals. What follows is a tedious discussion for most of the video about finding the elusive “hetero switch” and how men have dirty fingernails. A few funny lines keep things moving but don’t make up for the poor production values that make Happily Ever After feel more like a video blog than a short movie. Irreverent dialogue strikes the viewer as personal processing rather than artistic expression and does little justice to the gender and orientation issues the director wishes to champion.

DRIVING MISS CRAZY produced by Wicked Good Films
Meanwhile, on the other side of the sexuality scale, Driving Miss Crazy was definitely made by aforementioned dudes-with-dirty-fingernails while drinking a beer or five. By no means a candidate for the canon of world cinema, this short, YouTube-friendly video does have what it takes to keep the audience engaged. Intelligent camera work and editing keep the viewer following a cellphone argument between Derek and his unnamed, archetypal girlfriend. Just what did Derek do last night?

Working from the limitations set out by the 48 Hour Film Project, the short unravels its plot quickly and systematically, complete with a twist at the end, and feels like a good joke you can spin out at the bar for a hearty laugh. The only question is, whom is the joke on?

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