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The Independent Critic

A PRETTY FUNNY STORY

  • Written/Directed by: Evan Morgan
  • Starring: Justin Conley, Erin Hicock, Ezra Sherman, Jimi Shlag, Tim Walker
  • Running Time: 19 Mins.

37o 4 S

  • Written/Directed by: Adriano Valerio
  • Starring: Riaan Repetto, Natalie Swain
  • Running Time: 12 Mins.

JUST BEFORE LOSING EVERYTHING

  • Written/Directed by: Xavier LeGrand
  • Starring: Miljan Chatelain, Lea Drucker, Anne Benoit, Mathilde Auneveux, Denis Menochet
  • Running Time: 30 Mins.

TREFFIT (THE DATE)

  • Written/Directed by: Jenni Toivoniemi
  • Starring: Oskari Joutsen, Anna Paavilainen, Paivi Makinen
  • Running Time: 7:10

THE CAPTAIN

  • Directed by: Nash Edgerton & Spencer Susser
  • Written by: Nash Edgerton, Spencer Susser, & Taika Waititi
  • Starring: Taika Waititi, Nash Edgerton
  • Running Time: 5:48

TOTAL COLLECTION RUNNING TIME: 75 Mins.

 Ouat Media Presents "Five Acclaimed Short Films" on Itunes 
A Pretty Funny Story

Winner of the Canal+ Award at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in 2013, writer/director Evan Morgan's A Pretty Funny Story is a delightfully demented and darkly comical 19-minute short film starring Justin Conley as a bored family man who is eager to share "a pretty funny story" involving the embarrassing antics of a next door neighbor with his office buddies.

Before he can take it too far, the paranoid neighbor hatches a bizarre and drastic plan to keep the word from getting out. If you like your comedy pitch black but genuinely funny, you're going to love A Pretty Funny Story. With a terrific ensemble cast and an explosively outrageous script, Morgan once again affirms the promise that he showed with The Pedestrian Jar, his previous film that premiered at TIFF in 2011. Justin Conley does a nice job as a faux politically correct husband/father whose calling out of his younger son for misusing the word "gay" doesn't quite jibe with his response when he eyeballs his neigbor's antics a few moments later. While you think that Morgan has just created another film about political correctness, he abruptly takes the film in another direction completely and it pays off richly.

As the first of five highly acclaimed in a five-short film collection released by Ouat Media, distributor of 2014 Oscar nominee Just Before Losing Everything and 2013 Oscar winning live-action short Curfew, A Pretty Funny Story sets the bar high in kicking off the collection.


374 S

Winner of a Special Mention at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and nominated for the festival's Palme d'Or for Best Short Film, this little gem of a short film was easily the best surprise from among the five short films included in this Ouat Media collection. The film stars Riaan Repetto and Natalie Swain as Nick and Anne, two teenagers living in Tristan da Cunha, an island of 270 inhabitants where they have known each other their entire lives and have become lovers.

Now, Anne has just made up her mind to go study in England - 6,152 miles away.

37°4 S is very much shot in less of a narrative format. Those who demand films to have a nicely structured beginning, middle, and end will likely find the film a maddening experience. It's experiential, poetic, meditative and yet by the film's end it also feels as if you've very much gone on the journey with these two young people as they weave themselves through the emotional and physical realities of Anne's decision. Actually shot on location on Tristan da Cunha, the atmosphere in the film is absolutely stunning and it's a breathtakingly beautiful production that stays with you long after the closing credits.

The film might qualify as a more mood-centered film, but that's equally because of its strong performances and the stellar lensing from Valerio and Loran Bonnardot along with excellent original music from Romain Trouillet. At a mere 12 minutes in length, 37°4 S tells a simple story that lingers in the psyche. The words are as sparse as the Tristan da Cunha landscape and the actions between Nick and Anne are devoid of histrionics in favor of a woven together mixture of grief and intimacy.

In what was a particularly weak year for short film at the Academy Awards, it's disappointing that this quiet gem wasn't among the nominees. Yes, it really is that good.


Just Before Losing Everything

Speaking of the 2014 Academy Awards, Just Before Losing Everything was one of this year's nominees and actually did pick up the Cesar for Best Short Film this year.

Oh yeah, and it easily should have won the Oscar.

Easily my favorite of the 2014 Oscar nominated live-action shorts, Just Before Losing Everything is an exceptional filmmaking debut for writer/director Xavier Legrand, a French filmmaker whose next work I eagerly anticipate. Just over 30 minutes in length, Just Before Losing Everything does a slow and suspenseful build with seemingly unrelated actions building suspense even if we don't exactly know why.

I'm not going to give it away.

What I am going to give away is that Just Before Losing Everything is a far deeper film than you'd expect and certainly contemporary and relevant. The film kicks off with a young Julien (Miljan Chatelain) seemingly running a simple errand for his father, or at least that's what we're led to initially believe. Then, Miriam (Lea Drucker) enters the picture and Julien enters her car soon to be followed by a stop at two teenagers sitting at a bus stop making out. The girl gets in the vehicle and they move on.

Before long, they've all arrived at a supermarket where a story both familiar and unsettingly unfolds and which manifests not exactly as you might expect when Antoine (Denis Menochet) arrives.

Just Before Losing Everything is a suspenseful and involving film precisely because Xavier Legrand keeps us guessing as to exactly which direction he's going. The ensemble cast is uniformly strong, especially the mesmerizing Lea Drucker. In what is a weaker than usual field, Just Before Losing Everything deserves to come out on top.


Treffit (The Date)

I will confess to having watched Jenni Toivoniemi's Treffit ("The Date") twice because, quite honestly, the first time around it did absolutely nothing for me and yet there was this little voice inside of me that said that I had simply missed it.

My little voice was right.

Treffit picked up the Short Film Jury Prize for International Fiction at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival for its unusual story of 16-year-old Tino (Oskari Joutsen), who is tasked with hosting a date for his family's stud cat, Diablo. In the process, his own manhood is put to the test in front of two women.

Treffit is a quirky and funny short film with quite a bit going on underneath the surface. It's the kind of film that will likely have you thinking about it long after you've left the theater, because the film says quite a bit more than is spoken aloud. In fact, it's not often in a short film that one feels compelled to give kudos for the sound design but Tuomas Klaavo's sound design is truly what gives the film its gusto. Jarmo Kiuru's cinematography is also effective, while Joutsen's gift for simple acts of physical comedy adds comic heft to the film's goings on.


THE CAPTAIN

The final film in Ouat Media's Five Highly Acclaimed Films is yet another dark comedy, The Captain, an official selection in 2013 at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Short Film Grand Jury Prize, and the Melbourne International Film Festival co-directed by Nash Edgerton (2008's The Square) and Spencer Susser (Hesher)  and co-written by Edgerton, Susser, and the film's star, Taika Waititi (Eagle vs. Shark).

It's almost impossible to actually describe the six-minute The Captain without giving it away, and taking the journey with the film is quite a bit of fun. Suffice it to say that the film is simple, dark, freakin' hilarious, and Taika Waititi gives a quietly brilliant performance in it. If you don't like the film, I'd suggest you check your funny bone.

Greig Fraser's lensing excels in doing the necessary slow build, while the film's visual effects and art direction teams deserve major kudos for designing a look that leaves you guessing until the absolute final moments.

The Captain centers around a man who wakes up with a hangover only to discover the consequences for his actions. The Captain is funny, a little bit deviant, and a whole lot delightful. You've got the chance now, why not check it out?

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic  

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