Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

The Best of British Shorts

On viewing some of the newest short films to come out of the United Kingdom, one is inclined to wonder just how far Mad Cow Disease has spread into the populace there. All of the themes were, shall we say, somewhat unusual.

Same Dog… Whitewashed is a brief ghoulish comedy. The little old lady making tea seems very sweet. Until something happens to her cat. If you see this, you won’t look at road kill quite the same way again.

Half a Shave is another cartoonish comedy involving a corpse. This one seemed tame, however, compared to the previous short.

Dancing is the most sentimental and touching of the lot. An old lady prepares to leave her apartment to go to the hospice. Seeking solace in long-ago memories, she is determined not to go quietly.

Fridge has both the most tension and most despair of this set of flicks. A homeless man and woman become the only hope for a young boy trapped inside an abandoned refrigerator. Their cries for help fall on deaf ears of people in the neighborhood who don’t want to get involved.

Hello Hello Hello, an unexpected crowd pleaser by actor David Thewlis, deals with a vagrant and a policeman who get into a serious discussion about art and culture.

It’s Not Unusual deals with a taxi driver who has an obsession with a certain Welsh singer. Her teenage daughter is totally embarrassed by her pop penchant, but then one day our driver is called on to deliver a parcel—to Mr. Tom Jones!

The Bug seems visually inspired by Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. An old Three Stooges comedy plays on the TV during much of the battle between an exterminator and a bug. I actually found that more entertaining than the main film.

(Seen 20 May 1996)

Boys’ Night Out

This series of gay-themed short films is really a mixed bag.

Central Park is a weird one. A young man leaves the clinic where he has just been told he is HIV positive and heads for Central Park. The film then turns into a modern dance featuring a woman in white, his boyfriend, and a guy dressed up like the Mona Lisa. Huh?

Two is a title with a double meaning. It might mean a couple. But it is also refers to one character’s scale where “one” is beautiful, “two” is average, and “three” is, well, below average. In the course of a mostly pointless, hedonistic night, this guy learns however that a “one” like himself can come to need a “two.”

Twilight of the Gods is another strange one. Filmed in New Zealand, it tells the story of a Maori warrior who happens on the scene of a massacre of his people. He finds a wounded British soldier and wants to kill him, but a spirit in the form of a small bird won’t let him. So he grudgingly nurses the soldier back to health and they become lovers. I’m afraid, however, that it all ends rather badly.

Achilles is an extremely well-done BBC claymation version of the myth of Achilles. The figures appear at once like classical statues and very life-like. Funny. When I read first read this story in my naïve youth, I thought that Achilles and Patroclus were just good friends. Anyway, in addition to being technically impressive, this film is quite moving.

Must Be the Music was the last and easily the most popular of the set. It is sort of a brief, male, southern California version of The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love. The plot is extremely simple. Four valley teenagers take off in a car and head for a hot dance club in L.A. Across the room young Jason’s eyes meet Michael’s. Is it love at first sight? More importantly, is this a dry run for a feature length film?

(Seen 27 May 1996)

Politically Incorrect Cartoondaze 1

This was the first of two programs presented by animation enthusiast Jerry Beck. These cartoons are from his personal collection, and they have more or less been banned by those who hold the rights to them because in the consciousness-raised 1990s they are considered offensive. The first program dealt with World War II propaganda. Interestingly, despite all the scare stories about “Communist propaganda” in the 1950s, no one holds a candle in that department next to the U.S. and Hollywood. It is interesting to see the likes of Bugs Bunny, Popeye, and Walt Disney’s Three Little Pigs fighting Nazis and “Japs” and hawking war bonds. Aside from the Japanese stereotype, this set wasn’t actually so offensive, but the studios are apparently concerned about some of the images being exploited by neo-Nazis. In particular, Donald Duck has a nightmare where he is a goose-stepping (duck-stepping?) German, regaled with lots of swastikas. (Seen 25 May 1996)

Politically Incorrect Cartoondaze 2

Jerry Beck’s second set of “banned” cartoons focused on ethnic and sexual stereotypes. Most of these dealt with African-American cariactures. It was an interesting experience for me since I can actually remember seeing some of these on TV as a child. Some of them seemed fairly benign, such as Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarves, a joyous, jazzy, black version of the Snow White story. Interestingly, many cartoons featured an animated version of Cab Calloway and, less interestingly, gags with watermelons seemed popular. There was also a cartoon featuring a dance number by a bunch of cats who were drawn to look like Chinese launderers. The example of sexual stereotyping was a Betty Boop cartoon where she is chased around a ship in a short skirt by a lusty crew of pirates. (Seen 27 May 1996)