CIFF Film Reviews: Short Films Program 4

Since these are short films, the reviews will also be short.  How apropos.  ;)

1 Golden is a silent film about a boy with golden skin and the challenges he faces growing up, until he falls in love with another young man with golden skin and begins to discover other people like himself.

I gave this film a 2, and I have been questioning my rating of this film.  First of all, I went into the Film Festival this year with a resolution to grade non-comedic films a little more harshly this year.  (I’ll get to the comedic films later on.)  This was one of the first films I saw, so my resolution was in full force.  My first instinct would have been a 3, but I dropped it down to a 2.

The film does have its flaws.  First of all, it uses the Golden skin as a metaphor for sexual orientation, which is not a great metaphor.  Second of all, when the metaphor is revealed at the end, I felt more confused than enlightened, since I never got the sense that he was struggling with sexual orientation.  The film was a good idea, and I appreciate the conciseness of the story and the risk of telling a story without words.  Unfortunately, the metaphor was problematic.

Rating: 2 (probably should have been a 3.)

Group B was about a young professional race car driver who is getting back into racing after recovering from a crash that killed his friend.  The film reminded me a lot of the film Rush, which was a wonderful film and did not get anywhere near the success it deserved.  (Seriously: I am going to see Captain America: Civil War for two reasons and one of them is Daniel Bruhl.)  The film is suspenseful and moving, though I am not sure I will remember this film over the years.

Rating: 4

Reinventing the Wheel

Golden, the film mentioned above, won the best LGBT short award.  Personally, I would have given it to Reinventing the Wheel.  (Though I only saw two LGBT short films, so the competition isn’t all that meaningful.)  This film details how LGBT individuals are portrayed in films and how these characters are often limited simply to their sexuality.  We spend a lot of time with one director who is working on a feature film.  The main characters are gay men, but the film is a thriller.  The fact that they are gay is not the focus of the story.

The main problem that LGBT filmmakers face is the same problem that all independent filmmakers face: money.  (The last film I saw at the festival was made for $75,000.)  Like other independent filmmakers, they struggle to find funding for their projects.  In addition, the LGBT film movement seeks to grow beyond “coming out” stories to a much broader range of topics.

Rating 4

Golden Shot

Golden Shot was dialogue free animated film about machines who try to fly.  I did not like this film.  For whatever reason, I found it hard to focus on the film.  The animation was skilled, but I really didn’t care about the machines.  The film was only 9 minutes long but it felt three times as long.

Rating: 1

How I Didn’t Become a Piano Player

This was a splendid film.  The film tells the story of a young boy who desperately wants to find his talent.  When his father brings home a tinny piano from the local dump, he decides to be a piano player. Unfortunately,  he has no more aptitude for the piano than he does for soccer, and his mother and piano teacher want him to quit.  There were so many funny lines and images within the short film.  My favorite is his aging piano teacher, completely disgusted with his terrible playing, sitting with her back to him as he practices.

I think that there is a definite bias against funny films which goes beyond the film festival. We decide that comedic films cannot win top prizes, whether it is the Oscar or other rewards, because they are not “serious.”  It is crazy because I have seen comedic films that have stayed with me for years, and dramatic films that have faded from my mind.  As a result, I made a choice to be far more willing to give top marks to comedic films. This film definitely deserved it.

Grade : 5


Grounded tells the story of a young woman who works at an airport who must help a young woman get on a plane to London so that she can attend her mother’s funeral.  The story is very simple and straight forward, but the movie is sincere and heartfelt.  We feel for the woman who desperately needs to get home to her mother’s funeral.  We also share in the sense of purpose of the employee, who has helped a woman in a desperate.  situation.

There is no evil in this film, just good people trying to make their way in the world.

Grade: 4




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CIFF Film Reviews: Kafka’s The Burrow

I have only read one piece by Kafka, Metamorphosis.  Despite this lack of Kafka experience, I still knew enough about Kafka to know that a Kafka film is going to be a mind fuck.  (I rarely see mind fuck films; the most recent I saw was Under the Skin.  I can’t say that I would watch it again, but I do not regret watching the film in any way.)

Kafka’s The Burrow tells the story of Franz, who only feels safe in one portion of his apartment building, and senses that his enemies are encroaching on this sacred space.  I do not want to say much more about the plot.  First of all, much of the film hinges on blurring the line between fantasy and reality.  Second of all, the movie is less about a sequence of events as it is about producing a mood or sensibility, which it does very successfully.

The main problem with this movie is the length.  At 110 minutes, this is long for a film festival film.  Worse, it is based on a short story, so there is nowhere near enough material to sustain a nearly two hour movie, so there were plenty of moments when it felt long.  Boy did it feel long.

With the length, I began to be very frustrated at the main character’s monologues.  Much of the dialogue is taken directly from Kafka’s short story.  I asked a friend of mine what the role of Kafka is in German literature.  Other than the fact that Goethe is the German Shakespeare, I know next to nothing about German literature.  She assured me that Kafka was one of the heavy hitters.  Perhaps the German audience would recognize the text of The Burrow in Franz’s monologues and would respond to it with a sense of familiarity, even affection.  Unfortunately, I simply reached the point at the end when I literally thought to myself, “Oh Jesus, he’s talking again!”

On the other hand, the film was certainly not without its strengths.  The set, costume, and makeup design for this film was tremendous.  I also loved how they shot the film.  The film conveys a wonderful sense of paranoia and impending destruction, as well as skews the audience’s perceptions of what is real and what is fantasy.  The film was wonderfully suspenseful, when it wasn’t terribly boring.

This is a wonderful example of a literary work not matching the film medium.  Not all stories are meant to be feature films.  For an example of an excellent match of medium, watch the BBC’s Little Dorritt or Bleak House.  The BBC shot these gigantic novels in serial form, with about twenty episodes about a half hour long.  They are wonderful because they are a perfect marriage of subject and medium.  Dickens wrote his novels as serials which were published in periodicals, very similar to a mini-series or short series.

The Burrow is an unfinished story, not a novel.  This film should have been a short film, not a full length feature film.  The director, Jochen Alexander Freydank, is an experienced short film director.  His film Toyland won Best Short Live Action Film at the Oscars a few years ago.  I commend the director for taking chances with this film; I just wish they had worked out better.

Rating: Fair

(In short, the film was too well made to be Poor, but had too many long, boring, and frustrating moments to be Good.)




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Regina Coeli by Brahms

This is is an A Capella piece.  The polyphony is gorgeous, and it would be a lot of fun to sing this piece.


Happy Easter Everyone!

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The Crazy Associations of a Song

It is amazing how music evokes such powerful emotions within people.  I know that smell is the sense that is most closely tied to memory, but a song can easily take me back to key moments in my life.

It is also strange to think about the twists and turns that a song can take, and how the associations can evolve, or in some cases morph quickly.  Adele’s hit song “Hello” brought this home for me.

About the same time that the song was released, my brother called me, sobbing, to tell me that his best friend of 15 years had committed suicide.  While his friend was not my friend, his friend had still been in my life since I was 17.  My mom sobbed at the news and proclaimed, “He was one of us!”  Which he was.

Later that week, after coming home from an social event, I heard “Hello” on the radio.

I had to change the channel.  The mournful songs coupled with lyrics that seemed to speak directly to the suicide of my brother’s friend.  “They say that time’s supposed to heal you, but I ain’t done much healing.”  “Hello from the other side, at least I can say that I’ve tried, to tell you I’m sorry, for breaking your heart.”  The latter one was especially painful.  I could picture my brother’s friend, speaking from beyond the grave, telling my younger brother, his parents, and his sister, that he was sorry for breaking their hearts.

It was difficult for me because I love Adele.  She is a wonderful singer and artist. Yet, I wondered if I would be able to listen to this song in the future.

Fortunately for me, SNL changed all of that.


Full disclosure.  At Thanksgiving last year, my grandmother did ask everyone if they liked Adele.


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Christ of St. John of the Cross by Salvador Dali

There’s no one in the 20th Century quite like Dali.


Apparently this is based on a drawing by St. John of the Cross.  I love the idea of a Spanish genius and eccentric interpreting a Spanish mystic.


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Palm Sunday – All glory, laud and honor

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Facebook Friends

I did not join Facebook until my senior year of college.  At that point, only high school students and college students were permitted to join.  Of course, that did not last long. I remember someone I knew in college who called Facebook “the pseudo-world.”  He wondered why he cared how he was perceived in the pseudo-world, or how he presented himself in the pseudo-world.

Facebook is strange, and can distort the truth.  I had that experience today when I saw a picture on Facebook today.  It was taken eight years ago, when I was in South Korea.  I had not posted many pictures on Facebook lately.  At that moment, I started to feel like I have not done anything memorable since then.  This is of course, a fallacy, but I responded by posting pictures I had taken in the past few months.  My view of my life had been distorted, and I needed to correct that distortion.  On Facebook.

I thought about this last summer.  A couple of years ago I sent a friend request to one of my friends in elementary school.  She did not approve, for whatever reason.  I did not know what to make of that.  Perhaps she wanted to limit her number of Facebook friends, I reasoned.  I knew it wasn’t animosity, we did not have a falling out, we just drifted apart.

And yet, last summer, I saw her again at a mutual friend’s party.  When she saw me, she smiled, called me by my childhood nickname, and hugged me.  She seemed very pleased to see me again.  At some point in the party, I briefly wondered why she had not accepted my friend request.  At yet, at the same time, I wondered, “Why do I care?”  Why do I care if she accepts me into her realm of the “friends” in the pseudo-world?



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