Puppets & Demons

Dir: Patrick McGuinn, 1997. Short Films.

Several works from filmmaker Patrick McGuinn (Sun Kissed, Eulogy for a Vampire) are collected in this delightful DVD. Below are descriptions of the shorts featured, many of them done with 16mm film and Claymation, and later with digital video once the technology became available.

Stella!, 1995—Stella and her puppet boyfriend Vincent are an odd pair, obviously, who both desire Twinkies above all else and play control games with each other using the greasy sponge cake. Evolution, 1982—An impressive and colorful Claymation short about the survival of the fittest and evolution, where reptilian one-eyed monsters and dinosaurs attempt to overtake the land and devour its inhabitants while also destroying its order. Carousel of Death-Satan’s Game, 1985—Hippie culture meets really bad ‘80s fashion and Hip-Hop as Satan plays tricks on unsuspecting victims. This short has some excellent and appropriately trippy washouts that look like faded Polaroids, as well as trashy animation and some brave experimenting that made it one of my favorites in the collection. It also unfolds like a bizarre music video since there is no dialogue and reminds me of some early Spike Jonze videos. Terrence Baum: Intergalactic Assassin, 1986—This short opens with a lot of experimental shots, including layered animation of the cosmic world. It’s shot in black and white with a very paranoid vibe and classic goofiness. The film has the look of a noir and yet the out-of-sync and rushed action of a German expressionist silent film, except there is dialogue. Terrence Baum, a government secret agent, goes on a search and destroy mission for aliens from the planet Saliva. He speaks in what could only be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice (clips taken from other films, I assume) as he uses his only weapon, the Glutonious Maximizer, to sniff out the aliens who have come to earth disguised as bachelors in order to collect single women, who I guess are their only prey. Agnes Keedan’s Secret Plan, 1988—A crotchety and eccentric old woman goes berserk when two neighborhood children, one of whom is her domestic helper, disturb her magic wig, which comes to life and traps the children. She is then exposed as a witch and develops a potion that can transform her only friends (a jar of insects) into enough bugs to fill an entire house. Gran’ma!, 1995—A young man visits his grandmother, exposing yet another group of individuals, including the puppet Vincent, who exercise their right to love Twinkies. Only this one comes in the form of a hilarious sing-a-long with the words on the screen and everything. When the Owling Has Come, 1989—This is a satanic short where a scholar and his apprentice discuss philosophical babble and the scholar confesses that an evil muse is the source of his, and thus his apprentice’s, ethics. Shot in color with some excellent effects and lighting, this is one of the shorts with the most craft and more classic storytelling techniques. SPF 2000, 1997—Two men, Poochie and A.J., attempt to make sexual advances toward a teenage boy while he is on a picnic with his mother. This has the most absurd concept and is therefore a gem among the lot, equipped with sleazy ‘70s music and great close-ups. Oh, and an alien who crashes their party. So Many People!, 1995—A short musical about ....you guessed it, Twinkies, and how so many people love them. Ironically suggestive toward the absurdity of processed foods, this is an enjoyably tart short that is very much like a stylized TV commercial. Say Thankyou, Please,1990—A man, exhausted with the daily grind, gets home from work and receives a call from his friend telling him that he has sent a blind date to his house for dinner, against his will. So…a musical unfolds, using his friend Vincent (the puppet), about how to make pasta, which was he intends to serve.

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Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Jul 6, 2010 3:31pm

The Films of Kenneth Anger, Vol. I

Dir: Kenneth Anger, 2006. Starring: Kenneth Anger, Gordon Gray, Bill Seltzer, Sampson De Brier, Marjorie Cameron. English. Shorts.

Wordless imagery, saturated colors, avant-garde, myth-ridden – a few of a handful of terms to describe Kenneth Anger’s short films. His work is dazzling, surreal, and certainly a hallmark that pioneered the very language of music videos.

Prior to this UCLA Film Archive high definition digital transfer, these early films of Anger were difficult to view. This collection of work is only a part of his work; several others can be found in Volume II. Here, we have his early works, Fireworks, Puce Moment, Rabbit’s Moon, Eaux d’Artifice, and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, each savory in magical moments, imagination, rituals, and pop-song splendor.

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Posted by:
Tiffany Huang
May 21, 2009 1:58pm

Cinema 16: European Short Films, Vol. 1

Dir: Various. 2007. Starring: Lynne Ramsay Jr., Sándor Badár, Nathalie Press. Misc. languages, English subtitles. Short Films.

16 shorts, 16 stories, 16 tales that prove shorts can have as much power as feature films. What makes these shorts stand out from others is the attention to detail, since shorts tend to be more focused. The styles vary as each work holds its own, and while it is interesting to see famed directors' shorts (often their first or beginning works), the ones that are from lesser-known directors are most refreshing. Yet– watching the works of directors such as Christopher Nolan or Lars Von Trier gives viewers more insight into what their visions were in a more attentive short form.

I was most inspired by "Before Dawn", by Hungarian director Balint Kenyeres. Simply told through its stunning visuals, the story is about refugees hiding in a high wheat field. The premise itself is challenging, and the way it unfolds is powerful and compelling. The cinematography is haunting, as the title may reveal.

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Posted by:
Tiffany Huang
May 12, 2008 3:23pm
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