Short Stories

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My appreciation for short films pretty much begins and ends on Oscar night—I always mean to track down the shorts that briefly flash across the screen in clip form during the Best Live Action Short category segment of the show, but I never do. So I welcomed the opportunity to watch not just one, but multiple shorts during the latest NewFilmmakers LA program, highlighting 9 short films from all over the world (the monthly series at Sunset Gower also showcases docs and features from aspiring filmmakers). Apparently, I wasn’t the only one—by the time I navigated my way through the maze-like lot, the screening room was packed, and the first film, the Teller’s Tale from  director Jared Cook, had already begun (note to self: arriving a few minutes late to an 18-minute short makes figuring out what’s going on somewhat of a challenge). Puffer Fish, director Brandon Vedder’s effort, took us inside the lives of two man-boys as they hung out, chowed down on fast food, played racquetball, and got on each others nerves. Improvisational, meandering, and shot entirely in black-and-white, it reminded me of In Search of a Midnight Kiss, Alex Holdridge’s 2007 breakout film, largely set in downtown L.A. (further proof of the film’s indie cred came during the Q & A that followed, when someone in the audience asked Vedder, “What was the budget?” to which he responded, “About $50”). Joe Case’s Dorénavant (above) followed. The film, which Case made while at film school in Paris (he moved to L.A. after graduation), is set in the suburbs of Paris, and follows the travails of a pair of young working-class men as they move through their somewhat thankless lives, and the choices they make that dictate their respective paths (the title of the film means “From This Point On”). Case telegraphs the unending monotony of his characters’ lives, as well as their anxiety, with a shaky camera and washed-out gray light that permeates every scene. I found myself completely lost in the painfully moving world of Broken Road, Brodie Rocca’s short about a dad whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, while his two little girls try to stay calm in the back seat. No, it wasn’t an “up” film (and neither was Case’s, if you couldn’t already tell), but hey, all the better to enjoy the open bar afterwards (the $5 ticket price gets you into the lively post-screening after-party).