Shorts That Are Not Pants 2020: Our Review of ‘Block 3: Machines’

Posted in Festival Coverage, What's Streaming? by - November 14, 2020
Shorts That Are Not Pants 2020: Our Review of ‘Block 3: Machines’

The short films in the third Shorts Not Pants block are all about machines and how people depend on them. This is the program that has the sad shorts. That said, the mixed quality here probably doesn’t have a lot to do with the emotions these shorts bring.

The first short that the block is screening is Benjamin Morard’s The Lonely Orbit. It’s about a man who hasn’t seen his friends for a while because of his NASA job. It examines, then, what it would be like if things in the latter fell apart. The Knicks colors that Morard uses with the animation are a nice touch for once. It helps unfold the denouement that, plot wise, surprisingly leads the protagonist to the right path. It’s unfortonate that this block started out with its best short.

If viewers want something that really drives the point, Geoffroy de Crecy’s Empty Places might be for them. It starts up with animation close-ups of an elevator, a disco ball and a watermelon. He eventually pulls back to show empty skyscrapers, karaoke VIP lounges and grocery stores. I see the point here, that showing these empty spaces reveal human detritus and how gross we are as a species. Either way, I’ve read that there’s a version that uses Clair de Lune as the soundtrack. The version I saw uses Moonlight Sonata. And both choices kind of suck. It makes me wish that de Crecy used a classical deep cut or new music to give context to otherwise interesting visuals.

We see a more incredible version of the post-apocalypse with Chieh Cheng’s Reminiscence. It’s about a woman and her young adult aged grandson who are Earth refugees living in Mars. She finally takes him back to Earth. There’s a twist ending here and this is one of the better ones. It’s one that affected me as an immigrant who might never return to my home country. Oh, and the past three short films have been silent animations, and for the most part, it doesn’t need dialogue to convey emotion.

To say that Matthias Falvai’s Out Of Order is about a dysfunctional organ donor machine feel reductive. So basically, it envisions a future where people can go on what looks like an upright tanning booth to donate their organs. Turns out that the protagonist (Nolan McConnell-Fdyk) is using a booth to kill himself, but the machine has other plans. I am both someone who has problems with technology and someone who has worked retail. So I can relate to the machine, surprisingly enough. And it doesn’t hide its Canadian roots. But this still feels janky and screams first time short, so Falvai has a bit of a way to go to make his concepts shine.

The next short I saw for this block is another animation one, Jolanta Bankowska’s Story. Story comes from Poland’s Studio Munka. Anyway, it shows offices and art galleries and Skype calls. Animation’s good but I get it, there are too many screens in our lives. And the comedy here feels a bit on the nihilistic side.

Another part of this block is Alireza Ghasemi’s Better Than Neil Armstrong. Here, a young captain (Nooshika Khodashenas) leads three other child aged astronauts to a space territory they call Redland. This leans on its janky aesthetic which is a plus since sci-fi is either seamless believable or full jank. Sadly This is also the one where the twist involving a nurse (Golnoosh Ghahremani) is, despite its sweetness, doesn’t work. That twist was enough to make this the block’s worst.

The block ends with another short with humans. Hugo Le Gourrierec’s Pipo and Blind Love takes place in a steampunk wasteland. There, the protagonist (Anatole Zangs) and his friends use music to convey emotions to the young woman he loves. Great world building and twist, although the shorts preceding it are worse than they are better.

To watch these shorts and prove that I’m wrong about them them go to https://shortsnotpants2020.eventive.org/schedule.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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