Twenty-two short films competed for judge and audience approval today. It was a challenge to keep up with the barrage of short films, but with Wonder Woman and Super Girl here to collect the votes, I stayed focused. These four films made the top of my laugh list:
Bill Plympton's tale of a misguided cow, The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger, is great comedic filmmaking on several levels. He tells this animated action-adventure from the bovine point of view, completely without dialog or narration. It is a moving picture. (There’s an intended pun there.) It also shows the power of good structure. The little calf that sees the giant Happy Burger billboard and dreams of becoming a hamburger passes through classic protagonist stages of orphan, seeker, fighter, and martyr. Watching this magical animation is a real five-minute film school. This film has dreams, a mother’s tears, victory, tragedy, and redemption. And I’m talking about animated cows here. Go out of your way to see this one.
Another reversal of the standard point of view is the selling point for director William Bridges’ Dead Hungry, a live action zombie flick. This has the classic elements of a dead teenager movie: the vacation in the woods, the seduction in the pup tent, and then the attack by the undead. This story, however, is told from the point of view of a zombie who is having a bad day. It’s not much of a stretch to generate sympathy for a cow who wants to become a hamburger, but sympathy for a zombie? It works. All he wants is some brains to eat. Dead Hungry is dead funny.
Hipster Job (not as in "work assignment" but as in biblical hero Job) retells the bible story in a New York hipster form with irreverent twists. Director Jack Tomas and Thomas De Napoli illustrate how a modern day Job suffers and must come to terms with God. Without giving everything away, a mustache party is involved. The filmmakers suggested that a Hipster Exodus might be next, with hipsters migrating from one formerly hip part of Manhattan to the new cool part of town. Was he only kidding? God knows.
Santa: The Fascist Years, another Bill Plympton animation, evokes the style of a 1950s documentary. We are given insights into Santa’s Depression Era problems, his ensuing alliance with Hitler, and how this was all covered up. A film buff will catch a visual homage to Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and Santa’s eventual capture invokes yet another modern world bad guy. The film moves fast and delivers its dry satirical humor with machine gun speed.