RETRO REVIEW: Big Movies Come in Small Reels: This Year’s Oscar-Nominated Short Films Are All Winners at the Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema

Posted on: Feb 8th, 2018 By:

by Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

OSCAR NOMINATED SHORT FILMS 2018: ANIMATION & LIVE ACTION (2017);  Opens Friday, February 9 at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

With awards season in full swing, cinema-loving Atlantans may be wondering where they can have a more personal experience with this year’s nominees. While Atlanta is now rivaling Los Angeles in terms of film production, the bulk of movie premieres and award ceremonies continue to take place in Hollywood. If you’ve already bought your Oscar party decorations and filled out your personal ballot but you’re still wanting more Academy goodness, Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema has got you covered. Starting Friday February 9, OSCAR NOMINATED SHORT FILMS 2018: ANIMATION & LIVE ACTION will be screening there. With 10 shorts total (five live action and five animated) that range from heart-wrenching tragedies to whimsical reveries, there are sure to be some new favorites for everyone.

Dekalb Elementary

Many of the entries in this year’s short film categories are inspired by or direct retellings of true events. This is certainly the case with Reed Van Dyk’s Dekalb Elementary, which recounts an incident on August 20, 2013 in which an armed man holed himself in the front office of an Atlanta elementary school with violent intent. Tarra Riggs shines in her role as the secretary who has the fate of hundreds on her shoulders when she is forced to negotiate with the gunman. The film is filled with tense moments, none of which feel unrealistic or nerve-wracking for their own sake. While it is very easy to exploit real life trauma for cheap thrills, Dekalb Elementary does no such thing, and instead chooses to showcase the immense emotional capacity of the actors to convey the many nuances of such a terrifying situation.

The Silent Child

It is not uncommon to see young children struggle with the transition of leaving their mother at home to start school for the first time. For the protagonist of The Silent Child, that transition is made even more difficult due to her deafness. When Libby’s parents hire a sign language proficient nanny, played by Rachel Shenton, to aid her in communication, the child’s difficult situation starts to become less of a burden. But while Libby’s signing skills begin to improve and the bond between the two strengthens, outside forces begin to inhibit Libby’s opportunities for growth. The Silent Child raises many questions regarding how a parent should handle the education of a deaf child, and the consequences that can arise from those decisions.

The Eleven O’Clock

If the comedy in The Eleven o’Clock can be described in any one word, that word would be “maddening.” The film starts off innocently enough: a psychiatrist arrives at his office at the start of the work day, whereupon he finds out his regular secretary has been replaced by a temp for the day, who reminds him that his 11:00 AM client is soon to arrive. The client’s ailment? He thinks he is a psychiatrist—more specifically a psychiatrist that practices in the very same office, who also has an 11:00 appointment with a client who believes he is a psychiatrist. What follows is a “who’s on first” routine that manages to be both hilarious and unsettling. As the two men quarrel over who’s who, the audience begins to question their own identities and perceptions.

Mose (L.B. Wiliams) in “Emmett Till”

The tragic, short life of Emmett Till has been taught, or at the very least mentioned, in many schools when discussing the roots of the Civil Rights movement in America. But it is rare to have the chance to experience his story through a medium as immersive as cinema. Kevin Wilson Jr.’s My Nephew Emmett seeks to provide that immersion by following Till’s uncle, Mose, in his struggle to protect Emmett from the violent hate-mongers seeking mob justice over an altercation between Emmett and a white woman that is still disputed to this day. L.B. Williams’ portrayal of Mose is nuanced and heartbreaking, and stands out in a piece that breathe new life into a piece of history worth re-examining.

Watu Wote

News coverage of international conflicts, specifically disputes rooted in religious and/or ideological differences, often have a tendency to rely upon the violence and cruelty occurring between the disparaging groups, as opposed to the bond that can be found between common citizens swept up in the strife. Watu Wote (Katja Benrath) illuminates the power of this bond with the story of a Christian woman’s journey through Kenya during a particularly violent period in the county’s Muslim-Christian dispute. She is initially wary of her fellow travelers (Muslims), but comes to learn that human goodness can transcend animosity. Real life acts of heroism are not accompanied by fanfare, nor do they always have a strictly “happy” ending. This is a film that celebrates these oft-neglected heroes.

LOU (Pixar)

Try, for a moment, to imagine a piece of media created by Pixar that lacks charm. It’s harder than you would think. Their 19th original animated short, Lou, is no exception to this rule. The film opens on an elementary school playground, where the viewer meets LOU, an anthropomorphized pile of children’s belongings that have become separated from their owners and made their way into the lost and found the bin one way or another. A schoolyard bully finds new joy in keeping the lost belongings for himself, and LOU takes it upon itself to deal out justice (in the wholesome, whimsical Pixar style, of course).

Garden Party.

Animal lovers and those with a flair for the mysterious will get a kick out of Garden Party, Florian Babikian and Vincent Bayoux’s beautifully animated short that follows a gaggle of frogs and toads on an adventure through an elegant mansion with some cryptic secrets. There is no dialogue outside of the croaks of the amphibians, but the directors are able to create a setting so lush and compelling that it allows the audience to create their own narrative; one that can be fanciful, deadly, or even a mix of both.

Revolting Rhymes.

The works of British author Roald Dahl are no stranger to the big screen. Revolting Rhymes, directed by Ian Lachauer and Jakob Schuh, is another entry into this particular echelon. As a modern take on classic fairytales, Revolting Rhymes brings characters like Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and all of their companions and foes together in one very meta story. In classic Dahl fashion, the innocence of a fairy tale is interlaced with dry wit and some fairly dark undertones, as well as some refreshingly self-sufficient heroines. This is a perfect short for the fanciful yet wry young one in your life.

Many parents have special rituals that they share with their children. This could be something as common as a tuck-in at bedtime, or, in the case of Negative Space, it can be something less common, like packing a suitcase. Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter craft breathtaking visuals that accompany the exploration of a relationship between a father and son, all centered around the process of packing one’s suitcase. Negative Space reminds us to appreciate even the most seemingly inconsequential moments in life, and explore the depth of when we are able to share these moments with others.

Dear Basketball.

One does not have to be a basketball fan, or even a sports fan period, to enjoy Dear Basketball. As Kobe Bryant professes his love of the game through his expressive narration, it is clear even to those who don’t or have never kept up with basketball to understand his reverence for it. Accompanied by magnificent pencil animation, Bryant recounts his childhood dreams of becoming a famous athlete, and the years of hard work that accompanied the fulfillment of that dream. The short has brief runtime, yet manages to capture years of passion and success. As Bryant’s professional career nears its conclusion, Dear Basketball feels like the perfect bookend to a long and fulfilling relationship between a man and his passion.

 

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Brian Lonano Explores the Ins and Outs of Goblin Lovin’ With His Latest Short Film GWILLIAM!

Posted on: Jun 16th, 2015 By:

by Aleck BennettGwilliam_Poster_11x17_v03
Contributing Writer

Atlanta filmmaker Brian Lonano has been garnering raves on the festival circuit for humorous horror short CROW HAND!!!, which makes all of us at ATLRetro laugh like crazed lunatics every time we see it. Now he  is on the cusp of bringing us another heaping helping of the hilariously bizarre with GWILLIAM, a tender tale about the love between a man (William Tokarsky of TOO MANY COOKS and YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL) and a goblin (an animatronic puppet). But he needs your help! That’s why he’s running an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign, promising an insanely inventive and perfectly perverse variety of rewards for donors.

The short film has long been the weird nephew in the motion picture family. Since theatrical exhibitions largely abandoned the “selected short subjects” of days gone by (aside from, say, Pixar’s commitment to the form) in favor of more movie trailers and before-the-show advertisements, it’s been a constant struggle to get short films in front of large audiences. Sure, film festivals routinely devote chunks of programming to shorts, but the audience is always limited to the people in attendance. In recent years, however, that has changed. Say what you will about the Internet’s impact on the film industry, one thing is indisputable: it’s provided makers of short films with a platform that allows more people to see their work. That, in turn, has had an impact on television programming. Animated TV series have used the “two cartoons in one half-hour” format for a long while now, but some networks—most notably Cartoon Network and its [adult swim] programming block—have embraced the 11-minute episode as a standalone entity. And [adult swim] has taken that short film format into live action, with series like Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s multiple offerings (such as TIM AND ERIC AWESOME SHOW, GREAT JOB! and CHECK IT OUT! WITH DR. STEVE BRULE), YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL and that twilight zone of weirdness at 4:00 a.m. where things like TOO MANY COOKS show up.

Brian Lonano - SXSW

Brian Lonano – SXSW

That’s where we cross paths with Kool Kat of the Week Brian Lonano. Lonano has been making short films for a decade now. His nine shorts have screened at festivals from SXSW to Fantasia International Film Festival, from Canada to Cambodia. And here in Atlanta, he’s been shown at the Atlanta Film Festival and the Buried Alive Film Fest. (He’s done promotional bumper shorts for many festivals around the world as well.) His shorts are typically a deft mix of wacky comedy, horror or sci-fi tropes and inventive practical effects.- a combo no better seen than in last year’s CROW HAND!!! His 10th film, GWILLIAM, is currently in preproduction, and to raise the funds for this endeavor (because while the Internet is a convenient platform, it’s really hard to monetize it), Lonano has turned to the new audience that the Internet has provided for assistance via this IndieGoGo campaign.

ATLRetro caught up with Brian Lonano to ask him about the campaign, his history in short films, what GWILLIAM is all about and what’s on the horizon.

ATLRetro: You’ve got nine short films under your belt in the past decade, including the inspired THE TRANSMISSION and the utterly berserk CROW HAND!!! What first drove you to dive into filmmaking?

I grew up watching films that featured a lot of special effects and puppets. I am a big fan of Jim Henson, Tim Burton, Spielberg and classic STAR WARS. JURASSIC PARK came out when I was 10 and I wanted to make movies ever since. I became obsessed with seeing any and every movie that Industrial Light & Magic did the special effects for. I didn’t have a camera for a long time so I drew comics and made puppets. As I get older I seek out more bizarre film oddities like HAUSU, THE VISITOR and A FIELD IN ENGLAND. Those kinds of films coupled with what I grew up worshiping keep me inspired to make movies.

You’re not only known for your short films, which have screened all over the world, but you’ve also been recognized by the industry for your usecommissioned work for festivals and television, something our readers might not immediately know about. What does Brian Lonano do when he’s not dreaming up weird short films?

My full time job is working at a post-production facility that processes dailies for TV shows and movies that shoot in town. The commissioned work I make is mostly for film festivals. I would direct a short film called a bumper that advertises the film festival and I would more or less have creative control which is great. I’m very grateful to film festivals that show my work so when I’m asked to make a bumper for one, I put a lot of effort in making a kick ass bumper to show how bad ass the festival is.

It’s a tale as old as time: a man and a goblin in love. What attracted you to this story, and just how disgustingly screwed up can we expect the end result to be?

GWILLIAM came about from a drawing my brother did back in 2011. He was drawing a picture of this weird little man—it just looked completely wrong in the best way possible. We laughed about the picture and decided we had to name the weird man. So we asked ourselves, what’s a gross name that would fit this monstrosity? And we decided on Gwilliam. After that we came up with a strange story where a different man was prowling at night and has an encounter with Gwilliam…I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. I’m excited about how gross this movie is going to be because it’s not gore centric like my previous film CROW HAND!!!. It’s a whole new kind of disgusting.

The preliminary sculpt you’ve shown on the website is impressive even in this early stage. Who’s behind the design of the Gwilliam puppet?

IMG_0150The sculpt of Gwilliam is actually created by Splatter Cinema super team Blake Myers, Luke Godfrey and Nick Morgan. They will be responsible for making the creature puppet for the film.

I see designer Rachel De Urioste mentioned in the IndieGoGo campaign. What she’s bringing to the table? Rachel De Urioste is a local artist, fabricator and designer and she’s designing the GWILLIAM perks for IndieGoGo. She designed the crow totem that was featured in CROW HAND!!!. When we were on the festival circuit with CROW HAND!!! I asked Rachel to make some plastic versions of the Crowtem so I could plant them in theaters and see if anyone would pick them up. I loved the idea of something tangible to take away from the movie. CROW HAND!!! is so short that I wanted to make a big impact with the promotion of it. So with GWILLIAM I wanted to make a new prize to give out to potential donors. If I was giving to a campaign, I would want something cool like a toy. I think people gravitate towards tchotchkes like that.

The variety of rewards you’re offering investors range from the innocuous (digital downloads, credit listing) to the utterly depraved (a Gwilliam sex doll???). How did you come up with these ideas?

I brainstormed ideas for prizes with Rachel and my wife/co-producer Victoria Cook. We all agreed the totems from CROW HAND!!! were a great idea and we wanted to take it a step further. Rachel had never dabbled in designing toys and I am a big fan of Archie McPhee‘s novelty finger puppets so I thought a Gwilliam finger puppet would be a great prize to give out. As I said earlier, if I was donating to something, I would want to get a cool toy. Rachel is making full painted Gwilliam finger puppets but she is also making rainbow editions of the Crowtem and Finger Puppet as well as solid color Gwilliams (we’re calling it the ROY G BIV collection) and even glow in the dark finger puppets! The blow up is another prize we allROYGBIV Gwilliams came up with. The doll would be life size (meaning Goblin size) and the goal is make it a functioning doll. We wanted our campaign to stand out and I figured weird finger puppets and blow up dolls would do the trick!

You’ve lucked up in nabbing William Tokarsky fresh off the TOO MANY COOKS brouhaha, but he’s also popped up in projects ranging from THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE to YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL. How did your paths cross, and how did you know he was the right man to romance a goblin puppet?

William was very easy to get in touch with. I sent him a message on Facebook asking if he would be interested in working together on a project. We agreed to meet in person and I gave him the script to read. I didn’t say much about it until he read it. Thankfully, he was laughing at the script and said he would absolutely be a part of it. So far working with William has been terrific. He’s easy going, very funny and a great team player. I look forward to shooting so I can direct him.

On the local front, you’ve worked with the Buried Alive Film Festival as a judge, you’ve shot a great bumper for them, and you’ve had your shorts exhibited there as well. Any hope you’ll be bringing GWILLIAM to BAFF screens in the future?

If the film is completed in time I would absolutely love to screen it at BAFF this year. But because I am friends with Blake and the whole team (and they are also working on the film), it would be an out of competition entry. I love screening my work here because the audience gets what I am trying to do and they all seem to really enjoy it!

CROW HAND!!! from !ROBOT HAND! on Vimeo.

All photos courtesy of Brian Lonano and used with permission.  Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Retro Review: Oh, Miyazaki!: Grab a Cat Bus Because The Studio Ghibli Collection is Coming to Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

Posted on: Nov 7th, 2012 By:

NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (1984) and MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (1988); Dir: Hayao Miyazaki; The Studio Ghibli Collection at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, Fri. Nov. 9 through Thurs. Nov. 15; NAUSICAA plays November 9 at 1:45, 7:00 p.m., and 12:15 a.m.; MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO plays November 11 at 12:15, 5:00, and 9:40 p.m.; showtimes for additional movies here; all films presented in 35mm. NAUSICAA trailer here and MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO trailer here.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

Landmark Midtown Art Cinema may not be the center of the known universe, but for film lovers and adventurous families from November 9-15, the theater may certainly feel like it. That’s because the Art Cinema is playing host to an incredibly special event that will see almost the entire Studio Ghibli collection light up the screens, each film proudly offered in an increasingly-elusive 35mm presentation. Some film nuts may just move into the building.

While Ghibli doesn’t have the widespread name recognition in America that, say, Pixar enjoys, Ghibli and co-founder/frequent director Hayao Miyazaki combine to form one of the biggest animation brands in the world, especially in the studio’s home country of Japan where Ghibli’s films routinely break box office records and land major awards. Here in the states, Ghibli films have competed favorably for critical attention with the mighty animation brands of Pixar and Dreamworks, winning the second-ever Best Animated Feature Oscar for SPIRITED AWAY in 2002 and scoring another nomination just a few years later for HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (2004). In the world of animation, Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are already considered legends, and they’re currently working at the peak of their talents.

So who is Hayao Miyazaki? An animator and artist, Miyazaki was already a 16-year veteran of the Japanese animation industry when he released his first full-length film, THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO (1979), based on the long-running LUPIN III manga and anime TV series. Miyazaki followed that success by moving into the world of manga—Japanese comics—where he created his own series about a girl caught between warring territories in a dying post-apocalyptic world. Miyazaki named his series NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND and he helmed a feature adaptation in 1984 that garnered enormous critical and commercial success in Japan and convinced Miyazaki and co-founders Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki to make the move to their own studio. So, while NAUSICAA is not officially a Studio Ghibli release, all things Ghibli began with that film and it holds a special spot of reverence in the collection.

Likewise, NAUSICAA is one of the crown jewels in the Ghibli film series playing at the Art Cinema because, frankly, it’s so rarely screened. Although widely available on DVD today, the original American release was marred by a lack of respect for the material. NAUSICAA received international distribution before Ghibli had made a name outside of Japan, and local producers didn’t hesitate to make massive cuts and add bad dubs to make the film “palatable” for their audiences. As a result, truly terrible versions of the film still exist out there (including an American hack job called WARRIORS OF THE WIND). Fans can finally see the original cut on 35mm and exactly as Miyazaki intended when NAUSICAA hits the screen on November 9.

Thanks to that highly public Oscar win, SPIRITED AWAY is perhaps Miyazaki’s most well-known film in America, but MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO is arguably his most popular. The third official Studio Ghibli release (and the second directed by Miyazaki), TOTORO is the story of two young girls who move to the country to be closer to their gravely-ill mother. Left largely to their own devices, the girls soon discover that the forest around them is teeming with fantastical creatures who become close companions just as the girls need them the most. Absolutely packed with Miyazaki’s trademark imagination, whimsy, and heart, TOTORO has become something of a signature film for Studio Ghibli, who adopted the film’s primary critter as their studio logo, and for fans who obsess over the film’s compelling fantasy elements (who doesn’t want to ride in a CatBus?) or create their own wild theories as to what it all means. (Don’t click here unless you’re ready for massive spoilers, possible lunacy). Bottom line, it’s hard to go wrong with any Studio Ghibli release, but if you’re only going to make it to one, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO is a must-see.

The film series runs from November 9-15, and while movie fanatics and toon-heads will be arriving en masse, families looking for wholesome entertainment for their children have plenty to be excited about as well, especially parents of young girls. One of the trademarks of Miyazaki and all of Studio Ghibli is the presence of strong, complex, young female lead characters. In an American marketplace that mostly serves a particular princess archetype to girls, Ghibli is powerful counterprogramming. The sisters at the heart of TOTORO and the stoic leader of NAUSICAA are two great examples, but so are the brave heroes of SPIRITED AWAY, KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE (1989), and THE CAT RETURNS (2002). Children seeking action and adventure may take to the war and strong themes of PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997) and younger children will delight in the Ghibli’s PONYO (2008), a sweet-natured take on “The Little Mermaid” story. Just be aware that all films are presented in the original Japanese with English subtitles—many kids will enjoy reading along with the story, and those who can’t will have plenty of visual input to enjoy on the screen, and a lot of engaging questions to ask on the car ride home.

Overall, the Art Cinema’s film series is offering just about every film in Studio Ghibli’s catalog, including the little-seen MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMADAS (1989), a comedy from Takahata that diverges from the usual Studio Ghibli art style into something a bit more experimental. In fact, the only films that the Art Cinema isn’t screening are a few of the most recent Ghibli releases and the hefty post-war drama GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES (1988), which is an extremely heavy film and is a bit more comfortable standing alone. Still, any established Ghibli fan or curious newcomer has plenty to choose from, and is highly unlikely to go home disappointed.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game writer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He writes at www.thehollywoodprojects.com and hosts a bimonthly screening series of classic films at theaters around Atlanta.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

© 2019 ATLRetro. All Rights Reserved. This blog is powered by Wordpress