Via the Festival's digital library, I caught the shorts 'Fool's Day', 'RPG OK', 'ZZZZZZZ', and 'Royal American' plus the 'Lil Bub' internet cat phenom film.
Lil Bub & Friendz
Being able to view movies at home eases the burden of checking out films during a festival. But streaming films means it's easy to catch something profoundly uninteresting. Fortunately, amongst the four short films and the 'Best Online Feature Award Winner' Lil Bub & Friendz, I can recommend a couple titles and hopefully save your eyes a trial. With films this short, there may not be much to say, so let's run them down from worst to best (saving Lil Bub as the final separate item).
This is a film supposedly about a recovered Royal typewriter and the letters the finder writes and the responses he receives in return. Possibly nostalgic, and with vinyl and cassettes on the come back, maybe it's an interesting premise. In fact, it might be the first time I heard the term 'romantic isolationists' which seems like a great way to say technophobe or Luddite. But the letters only come in fleeting glimpses and the narration (why, oh why is there so much talking?) doesn't explain them directly. The short opens with the promise that there is a message at the end worth seeing, but it doesn't have anything to do with typewriters, its essentially the golden rule - "Be kind and gentle to your neighbor." Pass on this.
This is a lengthier short about a fourth grade class' April Fool's Day prank gone awry. With its gross out/scatological humor and children who play out rote stereotypes (which in and of itself isn't a bad thing), this feels like it could have been a '90s television show. Or a youthful version of the British show Misfits, on which it's a foregone conclusion where the probation worker characters end up. Overall, its mildly pleasant in its generic-ness and might earn a laugh or two, but at over eighteen minutes long, its not too short.
Better gamers than I might recognize the game mimicked for Redsky, the female/mouse character -- I only had sensed that SoldierBoy's realm was familiar to that of Final Fantasy VI (or 3 on the SNES). Graphics weren't, and didn't need to be, the strong point for this short, however. This story shows that love knows no bounds, even the one between pixelated realms. The love of video games was apparent throughout - when SoldierBoy stumbles into a battle with all the familiar FF tropes, I laughed. Cute and short, I recommend it.
This somnambulist's tale is one of love, but a bit more mysterious. I don't recall a single spoken word in this short - the story is pulled along by a string and piano instrumental that sounded like it could be one from Johann Johannsson. The guy and girl are enjoying a fantastic night out but it comes to an end with only a small token of the night. In the end, I was thinking about the new Disney short Paperman - so I would highly recommended this one.
The internet cat video trend isn't one I've really gotten on board with. But I can understand it somewhat as I've got a cat I call friend. One comment someone in this film made did sort of explain why cat videos are popular, in that "cat lovers don't meet each other" - there are no cat parks. So why shouldn't people meet other cat lovers via the internet? Well I'd say that the disgusting consumerism - who the hell buys 'Nyan Cat' stuff? - that comes from the gross success of these videos is one reason. Another is the inevitable creation of movies based on these cats - one featuring Grumpy Cat premiered at SXSW this year.
I can't speak for the Grumpy Cat movie, but this film explores a variety of characters, human and feline, and isn't very interesting. Bub's owner, Mike Bridavsky, is only notorious for owning Bub. Bub is responsible for improving Mike's life, holistically and (directly) financially, as he was at a low point in his life before getting Bub, but that doesn't mean he's interesting enough for the big screen (though his charitable giving is commendable). Another character is Minneapolis's #1 Cat video fan (or something like that). This guy is a self-proclaimed fan of serial killers.
What is interesting is Bub - a developmentally stunted feline without teeth and with a deformed jaw. You just have to enjoy seeing Lil Bub keep his wondrous gaze with a lion in the background, swatting at some dogs or just shuffling out from a corner. Unfortunately, Lil Bub doesn't have enough substance to generate real emotion outside of a part near the end (though the scene is significantly diminished when you remember that Bub has shared the red carpet with Robert De Niro). There are countless ways to see Bub without watching this movie (TFF gathered 20 Best Photos of Lil Bub at TFF 2013 so you can start there). The mysterious, sphinxlike quality of cats (including Bub) is their magnetism. And your imagination remains the best vehicle for a cat's emoting.