Short Film: The First Step

This review is different to previous short film reviews in two ways: Firstly, I was told about it and given an opportunity to watch it by the filmmaker, Daniel Brown. And secondly, as the aim is for it to be shown at film festivals, the full short film isn’t available to watch online yet. However, here’s the trailer:

tfsteaserposterWritten, directed and edited by Kate McMeans and Daniel Brown of Wide Eyed Pictures, The First Step is a seven minute horror short.

It’s a familiar horror tale, the monster living in the cellar of an old house, the young girl being stalked. Sadly, it’s very familiar indeed, and the main shock or surprise of the short was that there was neither shock nor surprise to be had. The narrative was a straight, and well-telegraphed line, from beginning to end.

However, the production values are high, and the acting solid. Particular praise should also be directed towards the construction and portrayal of the monster, a creepy construct with perhaps a reminiscence of The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth. Also, the shot down the staircase is well executed and well used.

As an alternative horror short though, I’d like to recommend David Sandberg’s Lights Out, which even on a re-watch still gives me goosebumps!

Short Film: Battle of the Jazz Guitarist

2013 Student Academy Award® National Finalist and made with funds by Adobe®, Battle of the Jazz Guitarist is a documentary about a famous jazz guitarist from the Fiji Islands who moved to the US for the betterment of his family.

All factually correct, and yet it doesn’t begin to describe this wonderful film by filmmaker Mark Columbus. This, the first ‘documentary’ short I’ve reviewed, is an emotional ride, from interesting, to funny, to poignant. You should watch it right now.

Wonderful, right?

I still wonder how he did, whether he came up with the idea fully formed with the subtitle script pre-written, or whether he shot it, then added narrative over the top. Or whether the truth is halfway in between.

But either way, I love this short film and I’ve already re-watched it three times.

Review: The Third Man

The Third Man

I’m some way behind, not only in watching films from The List, but also reviewing them!

So, next up is The Third Man, a film I’ve always wanted to see. Dark, noir, spies, death, intrigue, what’s not to like! Roger Ebert said that ‘The Third Man is like the exhausted aftermath of Casablanca’, and I totally agree with him. The tone of post-war intrigue fits perfectly into this world.

However, before I laud this film, there is an area where I must disagree with Ebert; in fact with pretty much every reviewer of The Third Man apparently. A strong stylistic choice for the film was to score it for the zither. According to a November 1949 Time magazine article, director Reed wanted music appropriate for post-War Vienna, but not waltzes and thought that the ‘jangling melancholy’ of the zither was perfect.

I hated it. Particularly during tense scenes, it distracted me more than amplifying the mood. I ended up being pulled out of the scenes entirely at times and it made me resentful, this is a film I wanted to remain immersed in. As beloved as the music choice was at the time, I do wonder how a modern audience would react to a similar musical choice for a movie.

But The Third Man is not just about the music and it was beyond strong in its visual narrative. The harsh lighting and distorted ‘Dutch angle’ camera angles, though unpopular with critics at the time, massively add to the mood of the scenes, especially the Escher-esque subterranean finale.

The web of relationships between the characters adds to the tapestry, keeping the viewer intrigued, building up the puzzle a piece at the time.

But when we’re talking about characters, there’s no getting around one simple fact: It’s all about Harry Lime. He’s the antagonist of the movie, but despite his crimes, we like him. We like him a lot. Orson Welles’ mysterious charmer was so popular, there was a spin-off radio show. It wasn’t based Joseph Cotten’s protagonist, but The Lives of Harry Lime.

I think The Third Man will stand the test of time as a film that needs to be seen, not just for a place it held in the history of film, but for its stylistic influences and also a story that still works now. With or without the zither…

Twenty Other Great Teen Movies

The BFI listed Ten Great Teen Films, supplemented by ten further submissions from the general public. Needless to say I, and many others, were dissatisfied with their list. So, a few frantic minutes of crowdsourcing later, here are our own submissions, in no particular order:

  1. Juno
  2. Easy A
  3. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  4. Mean Girls
  5. Brick
  6. Donnie Darko
  7. Pump Up The Volume
  8. Pretty in Pink
  9. Ten Things I Hate About You
  10. Boyz ‘n the Hood
  11. Kidulthood
  12. Empire Records
  13. Perks of Being a Wallflower
  14. Fish Tank
  15. Party Girl
  16. American Pie
  17. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
  18. The Lost Boys
  19. St Elmo’s Fire
  20. Quadrophenia

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