Thursday, September 8, 2016

Bag Man

Today's short film is called BAG MAN, and it was Written and Directed by Jonathan and Josh Baker, who I assume are related, possibly as brothers, but I can't be bothered to find out for sure. Also, I am not familiar with any of the short films they've made before now, so here's their site, if you're curious.

And here's the synopsis for today's short film: BAG MAN is the understated story of a 12 year old African American boy, who takes us on an introspective journey out of the city and into the remote countryside of upstate New York. With a mysterious duffle bag in hand, its contents unknown to us, we journey from the urban hustle of Harlem, into the winter-ravaged woodlands a world away. On the road, we slowly discover his real intentions, and the startling significance of what is hidden inside a young boy’s bag.

All right, so... right away, I'm a little wary.

This synopsis feels really over-written, right from the start. I mean, if you just remove the words "understated" and "introspective" from the first sentence alone, it suddenly reads 100 times better. Plus, and admittedly this is a nitpick, but... if a duffel bag is described as "mysterious", then that implies that its contents are unknown to us. Pump the Purple Prose Brakes, my man. Also, having watched the film, the last sentence in the synopsis weirdly walks a real fine line, where I honestly can't tell if they're just a bit deluded as to what actually happens in this film, or if it was more of a lie, which actually makes the most sense when the over-written synopsis is considered as well.

Of course, none of this means that it's a bad film...

I don't know what this poster is, but I'm real interested in finding out...

Also, according to Birth.Movies.Death, the Bakers are going to turn this short film into a feature length movie called KIN, reporting that the film will be about: "a recently released ex-con (Jack Reynor) and his adopted younger brother who are forced to go on the run. Chased by a vengeful criminal (James Franco), the feds and a cadre of otherworldly soldiers, their only protection is a found weapon of mysterious ancestry".

So, keep that in mind.

Let's watch...

Well, huh.

I guess it turns out that cartoon poster, the one I got from their website and posted above, is really nothing but Hope and Fervent Wishes. I suppose you could infer its depiction as being part of the greater story, maybe, if you stretched really, really hard, but still... not really.

Maybe it's for the feature film? That would be cool.

This isn't really the film's fault, of course, and to be fair, it does highlight that, within the film itself, they do an excellent job of restraining themselves when it comes to the narrative. As we've discussed before now, this is something that lot of short films struggle with: Keeping the story tight and focused, with a keen eye toward budgetary and technical restraints. Not showing some robot warrior fighting a bunch of other robot warriors is a good call. Would I like to see something like that? Of course. Could they have pulled it off? Judging by the Effects? Maybe.

But could they have afforded it? Probably not.

So, it was a good call.

The film is open-ended, sure, but there's no outside speculation, or loose story threads purposely left dangling, like some Short Films like to do, as if through sheer narrative awesomeness they'll be able to force some anonymous Mr. Moneybags out there to pay them to make more. That's never a sound plan, but whatever, the point is, the film doesn't directly pose any questions that it can't answer within its 14 minute time limit, and I appreciate that. Of course, the downside is, they don't answer any questions in the film at all, questions that might be a little more important/fundamental/interesting, questions like: What is the gun? Where does it come from? How did the kid find it? Who is the kid? Who are the three men in the car? Who is the guy in the trunk?

And on, and on, and on.

Put simply, even though it keeps it all very tight, this short film is really just a single sequence from a larger movie, and that kind of renders the whole thing inert. It looks great. The cast is great. I enjoyed what I saw. But what really happens in this film? Beyond a handful of the "Oh, that was neat" kind of moments? Not much.

I really hate to say it, but I would've liked less journey, and more alien weaponry.

Speaking of alien weaponry, I really loved the gun design and all of the stuff related to it. That was all really cool. And in the end, the things the film does do, I enjoyed, and if they make a feature film that dives into all of the unanswered questions, I'll see that too. I just wish they had answered a few more of those questions here.

Blog Man,

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Dali and Disney. Disney and Dali.

Two names you wouldn't expect to go together.

But go together they did, at least for a few months. As the story goes, in 1945 Disney approached Dali with an idea.  Disney wanted to create a short film based on a Mexican folk song called Destino, a song that would play over the animation. He wanted Dali to create it. Y'see, at the time, ol' Walt was chafing from criticism that his films were too populist, and lacked any kind of genuine artistry, so he sought out the World's most famous surrealist, and Dali was completely on board. He loved the idea. The unlikely duo reportedly struck up an enduring friendship.

But not a film.

Disney shut down production after only a few short months. I don't know why. There wasn't much done on the project at the time, all that remained of the weird collaboration was a 15 second demo reel and a few hasty sketches. The project had been secret, so for years it was all but forgotten. Finally, in 2003, Disney got a wild hair up their ass, and hired a team of French animators to create a six minute short film based off of the fifty-some year old project's bits and pieces. The result garnered them an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short Film, but they ended up losing to an entry from Australian that was both claymation AND arty.

How could they compete?

Whatever, anyway... Here's the synopsis: The film tells the story of Chronos, the personification of time and the inability to realize his desire to love for a mortal. Dalí said: "Entertainment highlights the art, its possibilities are endless." The plot of the film was described by Dalí as "A magical display of the problem of life in the labyrinth of time." Walt Disney said it was "A simple story about a young girl in search of true love."

Let's watch.

Well, that was not bad. It was pretty. The song was nice too. Mostly though, honestly, it felt a lot like what I would imagine if someone said: "Imagine a cartoon by Salvador Dali." This was pretty much it. Not to dismiss it, of course. It was nice, really nice. It definitely looked good, it was just... very "melting clocks", y'know? 

Mostly, it felt like fluff.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Overwatch - UPDATE - The Last Bastion

Hello, hello, my friends! I am back again.

As some of you may recall, my last post was...well, last month... and it was all about the animated short films connected to a video game called Overwatch.

Do you remember?

Great. Glad to hear it, but for the benefit of any new readers out there, and the click-lazy, I will sum it up: In a nutshell, I liked them, and why wouldn't I? They're all generally entertaining, high-quality, and pretty well-written, if not a bit fluffy, but whatever... overall, they're pretty fun. However, I did complain about the lack of a cohesive narrative to string all the shorts together. I wondered, why they didn't build a more apparent story line? They almost seem to, and there's a somewhat noticeable connecting theme, but then they just kind of... don't really commit. That being said, this particular complaint wasn't all that disappointing, as much as just the lament of a missed opportunity. In the end, I mostly just wondered if they were ever going to make any more...

And then a few days later... they did.

That's the power of Jon, people.

This short film features the character Bastion. 

Bastion is your basic Warbot type character, big, clanking, and ugly, all as can be expected, right down to his "surprisingly" gentle nature. Not to be too hard on the game, of course, it's not an impressive insight to note that all of the characters are basic archetypes, because that's what these games always do. Anyway, Bastion is the character that, from what I've heard, if given the chance, he will just destroy the other players with his big cannons. Now, due to his being so over-powered, and easy to use to achieve victory, he is not only a favorite of low-skill players, or "Noobs" as the most likely horrible gamer nerds say, but he is also almost universally hated on sight.

Which may be why they made this particular short film...

Here's the summary: "THE LAST BASTION follows the forgotten battle automaton, Bastion, as it unexpectedly reactivates after laying dormant in the wilderness for over a decade. Fascinated by its unfamiliar surroundings, the curious omnic begins to investigate, but quickly discovers its core combat programming may have a different directive..."

Aw... see? He's not so bad after all, you guys. Let's watch...

So, my first thought is that maybe I was wrong (GASP!), maybe they are building a larger story. The theme in this short film is very similar to the others, as the main character deals with a dark past that is not as dead and gone as they would like, the main difference this time being that there is a distinct message of hope at the end, hope for change, for freedom from self, and a new direction. Sure, it's a bit heavy-handed, but it's a 7 minute short film about a robot in the forest, you got to get to the thematic meat quick, if you're going to do it at all.

I liked this.

It's interesting to me to see an animated short film that is all about turning your back on violence and old hatreds, like this one is, and yet, it is tied directly to video game that is 100% straight-up violent combat. Was the left hand not aware of the right hand? Or did anyone really care, expecting the message to be completely missed or ignored by its customer base?

Does it really matter?