NW Film & Video Fest: Shorts Reviewed

So the NW Film & Video Festival kicks off tonight here in Portland. We’ll be trying to cover as much of it as we can for you during the next week. Everynight has just about two films playing and there’s some stuff we are excited for including a new Gus Van Sant short.

Tonight is opening night and on the docket is the first round of Shorts at 7 p.m. followed at 9 p.m. by the opening gala at the Ace Hotel. We’re going to try and line up some interviews with filmmakers, etc. Keep your fingers crossed.

We went and saw about 10 of the shorts early, and these ten are scattered throughout the three different Shorts programming. The short film is pretty difficult to pull off. When they are well done you get something from Pixar, when they’re not it’s something closer to amateurish YouTubing. Channel 101 out in L.A. does a great job and most of the filmmakers there really understand how in just five minutes a person can tell a pretty compelling story, whether funny or sad, on a tight budget.

The short films I’ve gotten to see ahead of this film festival all run the gamut. Some are close to 20 minutes, others a mere 30 seconds long. Some are animated, some darkly comedic, some are visually stunning and few just left me scratching my head.

If you are in Portland and planning to attend drop us a line here and we’ll try and meet up at the party for a drink or two.

The Saddest Boy in the World

By Jamie Travis of Vancouver, BC

This is the one short that left the greatest impression on me. I don’t know how large director Jamie Travis’s budget was, but his visual palette is quite remarkable. This is story telling in neon dayglow paint, the set design is meticulous and everything seems like a tragic fairytale. What immediately comes to mind is the early work of Tim Burton, but it’s not the visuals that make this very dark comedy work. At it’s heart this is a simple tale of how the perceived tragedies of childhood can cripple us. Not getting ice cream, being embarressed, etc. Like the best dark comedy, you’re not sure if you really should be laughing even though secretly you are. As a calling card, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jamie Travis directing Hollywood studio features in the near future, this short was just that good.

Patterns 2 and 3

By Jamie Travis

Interestingly, these two movies are clearly directed by the same person. The visual language and voice of these pieces are so similar to his other short, however, these two movies while visually brilliant are nothing short of masturbatory. I could take a few seconds to describe the plot to you, but I don’t have a clue. There’s a boy and a girl and they may or may not be in love or connected somehow. In part 2 we’ve got paper airplanes flying through windows, weird dreamlike flashbacks, spinning tea cups and in part 3 the story is all told as a split screen musical. I’m actually curious to see how all these visual tricks were pulled off, but as for the story and plot, well, I’m still guessing.


By Scott Amos Victoria, BC

At 30 seconds long, if you blink you’d miss this short. But that would be unfortunate since Amos is able to in a very poetic way make a sweet statement about life’s dystopia.


Adam Locke-Norton, Ryan Warren Smith, Nathan Fielder Vancouver, BC

At the ripe old age of 80 a man, Morris, decides to come out of the closet. But will anyone care? That’s a good question for both the audience and the film itself. What was a sort of funny joke, an old man telling everyone “I’m gay” at the start of the movie, became tough to stomach as it repeated itself over and over again to the various people Morris encounters throughout his day. It would have been nice to have the filmmakers mix it up a little and have Morris’s acquaintances provide different responses as a counterpoint, but this was not the case. Good idea that was poorly executed.


By Cheryl Slean Seattle, Wash.

Again, one of the highlights of the short program was this tiny little gem about two gravediggers who imagine the ways in which the dead have died. Along the way they also get to know each other in this amusing little romp. What sets this story apart is the focus on story. This is a one location story about two characters and yet it feels funny and satisfying as it reaches its climax. Superb little gem all around. In many ways it reminded me of the opening to “Six Feet Under.”

The Journal of John Magillicutty

By Michael Paulus Portland, Ore.

Another flick that story-wise makes no sense. It’s essentially watching a rustic version of pong, only instead of a ball it’s an outdoor chair that gets tossed back and forth. Wish I could offer my more, but doesn’t really seem worth it.

No Bikini

Claudia Morgado Escanilla Vancouver, BC

This story is based on a short story, and it opens with the words, “I had a sex change once, when I was six or seven years old.” So I’m thinking this is gonna be a downer of a story. But instead we get treated to a snapshot of what it’s like to be a kid when gender doesn’t matter and doesn’t even enter into the equation. A young girl is about to attend swim class, but because she can’t find a bathing suit that fits her body she decides to attend swim camp topless, masquerading as a boy. The girl fools everyone, but when her mom finds out, she is less than pleased. This was a charming film and surprised the hell out of me, full of empathy and pathos and humor. I couldn’t recommend seeing it enough if you attend the film festival.

Streetcar Named Perspire

By Joanna Priestley Portland, Ore.

This is an animated flick about the rollercoaster that is menopause. I don’t know anything about menopause and after watching this I’m glad I never will. I hope I’ll be more understanding when my future wife goes through it. It looks like hell. I love the way the crude animation harkens back to the earliest cell animation days.

By Modern Measure

Matthew Lessner Nehalem, Ore.

Two young Americans meet outside a Taco Bell and decide to spend the day together on a wild road trip. Probably the funniest movie I got to screen, it imagines the bored life of American teenagers through the lens of a French New Wave flick. There are so many great one liners in this one, but it skewers and celebrates and encapsulates the absurdity of modern teen life and the American road trip film all at once.

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