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A Short Preview of the Austin Film Festival 2006
by Laura Kyle

Imagine if, like a burger, you could order your movie a certain way – whether it be Lord of the Rings or Jerry Maguire – you could say “I'd like 'Enter Film Title Here' – but please hold the filler.” Well, that's the beauty of short films; they cut right to the chase! A more apt title for this feature is probably “A Preview of Shorts at the Austin Film Festival.” But if the 18 short films I was lucky enough to get a glimpse of are any indication of the quality of the films (both long and short) that will screen at the Austin Film Festival in a little over a week, then this is indeed a preview of awesome things to come! I had a ball with these short films, and they aren't even half of what will eventually screen at the festival.

So what do the 18 shorts I watched have in common? Well they're all short of course (ranging from more or less 5 to 18 minutes). And let me tell you, not one of them is sweet. But other than that, be ready for all kinds of goofy amusement – from the dramatic to the funny to the weird to the outright bizarre, the movie-lover who also suffers from a bad case of attention deficit disorder is in for a real treat this year, and before Halloween too, as the Austin Film Festival 2006 offers up an impressive batch of short, but far from sweet, films.

Let's start out with the cream of the crop – the films you should make every bit of effort to see, as they are likely limited time offers.

If you're looking for a good laugh, make sure to check out The Pitch, Moosecock (yes, you heard me right), Kidney Thieves, Jenny Clone, and She She She She's a Bombshell.

Pitch is an increasingly clever and hilarious short that will hit close to home for any aspiring screenwriter who's tried to sell their movie idea, in vain, to a major studio. Moosecock features a great cast and more importantly, a whole lot of brilliantly executed jokes about a certain part of the human anatomy.

Starring Ethan Embry, Paget Brewster, and Paul F. Tompkins, Kidney Thieves is a pseudo-mystery that features some of the best comedic acting I've seen in a while.

The concept behind Jenny Clone was probably thought up by someone with a very mean grudge against Barbie dolls, or Mommy and Daddy – I'm not sure which – but it's a deliciously twisted and cynical movie for the whole family to be offended by. And lastly, She She She She's a Bombshell is one of the three “animated” shorts I got to take a look at (Jenny Clone is also animated), and it takes a pretty good jab at the babbling idiot some of us become when we've ingested one too many alcoholic beverages.

Other shorts like Hey Mister, 20 Minute Prophet, The Blood Debt of Master Ken, Safety First, and Santa Baby, while not as tidy as their peers, also earn their fair share of chuckles.

We've got plenty of drama on the plate too. Holidays with Heather is easily my favorite of all the shorts I watched. It doubles as a drama (or puzzle, perhaps) and a comedy and boasts a consistently witty script, an irresistible sense of humor, and a great lead actress (Dana Garner). Checkpoint comes in at second place, and considering director Ben Phelps doesn't have a lot of time to develop characters and build up suspense, the fact that I was enraptured in his film right from the get-go says a lot. King of London is also an instantly engrossing short that's only fault is that it leaves you wanting more – while there are many full-length motion pictures that would be ten times better if cut down to 18-minute shorts, this may be that situation in reverse.

It's important to also mention Like Old Times, a not-so-nostalgic account of a man visiting his old childhood neighborhood, Alone and Inhuman, a little yarn that's as eerie as it is zany, and Fear is a Lot Like Love, an entertaining, albeit gimmicky, short. Troll Concerto is one of the prettier and more imaginative short films I got to preview, but it didn't really do much for me. Neither did Tunnel Vision, which answers the question: what's inside those tunnels in the Pac Man mazes?

The Austin Film Festival runs from October 19th to the 26th and features a slew of films, including documentaries and narratives (of all lengths) in the competition, exciting conferences and panels, celebrity guests, and plenty of cool advanced screenings. Film passes are still available and are only thirty-five bucks a pop; badges that grant you even more access to the festival are also available.

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originally posted: 10/11/06 16:04:33
last updated: 10/13/06 03:56:39
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