Monday, May 2, 2016

Short Fiction - April 2016

[April ... March Madness = the Frozen Four!]


Short Fiction - April 2016

Well, April certainly went by in a blur! There was a film festival, some opera, the symphony, a national college hockey championship (did I mention that my beloved University of North Dakota won the men's Division I championship game at the Frozen Four, and I was on hand to see it?!), and, of course, short story reading. Here are my favorites for the month:


"Mika Model" by Paolo Bacigalupi

Length: 4,375 words
Category: Short story (science fiction)
Where Published: Slate
When Published: 2016-04-26
Link (free)

I loved the writing in this story about a sex/pleasure robot who asks a police detective for a lawyer after confessing to killing her owner, or lessee, actually. The page on which the story appears states that:

This short story was commissioned and edited jointly by Future Tense—a collaboration among Arizona State University, New America, and Slate—and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. It is the first in Future Tense Fiction, a series of short stories from Future Tense and CSI about how technology and science will change our lives.

There's also a response by an attorney regarding the legal implications in the story, which I found interesting. As to the story itself, upon first read I felt as though the story didn't end, that it left me hanging. But then I realized that just because it didn't have the ending I instinctively wanted didn't mean that it didn't end. In any case, this is definitely worth checking out.



"Memories of My Mother" by Ken Liu

Length: 997 words
Category: Short story (science fiction)
Where Published: Daily Science Fiction
When Published: 2012-03-19
Link (free)

So that film festival I mentioned? I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of my favorite SF short films at this year's Worldfest-Houston was based on a Ken Liu story, which I immediately went and found online. This is a terrific example of someone taking a short story, one that is less than a thousand words long, and turning it into an emotionally gripping short film by both staying true to the original source material and filling in where necessary. To compare the beautifully spare prose version with the visually compelling film version is like comparing apples and oranges; I highly recommend that you experience both formats, in either order.

I suppose I should mention what it's actually about, though, shouldn't I? A terminally ill woman with a young daughter decides to spend the last two years of her life traveling away from Earth and back via relativistic speeds. This gives her the ability to spend a single day/night with her daughter once every seven years, thus allowing her to see her daughter grow into adulthood. The trade-off, of course, is that her daughter has to grieve the loss of her mother after each visit, which denies her closure but gives her something else in return.

My review of the short film is here. (I have to say, the addition of the nightclub scene to the film was quite brilliant, in my opinion.)



"Puff Piece" by Becky Robison

Length: 813 words
Category: Short story (mainstream)
Where Published: Pinball
When Published: 2016
Link (free)

I'm not entirely sure why this little piece of mainstream flash delighted me so much, but it really, truly did. It's about unrequited same-sex love against the backdrop of a middle school class election. It was funny, biting, and poignant, all at the same time. I look forward to checking out more stories from Pinball, which is new to me.



Other stories read in April 2016:

(alphabetical by author)

- "Party Smart Card" by Barrington J. Bayley (original 2006; reprint 2007)
- "RAM SHIFT PHASE 2" by Greg Bear (original 2005; reprint 2007)
- "Bear-bear Speaks" by Beth Cato (2016)
- "How I Lost Eleven Stone and Found Love" by Ian Creasey (2016)
- "The Parasite and the Widow" by Jeremy M. Gottwig (2016)
- "Speak, Geek" by Eileen Gunn (original 2006; reprint 2007)
- "Heartwired" by Joe Haldeman (original 2005; reprint 2007)
- "We Have a Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You?" by Rebecca Ann Jordan (2016)
- "This Is a Letter to My Son" by KJ Kabza (2016)
- "The Effigies of Tamber Square" by Jon Michael Kelley (2016)
- "Scatter" by Rosalie Kempthorne (2016)
- "I Remember Angels" by Mark Kreighbaum (1996)
- "Undead Again" by Ken MacLeod (original 2005; reprint 2007)
- "Cut the Blue Wire" by Patrick Mahon (2016)
- "Don't Mention the 'F' Word" by Neil Mathur (original 2005; reprint 2007)
- "The Treasures of Fred" by Sandra McDonald and Stephen D. Covey (2016)
- "The Sudden and Mysterious Disappearance of The Pretty Good Gatsbys" by Timothy Mudie (2016)
- "Still Life" by Jonathan H. Randall (2016)
- "I miss the Before" by Robert Reed (2016)
- "Firstborn" by Brandon Sanderson (original 2008; audio reprint 2014)
- "Let Me Hear From You Urgently" by Eliot Schrefer (2016)
- "Light of Other Days" by Bob Shaw (original 1966; reprint 2006)
- "Down on the Farm" by Charles Stross (original 2008; audio reprint 2014)
- "The Dead" by Michael Swanwick (1996)
- "A Serenade of Strings" by K.L. Townsend (2016)
- "A Bead of Jasper, Four Small Stones" by Genevieve Valentine (original 2012; reprint 2015)
- "Space Travel Loses its Allure When You’ve Lost Your Moon Cup" by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (2014)
- "Carla at the Off-Planet Tax Return Helpline" by Caroline M. Yoachim (2016)
- "Sister Emily's Lightship" by Jane Yolen (1996)



List of the sources from which these stories came:

(alphabetical by anthology title, magazine title, website name, etc.)

- Abyss & Apex, 2016 (1st quarter)
- Clarkesworld Year Seven (anthology), edited by Neil Clarke & Sean Wallace, Wyrm, 2015
- Crossed Genres, July 2014
- Daily Science Fiction, March 2012; Apr 2016
- Every Day Fiction, Apr 2016
- Fantasy Scroll Mag, Feb 2016
- Futures from Nature (anthology), edited by Henry Gee, 2007
- Jim Baen's Universe v.1, no.1, 2006
- Liquid Imagination, Feb 2016
- Nature, Apr 2016
- One Teen Story, March 2016
- Pinball, 2016
- Slate, Apr 2016
- Space Squid, 2016
- Starlight 1 (anthology), edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, 1996
- Strange Horizons, Apr 2016
- Tor.com: Selected Original Fiction, 2008-2012 (audio collection, Brilliance Audio, 2014)
- Trigger Warning: Short Fiction with Pictures, March 2016

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Worldfest-Houston 2016: Summing Up

This year, I saw twenty-six short films in four sessions over two days.... As always, I enjoyed most of what I saw of Worldfest-Houston. I was sad to miss the animated short film and NASA short film categories, but glad I got to see so much science fiction.

My favorite films from each of the sessions I saw were:

Comedy Shorts

Favorite: The Ballad of Ella Plummhoff, directed by Barbara Kronenberg

Runner-up: Ms. Vanilla, directed by 徐子悅 (Hsu Tsu-yueh)


Sci-Fi Shorts (International)

Favorite: Beautiful Dreamer, directed by David Gaddie


Sci-Fi/Thriller Shorts

Favorite: The Clock Makers Dream, directed by Cashell Horgan


Sci-Fi Shorts #2

Favorite: As You Were by Trevon Matcek


* * * Overall Festival Favorite * * *

The Ballad of Ella Plummhoff, directed by Barbara Kronenberg


Final Thoughts

After three years of watching short films at Worldfest-Houston, I've noticed a few things. The biggest trend is that so many short films deal with grief, or at least loss. In looking back over my write-ups of the 26 short films I saw this year, eight of them were specifically about grief. Another six were about loss (of home, memory, freedom, soul/lifeforce, Earth, or limbs). Only twelve of the films (fewer than half!) didn't fit neatly into one of those two categories, and for a few of those, an argument could be made that they actually did edge in there.

Honestly, I'd like to see a little less of obvious dystopian futures, and a little less about grieving, but I can understand why grief in particular is such a compelling subject for filmmakers.

Looking ahead to next year, it looks like I may not have my usual conflict, so I may get to see even more short film sessions. I hope so!

Read more!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Worldfest-Houston 2016: Sci-Fi Shorts #2

The 49th Annual Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival
Sci-Fi Shorts #2, Sunday, April 17, 2016

This was the last of four short film sessions that I saw at this year's Worldfest-Houston. More sci-fi!

The Roma Project
Director: Harry Keenan
Screenwriter: Evan Scott Russell
Length: 19:37 minutes
Category: Science fiction
Country: USA
Film's Facebook page

A young man wakes up in a mental institution, and is told he's been in a car accident that killed his mother. He dreams of a woman (it's not clear to me if it's his mother; I assume so but she seems very young) in a meadow with a tattoo on her wrist, and is asked to describe the dream repeatedly. Eventually he realizes something odd is going on, particularly when he sees the tattoo symbol on some hospital, and notices armed guards stationed outside of the room where he meets with the "doctor." [MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD] Ultimately, the young man learns that he has powerful telekinetic powers, and breaks out with another patient he has befriended. From the tattoo "clue," I inferred that the place had been experimenting on his mother at some point, perhaps while he was in the womb.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with this film, and I thought it was very well-acted, but it didn't tread a lot of new ground so I didn't find it particularly memorable.



Tomorrow's Dream
Director: David Gould
Screenwriter: David Gould
Length: 06:40 minutes
Category: Science fiction
Country: New Zealand
Film's Facebook page

This piece had a theme that I've now seen a number of times in short films: a man frantically works, to the point of endangering his own life, to find some way, any way, to bring back the (usually tragically killed) love of his life. In Ben Goodger's Anamnesis, a young man uses some kind of alien lifeform to keep replaying the perfect last day; in Ronald Eltanal's Nostalgic, an aging scientist takes an experimental drug that lets him see his now-dead wife, even as it prevents him from forming new memories; and here, a young man invents a time machine to insert his current consciousness into his former self to try to prevent his girlfriend's death.

In spite of the inherent predictability in such a film, I found Tomorrow's Dream refreshing in its relative simplicity and length -- it managed to get an entire relationship and story across in under seven minutes. My husband and I had different interpretations of the young man's ultimate fate, but that was part of the fun. I also liked the relative low-tech of the time machine's appearance.



Targeted Advertising
Director: Mitchell Rose
Screenwriter: Mitchell Rose
Length: 03:54 minutes
Category: Science fiction/Comedy
Country: USA
Film on YouTube

Like Cruxberry, which I saw in an earlier session during this festival, Targeted Advertising does not try to tell a hugely complex story, but instead effectively manages to get across a single concept in under four minutes. The program book calls this "a sci-fi aerial dance-film" in which "spambot drones chase a fleeing populace blasting ads for Viagra, hair loss products, and other exciting values."

If you are ever online -- and you are, if you're reading this -- you will definitely get the point of this film. It was a lot of fun, particularly the ending. You can watch it in its entirety at the link above.


As You Were
Director: Trevon Matcek
Screenwriter: Trevon Matcek
Length: 22:00 minutes
Category: Science fiction
Country: USA
Film on YouTube

This film is about Johnner, a soldier who returns home with high-tech prosthetic limbs to replace the ones he lost in combat, and finds he has to reconnect not just with himself, but also with his wife, children, and society in general. Because that society has become leery of robots, Johnner has difficulty finding even a simple job, but he eventually finds some balance.

This film was moving, and the acting terrific. I liked the montage of prospective employers thanking the veteran ever so earnestly for his service while clearly hoping he would just get the hell out of their offices. There was one part of the film that didn't quite make sense to me, however: Johnner does finally find a job working with hazardous robotic materials, and wears a hazmat suit while breaking things apart and moving them, but people without protection seem to be standing no more than a few yards away without being in danger. It's just not clear what he's actually doing on this job, so it felt like a convenient excuse to have Johnner flash back on the drone that caused his injuries.

My only other quibble is that I thought the anti-robot graffiti that Johnner encounters while out jogging was a little heavy-handed. Overall, however, I thought this film was very well done. And extra bonus points for the nod to the Terminator franchise. Also while jogging (with a cute bit in which Johnner kicks the soccer ball, inadvertently sending it into next week), he encounters two boys named Kyle and Reese. Yep, I see what you did there....



Silent Night
Director: Nastassja Djalog
Screenwriter: Nastassja Djalog
Length: 11:04 minutes
Category: Science fiction
Country: Australia
Trailer

A nurse shows up at the bedside of a woman who has just given birth, swabs the inside of the baby's cheek, and learns that it will die around age fifty of cancer. For that reason, the "system" decides that the baby is unprofitable for society, and the nurse carries out her duty.

After which the nurse goes outside on a break and smokes a cigarette.

Don't get me wrong -- the nurse smoking is not the point of the film; it's window-dressing to show how distressed she is by her job. Movies, and especially short films, use this all the time: if you want the audience to see that a character is stressed, show them smoking a cigarette. But I really had trouble getting past this little detail when we were just told a baby was unprofitable because it would die a half century later of cancer. It seems to me that the possible lung cancer, and almost certain emphysema and heart disease, that this nurse is trying to give herself would be a lot less profitable.

Other than that, this film was quite decent. It's not particularly believable, but it does make the point that far too often, human lives are valued in dollars and cents. [SOME SPOILERS AHEAD] I did like the little touch that people being "released" (for lack of a better word) are given images of happy memories to watch. Initially, I didn't buy the way these images were retrieved from the patient's "identification." For instance, for an older man, his law diploma was fed into a wall slot, and the screen returned actual video of him graduating and receiving an award. For a young boy whose mother has "surrendered" him, the nurse puts a birthday card into the slot, and home-shot video of the birthday party comes up. It took me a while, but then I realized that Facebook can almost do this already, with the diploma, at least. Surely Facebook's algorithms can take the man's name and the school's name, call up any related video that is online (and what isn't online these days?), and perform facial recognition to make sure it got the right material. And this stuff is only going to get more sophisticated.

All in all, this chilling short film was worth watching. That smoking bit really bothered me, but upon reflection it occurs to me that it could be the nurse daring the system to tell her that she's not profitable, a way of dealing with the guilt by flirting with elimination herself. Maybe that's a reach, but if that's what was intended, it changes things for me a bit.


Zero
Director: David Victori
Screenwriter: David Victori
Length: 29:00 minutes
Category: Science fiction
Country: USA
Episode 1 on YouTube
(approx. 9 minutes)

The opening and closing credits for this film make a big deal of the fact that Ridley Scott and Michael Fassbender are attached to it, and indeed, this film has impressive special effects and cinematography. But I'm afraid I had significant issues with both the science and the plot.

A father trying to cope with his grieving son is on his way to work one day when Earth's gravity sort of turns off. Not all at once, but rather by degrees, so that at first little pebbles and bits of debris float around, then bigger and bigger things. Then, after gravity has somehow turned itself back on and everything has fallen back to the ground again, the father rushes home to check on his son, who has run off to the site where his mother was killed in a car accident. There he finds the man responsible for that accident. Convenient, but I can kind of accept it -- the man says that he thought the gravity phenomenon was a sign of the end times, so perhaps it makes sense that he would return to the scene of his greatest sin.

Aside from the gravity problem, then, I can live with these developments so far. But the gravity is a big issue. Consider the fact that the gravity on Mars is roughly one third of that on Earth. That doesn't mean that pennies and nickels and dimes sitting on the surface of Mars would just start floating because they're lighter than people or cars. Gravity is either one or off, so everything would be equally affected.

Even if I accept for the sake of the story that a gravity anomaly would work like that, however, the father-and-son story also became problematic for me. [MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD] Just as the father is chasing his son, the phenomenon strikes again. The boy latches on to an antenna tower, but then tells his father he's ready to go find his mother in heaven, and deliberately lets go, floating up and away. Bigger and bigger items start getting pulled up, and the boy goes out of sight completely. And then the switch flips again and everything starts falling. The boy conveniently falls into water (he probably would have been instantly killed from that height anyway) and the father rushes to save him while avoiding falling debris, but the boy is unresponsive. So the father carries him for several minutes until he gets to a place where a handful of people have gathered to help each other if they can, and then performs CPR. If he didn't know CPR it would have been one thing, but he knew it and didn't bother performing it right away! And then it's to no avail -- until the gravity switches off again, which coaxes the water out of the boy's lungs all by itself.

Sigh.... And then the boy wakes up and immediately has the huge emotional, screaming grief breakthrough that's been a long time coming, when actually he should have been brain dead by that point. And the man who killed his mother has also conveniently shown up at this location so they can all get some closure together.

I apologize -- it feels a little unfair that I'm being this nitpicky. But I just don't feel that the two main components of this film, i.e. an implausible science phenomenon and grief, went together naturally. It's fine, of course, to explore grief against any background or scenario, but in my mind that scenario needs to be integrated and at least somewhat plausible.

* * * * *

Click here to see all of my other reviews of Worldfest-Houston short film screenings from this and previous years.

Read more!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Worldfest-Houston 2016: Sci-Fi/Thriller Shorts

The 49th Annual Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival
Sci-Fi/Thriller Shorts, Sunday, April 17, 2016


A Shadow of Dara

Director: Kirill Proskura
Screenwriters: Kirill Proskura, Andy Mihov
Length: 14:15 minutes
Category: Science fiction (listed)
Country: UK
Film's website

I quite liked the first half of this film, in which a group of human rebels enter a virtual reality environment to warn Dara, an imprisoned alien commander, that he's being duped into giving away critical information. The initial set-up is very much like (perhaps even too much like) The Matrix, to the extent that one of the rebels is essentially transmitting herself into the VR to convince the commander that it's not real and he needs to get out. But I really enjoyed the oddball office scenario into which the commander has been put; his "co-workers" keep acting bizarrely and asking him for important numbers, the reason for which is later revealed.

Unfortunately, when the commander does leave the VR environment, the film falls short for me. The alien race that has imprisoned Dara is effectively portrayed, with polished costumes, make-up, and even an invented alien language. But the story becomes a bit muddled and the dialog a bit trite at this point. [MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD] The rebels are from the future, and are trying to prevent Dara from giving away Earth's coordinates to the aliens, who in the original timeline have destroyed both Earth and Dara's home. Dara inexplicably becomes arrogant and calls himself a god, which I think we're meant to take at least semi-literally. He has no apparent gratitude for the humans who've rescued him, and ultimately the group simply escapes in a pod, while the bad aliens hint darkly that they already have the information they need. This ending made the film feel a bit like a video game prologue; the tiny band of rebels lives to fight another day.



Cruxberry

Director: Jamie Oon
Screenwriter: Jamie Oon
Length: 3:53 minutes
Category: Science fiction
Country: Canada
Film's IMDB page

In this extremely short but effective film, a young woman, wearing a simple white dress in a futuristic white cell of some kind, answers questions and is rewarded with a sweet berry when she gets it right. At first, the questions are mainly about the berries themselves and the young woman has no problem, but when questions such as "what is your purpose" pop up, she becomes confused.

[MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD]
Eventually, we see that on the other side of the one-way touch screen, a woman in a lab coat sits, posing the questions -- and she is identical to the woman in the cell. I took this to mean that the woman in the cell was a clone, and she was being tested to determine whether she could learn and/or gain a moral compass.

I felt this film was exactly the right length -- any longer and it would have become too repetitive. As it was, I found it to be clever and refreshing. I also note that the director and writer was also the film's sole cast member.



Burned

Director: Jaime Valdueza
Screenwriter: Jaime Valdueza
Length: 17:00 minutes
Category: Suspense/Thriller
Country: USA
Trailer

In this film, Jason has been hiding out in a rundown hotel for reasons related to a sensational murder being reported on the news. He reluctantly agrees to accompany his new girlfriend, Lila, to a small get-together at a house out in the sticks, and becomes agitated when one of his hosts takes a photograph that might put him in danger.

[MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD] This film had a pretty awesome twist: the audience assumes that Jason is the eyewitness that the reporters say is on the run for his own safety, when in fact he's the murderer. Once the other man at the gathering puts two and two together, Jason kills him, that man's girlfriend, and ultimately Lila.

While I thought this was clever and well-acted, I didn't quite understand why Jason had to kill Lila. The photo of him had already been posted online at that point, so Jason should have just run -- it's not as though he had to silence Lila about his being there since that would already be known. There's a voice-over about trust, so it's possible that in Jason's twisted mind, he believes that Lila has betrayed him even though she really hasn't. I understand more why he killed the other two people, who were more confrontational, but he kills Lila when she's trying to hide from him in the house. His two choices are to kill Lila and have it be known that he's now responsible for three more murders, or to not kill Lila and have it be known that he's now responsible for two more murders. Killing her does nothing to improve his situation.

Unfortunately for the audience, the sound system broke down partway through this film, making it sound like it was being projected underwater, so it's possible I missed something in the voice-over that would shed some light on Jason's motive for killing Lila. In spite of the technical glitch, which was the fault of the theater rather than the film, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. It did a great job building suspense.




Bang Bang Club

Director: Jason Chan, Christian Lee
Screenwriters: Jason Chan, Christian Lee
Length: 19:31 minutes
Category: Suspense/Thriller
Country: USA
Partial film (4:18 minutes) on Vimeo
(listed as Episode 1 of a web series)

I found this film to be action-packed, a bit strange (a good thing), a bit convoluted (not a good thing), and a little too long. In addition, the film's description in the festival program book is not how I understood the film at all. What I saw was this: two young men wearing masks break into a building to shoot a young man at a computer. In flashbacks, we learn that they were recruited by a beautiful young woman who made them believe she was going to kill them, but instead her gun shot "bang bang" stickers onto their foreheads. She also trained them in hand-to-hand combat, rather brutally. At this point, the film felt like a cross between Fight Club, Wanted, and that dormitory game called "Assassin."

[MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD] Alas, when the two men shoot the computer guy, they're slow to realize that the gun has actual bullets this time; naturally, they panic and run. They're confronted by two security guards and almost apprehended, but fight their way out. They end up ... somewhere, and paranoia sets in as one man suspects the other one of switching out the gun to frame him (even though they did "rock paper scissors" when deciding which of them would shoot the guy). A big martial arts fight ensues, and we see that the woman and another man are watching them on video, via some very conveniently placed cameras. The woman tries to convince her companion that it's time to stop since there's a live gun in play, but he wants to let things continue. Finally, they remotely play back the footage of the murder and the men fighting, to the men themselves (as if that proves anything), and the woman welcomes them to the Bang Bang Club.

Although I liked parts of this, I was unfortunately left with too many questions. First, I thought they were welcomed to the Bang Bang Club when the woman first shot them with the stickers. I can accept that maybe that was preliminary, and that this operation is a test or initiation of some kind, but to prove what? That upon learning they actually killed someone, their instinct would be to fight rather than surrender to the authorities? Were the woman and her companion testing them to see if they actually were willing to kill someone? That would be an unsuccessful test, since they didn't know what they were doing. Or is involving them in an actual murder a way to compel them to start working for the club as real assassins whether they want to or not?

And here's the film's description, which I didn't read until after seeing the film: Banks control the world beyond our imaginations. When one bank strips away the livelihood of two young men, they take revenge by joining an elite assassins training group: The Bang Bang Club. Only problem is that the club has links all the way to the highest financial powers of the world and has other plans for them: covert murders and their own demise.

So now I'm completely confused. I didn't see their livelihood being stripped away. This also implies that the two young men knowingly joined an assassins' training group, but the big bad guys have "secret" plans to have the young men, you know, assassinate people. They also don't kill the men, so what's that about their demise? The woman's companion must be the big bad bank guy, but I don't remember finances so much as being mentioned, although I could be mistaken in that regard.

Overall, I guess I felt this just needed a bit more discipline and focus.



Madness

Directors: Shannon Kohli, Michelle Brezinski
Screenwriter: Michelle Brezinski
Length: 09:57 minutes
Category: Drama/Thriller
Country: USA
Trailer

In this film, a woman tries to get her husband back after he dies from the Black Plague in medieval England. [MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD] I believe what happens is that in her grief, she mistakenly imagines that her husband is still alive, and digs him up. I think it was intentional that for much of the film, the viewer might reasonably assume that the husband is actually a zombie. This was well done, but I didn't really feel engaged by it.

(In a bizarre coincidence, I was looking the the screenwriter's web page and found that her company produced another short film titled "Christmas Crackers" co-starring my brother-in-law, who's an actor up in Vancouver, B.C. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I can watch it anywhere online.)


Driven

Director: Johannes Bachmann
Screenwriter: Johannes Bachmann
Length: 09:15 minutes
Category: Suspense/Thriller (listed); Sci-fi/Thriller (my categorization)
Country: USA
Trailer

A woman driving alone at night through dark woods hits something and gets out to find out what it was. When a Hummer approaches the scene, she drives away in terror. [MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD] Ultimately, we see that this is a time loop of some kind; the woman has hit herself, and it keeps happening over and over. I felt that the look of this piece was very polished, but it was another film that didn't engage me quite as much as I would have liked. I also felt like it was longer than necessary to make the point.



The Clock Makers Dream

Director: Cashell Horgan
Screenwriter: Cashell Horgan
Length: 12:03 minutes
Category: Sci-fi (listed); Sci-fi/Fantasy (my categorization)
Country: Ireland
Trailer

Last but not least, this was a visually delightful film about a clockmaker who keeps his entire town running, but who loses his desire to do so upon the death of his wife. He tries to build a replacement for her, but ultimately realizes he's been taking the wrong approach.

It's not quite accurate to say that this film was Burton-esque because it had its own unique look, but it inspired a similar sense of strange wonder. The town is populated by creatures with human bodies and animal heads, which looked to be large masks. The clockmaker himself wears a mask of a gray, immobile face with a pointed nose and beard. My favorite was the girl with the giraffe head, whose purpose seemed only to be skipping merrily through the town's streets. There were also some animated sequences.

Although the story itself didn't entirely make sense to me, this was a pure delight to watch. I also realized I knew the narrator's voice, and saw during the credits, which included headshots of the actors, that it was Jared Harris, who played Moriarty opposite Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes. He was a good choice for this.

[This is anal retentive of me, but it really bothers me that the film's title is missing an apostrophe.]


* * * * *

My next post will be on Sunday's "Sci-Fi #2 Shorts" -- stay tuned!

Click here to see all of my other reviews of Worldfest-Houston short film screenings from this and previous years.

Read more!