Monday, September 4, 2017

IN-FLIGHT MOVIES: Short Films for Sleepy Times

On the final push back home to Virginia, I was a bit woozy. I couldn't really keep my eyes open for any sort of two-hour deal -- plus they were only really offering hinky DirecTV options rather than a nice list of movies.


I never get to take in short films outside of what my friends make. And there was a running cycle of three of them, since United and Tribeca sort of have each other's backs or what have you. So I gave the trio a go with what awake energy I still had left.


To this film's credit, it's the one that caught my eye and made me stop flipping back to South Park reruns. A UK-based childhood story with classic sensibilities but a distinctly modern setting, it centers on Alice, a young inventor taken publicly embarrassed by a trio of plugged-in Popular Girls.

At her side -- whether she likes it or not -- is Stanley, an eyepatched boy determined to make her a member of his superhero team, the AweSome Squad (abbreviated A.S.S.). Stanley's power, derived from a mysterious white M&M he keeps on his person, doesn't help him defend Alice against the girls... but Alice has something up her sleeve in the person of the short film's title critters.

Litterbugs - Trailer from TREEHOUSE DIGITAL on Vimeo.

The film is utterly adorable and, for a bullied girl like myself, a very sweet story of friendship and the power of creativity in the face of adversity. Seeing the sheer number of awards and recognitions it's swept up makes me extremely happy.

Check out the official Litterbugs website for more info.


I enjoy the fact that, in 2017, it's possible to have "quiet science fiction." I like seeing more and more that, as we edge closer to the formerly impossible, we're seeing more and more a return to the "human vs. technology" aspects of pure sci-fi. Which is not to say I don't love aliens and time travel and weird monsters. Of course I do. But seeing science fiction in its purest form, used for its purest purpose, is entertaining.

Youth sets itself in an indefinitely-distant future, slightly Apple'd out but still recognizable, in which being old has become obsolete. A degree of immortality has been achieved by, well, effectively "regenerating" via an involved and expensive medical procedure. Our central couple has worked and saved all their lives to get their procedures done together, and as the film opens, the wife has had hers.

And the husband finds, shortly after, that he cannot. He's waited too long, and the procedure could prove pointless, deadly, or both. Now he exists in a world of eternal youth, robbed of both the extra time he assumed he had and the pleasure of growing old together with the woman he loves.

Youth is an introspective and interesting piece, but it has to be approached properly. Come at it as a plot piece, and you will leave dissatisfied. Come at it as a character study of one man in a world of young people, and its true message will hit home for you much sooner. My mistake was watching it the first way in a jet-lagged haze, and left feeling abandoned when the credits rolled. But centering on the individual rather than the message makes for a satisfying piece.

Check out the official Youth website for more info.

Mildred & the Dying Parlor

God. Parents are, like, the literal worst. Especially when they run a business out of their house and want you to meet their clients. Especially when their clients are old people and the business is a dying parlor.

Told from the POV of a jaded young woman named Mildred, the film outlines the work of her parents "dying parlor" -- a place where people come when they're on death's door to have a nice last meal, be entertained, and have company. And likely drop off in the middle of one of those activities.

Mildred largely has no time for these shenanigans. But one evening, a customer comes in who has requested her presence specifically.

I don't want to say too much about this one because there's a subtle little twist at the end that I absolutely loved. But I will say that, of the three, this was my favorite. There are some wild surprise performances from Steven Buscemi and Jane Krakowski as Mildred's parents, and there's a sort of Wes Anderson vibe to the whole thing. If you can find your way to a copy, absolutely give it a look.

And after that, I sort of fell asleep for a few hours. But this doesn't even begin to cover my westward viewing.
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