Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #4


End Of The Week Shorts #4

Today's Shorts: Nebraska (2013), Eddie Murphy: Delirious (1983), Snowball Fight (1897), The Golem: How He Came Into The World (1920), The Sinking Of The Lusitania (1918), Der Fuehrer’s Face (1943), The Tell-Tale Heart (1953), Stoopnocracy (1933)

Though it starts out a little shaky with the mediocre acting making all too transparent the so-so script that exists beyond the screen, Nebraska is a great watch, one that grows on you with a subtle building of strong characters and an idiosyncratic comedic approach that is acclimatised to once the characters start to resonate. Again with the direction direction; it grows on you. With a simplistic approach that often hangs back and allows scenes to play out, this starts out as pretty so-so but develops with the tone of the narrative into a relaxed aesthetic that perfectly manages the mixture of near-insanity, hecticness, stupidity, arbitrariness and, above all, genuity in the story. The only aspect of the film that doesn't really grow on you is the black and white cinematography; it feels like an after effect, never capturing the rich contrast that can be provided with this aesthetic approach. 
All in all, Nebraska is a great assessment and exploration of pride, one that doesn't look down upon the notion, but embraces it understandingly, leaving this film quite a unique story that's certainly worth the watch.

Re-watching Delirious reminded me how good it feels to laugh your absolute hardest. Pure comedic genius and one of the best stand-up specials ever produced, there's little you can say about this. The impressions are spectacular, the exploration of Eddie's past is insanely funny and need I say more than Gooney Gough-hough? 
This is probably not the kind of comedy for the more politically correct, especially considering the opening (which almost has me in tears) but also the fact that this special has been a symbol or crutch of sorts for protest and social critique. But, if you're not too interested or bothered by that stuff and haven't seen Delirious, do yourself a favour and fix that.

Somewhat ironically: heartwarming. 
Bataille de boules de neige (Snowball Fight) is a nice early example - though not the first, that'd go to L'Arroseur arrosé (The Sprinkler Sprinkled) - of a long-standing tradition of French comedy that was especially rich, in slapstick form, during the silent era. 
With a simple, under-a-minute, story that simply features men and women having a snowball fight that a cyclist gets caught in between, this left me wondering: Do adults still have snowball fights? Did they ever? Or has global warming (governmental geo-engineers) ruined everyone's fun?

Whilst it is framed as a silent horror picture, Wegener and Boese's Golem is best seen as a brilliant spectacle imbued with mysticism and powerful German expressionism. In such, the aesthetic side of this silent classic is the most striking element; the set-design imbuing the frame with an intricate and uniquely textured mise en scène that you could only see expressed within this cinematic epoch. 
The downfalls of The Golem are in the character and story department. Whilst there are some great special effects put into play around the magical sequences, quite a few parts of the narrative are rather flat and subject to questionable logic. Moreover, there are no compelling characters featured in this film, which ultimately leaves it a bit of work to get through. Nonetheless, The Golem is certainly worth the watch, it'll take a bit of patience, but this is a significant film that I'm glad I've finally seen.

A somewhat early example of animation, one that showcases a serious approach to the form, utilising the hand drawn style to depict what cameras of the time would probably have failed in capturing in such a poignant manner. With cartoonish impressionism, a significant moment of WWI is then written into narrative stone for the first time to construct a short that is just as astounding as it must have been 99 years ago. 
If you've not seen The Sinking of the Lusitania, certainly give it a watch.

This is Disney's anti-Nazi tirade from 1943 that quite literally throws tomatoes in Hitler's face whilst making fun of Nazi Germany and the sheep-like people wherein who are forced to constantly work and show their love for the fascist dictator. 
This basic premise alone is what probably won it the Oscar of that year; it re-affirmed an American way of life, demonstrating how lucky the viewing audience were to be born in a free country. That said, Der Fuehrer’s Face is not particularly funny, nor is it original. It explicitly draws from Chaplin's Modern Times and completely rips off the 1941 Dumbo. Maybe these were homages, but, I didn't appreciate them at all. Nonetheless, an interesting look back into film history that I'd recommend you watch.

The Tell-Tale Heart. A truly powerful short adapted from Edgar Allan Poe's short story of the same name that puts us into the mind and behind the eyes of a deranged man plotting to kill his landlord. 
The twisted and sable imagery throughout the narrative embellish the unstable, irate performance creating a great atmospheric sense of creeping horror that really explodes at the multiple crescendos of the short. This combined with the fractured surrealism, abstract images and lulling, sometime frantic, editing, conjures a poignant story that really sweeps you into the narrative and holds you there til the end. A really good watch.

Stoopnocracy is a brilliant piece of satire, with some ingenious animation. In such, it explores a world full of insane people, seeing looney cartoons delivered to an asylum in which the famous radio comedy duo of the 30s, Stoopnagle and Budd, then have the audience sing a couple of songs along with them. 
Whilst it makes no practical sense (and why should it?), this is a fun bit of entertainment that was featured in the Fleischer Studios 'Screen Songs' series. And this makes Stoopnocracy even more interesting as it shows the roots of sing-along music videos, which Fleischer Studios started making in 1924 with the famous bouncing ball that you must follow, that are a staple of contemporary mainstream animation as well as karaoke. So, not only is seeing the jump from animation and into live action quite shocking, but so is the jump into sing-along tunes, which makes Stoopnocracy a great insight into an intriguing aspect of film history.

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