Alan Clarke’s Elephant (1989) is a short film made for television and produced by Danny Boyle and BBC Northern Ireland. Set amid the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the short presents 18 matter-of-fact murders with a coldly observational approach, providing limited dialogue and utilizing the predatory look of steadicam follow shots. The film takes its title from Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty’s description of the Troubles as “the elephant in our living room,” and it served as an inspiration to Gus Van Sant’s Elephant (2003), a film that likewise attended to the broader social problems that underlie American school-shootings and gun violence.
Clarke’s short is overdetermined in its intentions, being full of intense men and purposeful walks, yet it is also disturbing empty. Despite its apparent single-mindedness, there are no explanations of the hows and whys of its killings and there are nearly no sounds of surprise or panic, yet there is always the banality of violence and death, a lifeless body in a drab room and a getaway that rarely strays from the same purposeful walk. For more on Elephant and the psychology it embodies (or withholds) in its particular cinematography, MMC! offers Jordan Schonig’s impressive and insightful video essay, The Follow Shot: A Tale of Two Elephants (2018). Schonig’s essay provides a concise exploration of what may be contemporary cinema’s most ubiquitous and conspicuous shot and perfectly unpacks the themes and tensions at work in Clarke and Van Sant’s respective films.
The 2019 Sundance Film Festival is now in the books and the film that MMC! is most curious about is the feature-length adaptation of Paul Briganti’s Greener Grass (2015). Writers and stars Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe step into the roles of director with Greener Grass‘s feature film, no doubt answering a few of the short film’s nonsensical questions and likely posing a ton more. The 2015 short was an MMC! favourite at the 2016 Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival, offering “an acid trip take on soccer mom insecurities and first world problems” and “bringing Buñuel to the California suburbs.” For those that enjoy Adult Swim-style transgressive comedy and looking for an unnerving mix of competitive conventionality, canine transformation, and orthodontic disgust, your minivan has arrived.
Happy 2019, kids! It’s less than a week after New Year’s and that means it’s primetime at gyms everywhere, so it’s the perfect opportunity to spend time with Ben Berman’s hilarious, moving, and all too true short film, How To Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps (2016). The film is based on Aaron Bleyaert’s essay of the same title, discovered by Berman when it was forwarded to him by a friend after joining a gym. The short was shot in two halves with SNL‘s Beck Bennett (in a wonderful starring performance as a heartbroken mattress salesman) losing 30 pounds in the three months in between. Funny and disarmingly inspirational, How to Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps is actually perfect anytime of the year.
This post is naturally dedicated to work-out loving wife and her friend who loves anything with “humping” in it. LOL.
I feel like 2018 is the year that the internet had enough of people saying that Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988) is a Christmas movie and I’m thankful. Don’t get me wrong; I love me some Die Hard but the self-congratulatory smugness of the Die Hard-as-Christmas classic declaration had its day long ago. To both celebrate and hopefully memorialize this effort in a once clever and now tired idea, MMC! wishes everyone a safe and happy holidays with Brad Neely’s 2009 Baby Cakes short, The In-House Carol, a crudely fashioned and hilariously daft portrayal of Die Hard love gone too far.
SEASON’S GREETINGS TO ALL!!!
Our latest MMC! proposal is an art-horror favourite around these parts and will arrive tomorrow, just in time for Halloween. In the meantime, let’s get a jump on the 2018 Ithaca Fantastik with a trio of short films that screened as part of The Eyeslicer Halloween Special!
First up is Laura Moss’s Fry Day (2017), an atmospheric and disturbing film about a young woman who finds herself in uncertain circumstances when she joins three young men one evening. Fry Day occurs on the night of Ted Bundy’s execution, located on the pasture across from the Raiford prison where revelers celebrated, and the spectre of Bundy’s crimes adds a particularly oppressive air to an already unsettling situation. This is a gorgeous and crushing short film. Director Laura Moss has two films in The EHS, the other being the equally disturbing but decidedly more unusual Allen Anders – Live at the Comedy Castle (2018).
I had planned to wind up MMC!‘s coverage of the Chattanooga Film Festival with an imagined Arrow Video edition of Ryan Prows’s Lowlife (2017) but no sooner had I done my research and began writing did Shout! Factory announce a Blu-ray edition of the film slated for release on August 7. I’m usually pretty stoked to cross any film off my list of potential MMC! subjects as their circulation is far more gratifying than writing about them here, but I’m a little disappointed not to discuss Lowlife at greater length. I have stumped for Lowlife a fair amount already so let’s instead spend some time with three of Prows’s earlier shorts films, all of which seem to be working through some of the themes and concerns at play in Lowlife and all of which should be included as special features on the upcoming Blu-ray edition.
In case you’ve forgotten, here is a quick refresher on Lowlife taken from the film’s press kit.
When a simple organ harvesting caper goes awry, a twist of fate unites three of society’s forgotten and ignored: EL MONSTRUO, a disgraced Mexican wrestler working as hired muscle for a local crime boss. CRYSTAL, a recovering addict desperate enough to arrange a black market kidney transplant to save her husband’s life. And RANDY, a loveable two-strike convict fresh out of prison, cursed with a full-face swastika tattoo and a best friend guilting him into some hair-brained kidnapping scheme.
As the sordid lives of these small-time criminals collide, they must fight tooth and nail to save a pregnant woman from a certain, and surely gruesome, death.