Category Archives: Short

Amblin’ (1968, Steven Spielberg)

Amblin’ might have more charm if I cared about hippies. The film should be called, The Adventures of Two Hitchhiking Hippies. Or one and a half hippies. I’m not even sure they’re supposed to be hippies, maybe just kind of hippies. There’s no dialogue in the film (oddly, it’s not even implied the two protagonists talk to each other even off screen) so it’s hard to know.

The majority of the film’s very long twenty-six minutes plays like a reel of commercials. There’s a cigarette commercial, a candy commercial, then some unspecified ones. They’re well-made commercials, I suppose.

Spielberg has some good shots. Nothing great, but some decent, ambitious composition. His story’s pretty lame though. Leading man Richard Levin is bad even without having to speak. Pamela McMyler is far better.

The big reveal is weak and obvious; it ruins any good will Amblin’ had going for it.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written, directed and edited by Steven Spielberg; director of photography, Allen Daviau; music by Michael Lloyd; produced by Denis Hoffman; released by Four Star Excelsior.

Starring Richard Levin and Pamela McMyler.


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Bathing and the Single Girl (2010, Christine Elise McCarthy)

There are a couple moments in Bathing and the Single Girl where McCarthy almost laughs at herself. The short is a filmed monologue. McCarthy, in a variety of settings, talks directly to the camera. She’s recounting two related events–with digressions. The second event has an excellent punchline. But she doesn’t end on the punchline; she gently continues the anecdote, using it to give the short an ending.

The first time she almost laughs, it’s a single take. The second time, editor John Putch cuts to her just after the most visible moment of containing her laughter. Putch’s editing is fantastic (as are the uncredited cinematographers).

McCarthy’s performance of the monologue is excellent and matches her visualizing of it perfectly; she never breaks her format, even after the monologue becomes really funny.

Bathing and the Single Girl is masterful, thoughtful and–even though the subject material is serious–delightful work.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Written, directed and produced by Christine Elise McCarthy; edited by John Putch; production designer, McCarthy; released by Multum in Parvo.

Starring Christine Elise McCarthy.


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The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914, J. Farrell MacDonald)

I was going to say it was odd Frank Baum wrote the screenplay, but I guess he wrote a bunch of them back in the teens. The Magic Cloak of Oz is a silly little film–I’m assuming the target audience was children–and a lot of fun. Baum has a good time with the title cards (the villains are motivated by an irrational desire for soup), but director MacDonald shows a lot of creativity as well, particularly in the first act. The rest of the film is populated with silly characters (in sillier costumes), but the first act contains the most scenes shot inside, which gives MacDonald a real chance to create the Oz setting and he succeeds well enough.

The main action of the film is a bunch of grown men dressed up as animals (these animals, ranging from crow to elephant, are all the same size) either fighting each other or men not dressed up as animals. The battle scenes are funny–the mule’s a lot of fun–and some of the costumes are fantastic.

The secondary action involves a couple kids becoming the King and Princess of a land of Oz through absurd means. There’s some funny scenes, but for the most part, they’re all filler. The meat of their story is the villainous (well, mildly villainous…) Queen from another land, who turns out to be incredibly helpful in the end.

Imaginative filmmaking–a few of the composites are better than ones I’ve seen in big budget films today–helps a lot too….

I’m not sure it’s a wonderful world of Oz (the location shooting of a village at the end hurts), but it’s a fine one.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by J. Farrell MacDonald; written by L. Frank Baum, based on his novel; director of photography, James A. Crosby; produced by Baum and Louis F. Gottschalk; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Mildred Harris (Fluff), Violet MacMillan (Bud), Fred Woodward (Nickodemus), Vivian Reed (Quavo) and Juanita Hansen (Queen Zixi of Ix).


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