Category Archives: Short Films

Bernice Bobs Her Hair-1976

Bernice Bobs Her Hair-1976

Director-Joan Micklin Silver

Starring-Shelley DuVall, Veronica Cartwright 

Scott’s Review #1,141

Reviewed May 12, 2021

Grade: B+

Much transpires within Bernice Bobs Her Hair (1976), a short film based on a short story by famed author F. Scott Fitzgerald. For the non-literary crowd, Fitzgerald penned the worldly The Great Gatsby, a treasured story from the 1920’s Long Island, New York setting.

The story was made into television production in 1976 for PBS for The American Short Story.

Bernice Bobs Her Hair is a quieter story than Gatsby, and more peculiar, resulting in a fabulous tale of revenge with a similar time period of 1920, the cusp of the American Jazz Age. The setting is presumed to be Long Island or Westchester County, New York though that’s never confirmed. Regardless, our main character, Bernice (Shelley DuVall) hails from Wisconsin and comes to visit family.

The visit isn’t exactly peaches and cream as you can imagine.

The bitchy and sophisticated Marjorie (Veronica Cartwright), Bernice’s cousin, pities her for being awkward and unlikable, far inferior to the elitist company that Marjorie keeps. She rolls up her sleeves and becomes determined to shape Bernice into a sophisticated vixen, molding her into a girl who gets what she wants.

The idea ends up biting her in the ass.

Bernice, mocked for being quiet and dull, blossoms into a brave young woman, titillated by the attention of the society boys. She delights in having her pick of the litter and daringly proclaims to have her hair bobbed in a few days, to the shock and chagrin of the rich group of friends.

Would a young woman ever dare to do something so drastic for attention? Hell, she’ll have to go to a barber and be sheared!

Marjorie’s jealousy increases as Bernice’s confidences soar leading to a dramatic and satisfying conclusion.

DuVall is delightful in the role. The actress, very unconventional looking, appears the prettiest I’ve ever seen her, even when she plays dowdy. Telling so much with her wide-eyed and expression-filled eyes, she seduced me into her world of mystique and wonderment. DuVall has a charisma all her own and fascinates in any film she appears in.

Not to be overlooked, Veronica Cartwright, possesses Marjorie with fury and pizazz, also doing so much with her trademark blue eyes. The actresses work so well together as they eventually play a seductive game of will and wit.

For the boys, there are a few love interests to note. I loved seeing Bud Cort, struggling for work after his groundbreaking role in 1971’s Harold & Maude, appear in the short film. Insecure, he is nonetheless smitten with Bernice, just as Draycott Deyo (Patrick Byrne) is. Other handsome suitors like Mark La Mura, of daytime television fame, appear.

The costumes and sets are lavish and fitting to the 1920s which enhanced my enjoyment. The hot summer setting also infuses the film with smoldering and rigid tension enhancing the experience. There is nothing like escaping into the past in style and enchantment.

The final revenge is extremely fulfilling as the classes clash. The socially awkward Bernice conquers the WASP’y Marjorie like a plain Jane would a beautiful evil princess. It’s quite satisfying.

The entire experience of Bernice Bobs Her Hair (1976) is pleasing and compelling. The kicker is when Bernice does indeed ‘bob her hair’ she looks amazing and trendy for the decade to follow. She gets her just desserts in more ways than one and the audience cheers her to victory!

Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Films-2020

Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Films-2020

Directors-Madeline Sharafian, Michael Capbarat, Adrien Merigeau, Amaury Ovise, Will McCormack, Michael Govier, Erick Oh, Gisli Darri Halldorsson, Arnar Gunnarsson

Scott’s Review #1,135

Grade: A-

Having the honor of being able to view the five short films nominated for the 2020 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at my local art theater was pretty amazing. Especially in the year of Covid! Far too often dismissed as either irrelevant or completely flying under the radar of animated offerings, it is time to champion these fine little pieces of artistic achievement.

On par with or even superseding the full-length animated features, each of the five offers a vastly different experience, but each offers either inspired or hopeful messages or dark, devious, and edgy stories. The commonality this year is that there really are no similarities. The overall tone is mostly dour in tone save for one cute short featuring a rabbit and a peculiar look at the everyday life of Icelandic people.

Below is a review of each of the shorts.

Burrow-2020 (USA)

A darling story, Burrow tells the tale of a young rabbit who tries to build the burrow of her dreams, becoming embarrassed each time she accidentally digs into a neighbor’s home. By far the safest of the five shorts, and the most hopeful, the experience is pleasant and comical as the rabbit’s exuberance and joys are infectious. I got a real sense of community and warmness seeing the rabbits and other creatures pull together and form a communal bond rather than living in separation. It’s an inspiring and wholesome story. Grade: B+

Genius Loci-2020 (France)

One night, Reine, a young loner, sees the urban chaos as a mystical oneness that seems alive, like some sort of guide. Genius Loci is dark and depressing and tough to understand but my takeaway was one of mental illness and struggle to face daily life. Reine appears to either live with someone or has a child but this is tough to determine. Reine sees the world through watercolors and muted shapes which is quite beautiful to experience but the plot is tough to exactly determine. I used my imagination. Grade: A-

Opera-2020 (USA)

Our society and history, which are filled with beauty and absurdity are experienced with Opera, the oddest of the bunch. At merely nine minutes, it’s a short piece, but intriguing nonetheless. It is one giant shot of all sorts of activity going on within a pyramid shape, meant to represent the history of the world and daily life. There are tons of windows showing different activities. Oddities like a brothel and someone being fed plate after plate of food are featured. This one is also open to much interpretation as so many events can be seen.  Grade: A-

If Anything Happens I Love You-2020 (USA) (Won)

If Anything Happens I Love You, produced by Laura Dern, describes the aftermath of tragedy, as two grieving parents journey through an emotional void as they mourn the loss of a child. This short will make the tears flow if not a downright sob and is my favorite of the group. The viewer is aware that the parents have lost their ten-year-old daughter but not how until close to the end. We wonder how death occurs. The timeliness makes it the most powerful in a time of school shootings and constant gun control battles. Yes, it’s depressing but necessary. Grade: A

Yes-People-2020 (Iceland)

As one who has an adoration for Iceland and has been lucky enough to visit the country, I was thrilled to see it represented. One morning an eclectic mix of people face the everyday battle – such as work, school, and dish-washing. As the day progresses, their relationships are tested and ultimately their capacity to cope. Besides Burrow, Yes-People is the only one to include some humor, and the boozy housewife and her fat working husband are my favorites. Joyous is also the couple who have loud sex for their neighbors to hear. Clever is how the word “yes” can be meant in so many tones and textures. It’s a slice of life short giving a glimpse into people’s ordinary lives.  Grade: A-

Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films-2019

Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films-2019

Directors-Daria Kashcheeva, Matthew A. Cherry, Karen Ruper Toliver, Rosana Sullivan, Kathryn Hendrickson, Bruno Collet, Jean-Francois Le Corre, Siqi Song

Scott’s Review #986

Reviewed February 4, 2020

Grade: A-

Having the honor of being able to view the five short films nominated for the 2019 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at my local art theater was pretty amazing. Far too often dismissed as either irrelevant or completely flying under the radar of animated offerings, it is time to champion these fine little pieces of artistic achievement. On par with or even superseding the full-length animated features, each of the five offers a vastly different experience, but each offers either inspired or hopeful messages or dark, devious, and edgy stories. The commonality this year is relationships, and not necessarily between human beings, as one of them features a darling relationship between cat and dog. Below is a review of each of the shorts.

Memorable-2019 (France)

This offering is the most visually enticing of the five nominees. In the story, a French painter slowly falls prey to the ravages of dementia, while his wife suffers alongside him as his memory disintegrates. He sinks into a world of impressionistic shapes, vivid with gorgeous color. The film is both beautiful and heartbreaking, and not an easy watch. The swirling colors and fragmented shapes provide a lush and melancholy feel. The viewer will likely envelope the only two characters to appear (husband and wife) and relate to each of them and the misery and confusion they experience with assurance of what the result will be.  Grade: A

Sister-2019 (China)

Sister is a touching tribute to a person who does not even exist. A man thinks back to his childhood memories of growing up with an annoying little sister in China in the 1990’s. What would his life have been like if things had gone differently? Would the siblings annoy each other or be the best of friends? With political overtones, the piece describes the inhumane law that Chinese parents could only have one child, the mother forced to abort an impending birth. Traditional Chinese colors of red and black are used, and the imaginary sister is cute and energetic, a tragic realization of the terrible loss of potential life in a damaged nation. Grade: A-

Hair Love-2019 (USA) (Won)

Created by a team from the United States and strongly considered the front-runner, Hair Love feels the shortest of the bunch and is the most accessible of all the nominees, but hardly fluff either. A young black girl battles with her wild head of hair on a special day. After she unsuccessfully tries to create a gorgeous hairstyle by watching You tube videos, she desperately enlists the help of her kindly father. At first disastrous, they manage some success. The relationship is at first unclear. Is he a single dad? Is he her dad at all? Is he an older brother? The puzzle is quickly resolved with the revelation of the mother’s whereabouts in a tender and heartfelt ending. Grade: A

Kitbull-2019 (USA)

My personal favorite of the bunch, Kitbull starts off tough to watch. Any animal abuse in film makes my stomach turn and the beginning turned me off as I anticipated giving the piece a low rating. Instead, Kitbull results in a marvelous experience as a darling and compassionate story of the relationship between a kind cat and a suffering dog. The unlikely connection brought tears to my eyes as the cat, presumed to be an independent alley cat, comes to the rescue of the pit bull, presumed to be a made to dog fight. Any animal lover will watch this short with a mix of anger, empathy, and finally, joy. The sobering reality that so much animal abuse still exists in the world is both mind blowing and a cruel reality. Grade: A

Daughter-2019 (Czech Republic)

Daughter is a vague short film that is confusing to watch, but resilient and creative. The story consists of two characters- a father and daughter- both who seem to suffer from regret.  The father appears to be either sick and recovered, or to have died (unclear is if the story is told via flashbacks). The frequent pained expressions of both characters as they yearn to rewind the clock and treasure moments of the past, both of hardships and joy, are lessons that every viewer can appreciate and relate to. The misshapen ceramic figures and the facial movements, especially the blinking eyes, do much to elicit an emotional reaction from the audience. Grade: B+

Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films-2018

Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films-2018

Directors-Alison Snowden, David Fine, Domee Shi, Becky Neiman, Louise Bagnall, Nuria Gonzalez Blanco, Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas, Trevor Jiminez

Scott’s Review #869

Animal BehaviourBaoLate AfternoonOne Small StepWeekends

Reviewed February 18, 2019

Grade: A

Having the honor of being able to view the five short films nominated for the 2018 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at my local art theater was pretty amazing. Far too often dismissed as either irrelevant or completely flying under the radar of animated offerings, it is time to champion these fine little pieces of artistic achievement. On par with or even superseding the full-length animated features, each of the five offers a vastly different experience, but each offers either inspired or hopeful messages or dark, devious, and edgy stories. The commonality this year is that four of them feature parent-child relationships. Below is a review of each of the shorts.

Animal Behaviour-2018 (Canada)

The strangest in the group, Animal Behaviour is also the most humorous and the best in the bunch, but only by a narrow margin. We witness a therapy session led by a prim and proper dog, who clearly has his own issues. In attendance are a blood-sucking leech, a praying mantis, a cat, a pig, and the newest attendee, a gorilla. All are happy to participate except the gorilla who sees the session as a waste of time. As eating jokes, butt jokes, and other adult humor encases the camaraderie each character develops a clear identity and the gorilla learns, in comedic fashion, that he really does require therapy. This short plays out like an intelligent television sitcom. Grade: A

Bao-2018 (USA) (Won)

The most mainstream of the contenders, Pixar creation Bao is cute and heartwarming and an ode to motherhood. A perfect Mother’s Day offering, the story tells the tale of a Chinese mother who imagines one of her delicious dumplings to be her son. She takes him to soccer practice, rides the bus together and are inseparable. As the dumpling matures, he wants to be alone, see friends, and eventually meets a young woman and proposes marriage. The mother is aghast and in a state of panic swallows the dumpling! Depressed, she is awakened by her real son and the two form a sweet bond made from of respect and love. The story is blooming with colors and nuanced with kindness so is easily the crowd favorite. Grade: A-

Late Afternoon-2018 (Ireland)

Some will undoubtedly find Late Afternoon a bit of a downer, but I found its honesty uplifting and fraught with creativity. An elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is visited by a caring nurse each afternoon. The nurse is kind and her actions, serving a hot cup of tea or giving the woman a book to read, trigger memories of her youth with so much promise lying ahead of her. Eventually, she can recognize that the nurse is really her own daughter. The short is filled with compassion and while melancholy it is also inspiring, not to mention the creativity immersed in the colors and design. Grade: A

One Small Step-2018 (USA/China)

The most conventional in the lot, One Small Step will be perceived as empowering to women and a story of both loss and courage. A Chinese-American girl is raised by her patient and caring single father in California. She is taught to reach for the stars and he kindly repairs a shoe of hers and secretly stores it away. Over the years she is determined to become an astronaut and while she loves her father, she oftentimes takes him for granted. She is denied admission into a prestigious school and, depressed, gives up her dream. When her father dies suddenly the girl redoubles her efforts and finally becomes a successful astronaut in dedication to her father. The short champions energy and a never give up attitude. Grade: A-

Weekends-2018 (USA)

Weekends is my second favorite of all the shorts, barely runner-up to Animal Behaviour. The most complex and confusing, the short also features the most interesting hand drawings and art-work with a surreal and beautiful touch. A child of divorce spends his weekdays with his mother and his weekends with his father. His mother is depressed and lets the house languish while his father lives a metropolitan bachelor style life. When the mother begins dating an abusive man the boy is terrified imagining birthday candles that turn into the frightful man. The mother wears a neck brace which implies physical abuse. The short is moving and hits home on a personal level. Grade: A

Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films-2017

Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films-2017

Directors-Glen Keane, Florian Babikian, Dave Mullins, Ru Kuwahata, Jan Lachauer

Scott’s Review #727

Reviewed February 21, 2018

Grade: A-

Having the honor of being able to view the five short films nominated for the 2017 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at my local art theater was pretty amazing. Far too often dismissed as either irrelevant or completely flying under the radar of animated offerings, it is time to champion these fine little pieces of artistic achievement. On par with or even superseding the full length animated features, each of the five offers a vastly different experience, but each offers either inspired or hopeful messages or dark, devious, and edgy stories. Below is a review of each Short.

Garden Party-2016

Perhaps the strangest of all the shorts,  the viewer is transported into an eerie world of amphibians. Seemingly a pair, but unclear to me if this is so, they seem to either expand or multiply as they follow their primal instincts, navigating a wealthy mansion. Containing spilled champagne, a revolver, and various items that evidence a party, the amphibians jump around and communicate from room to room. When eventually they descend on a dead and bloated fat man in a vast swimming pool, the film ends in mysterious fashion. The short was impressively a French animation school’s graduation project. Grade: A-

Lou-2017

An impressive Pixar product, Lou is the more accessible of all the entries with a heartfelt and uplifting message. In this age of school bullying awareness, the piece is an important one. Chubby J.J. takes pleasure in snatching other kids toys on the playground, keeping them for himself. A sweet creature named Lou collects lost toys and shapes himself using the toys, returning them to various parts of the playground for the kids to find the next day. When Lou and J.J.’s worlds collide, Lou teaches J.J. a valuable lesson in goodness and fairness. Lou is a wonderful short film that must be seen by small children and adults alike to experience a humanistic, wonderful tale. Grade: A

Dear Basketball-2017 (won)

The shortest of all the entries, Dear Basketball is a piece written by NBA superstar Kobe Bryant that features a lovely narrative by a young boy (presumably Bryant himself), who develops a love for the game of basketball and his inevitable rise among the ranks of athletes. As he ages, his body wears down and he realizes his time on the court has come to an end. The storytelling in Dear Basketball is inspiring to young boys and girls everywhere and, never mind that it is a piece about basketball, can be an inspired message really about anything. My one slight gripe to this Short is its minimal length and I wonder if it could have been fleshed out slightly. Grade: B+

Revolting Rhymes-2016

By far my favorite of the bunch and also by far the longest in length, the offering based on the book of the same name by legendary author, Roald Dahl, Revolting Rhymes is a dark and disturbing collection of fairy tales, all intertwined. As a wolf engages an old woman in a coffee shop and regales her with stories of his two nephews, he incorporates the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, and the Three Little Pigs into his story telling until the wolf does something dire to the woman. The short is only part one of a two part collection as part one concludes with a cliffhanger assuring the viewer will see the next chapter. With a crisp written story and intelligent premise, Revolting Rhymes is the most unique and most deserving of the Oscar statuette since the complexities alone make it the most cerebral. Grade: A

Negative Space-2017

Negative Space, another wonderful French nugget, is an exemplary stop-motion story about an odd relationship between a father and son. The pair, whose psychological elements are not too heavily dissected, but with a longer piece, could be, clearly have some bonding issues. The father works as a frequently traveling businessman, and father and son strangely bond solely over packing a suitcase and the efforts to never leave an inch of suitcase space under-utilized. As the father eventually dies and lies in a coffin, the son is bothered by the leftover space the coffin leaves. A macabre and humorous Short, I was left wanting more backstory of said father and son but what a clever tale Negative Space is. Grade: A

The Red Balloon-1956

The Red Balloon-1956

Director-Albert Lamorisse

Starring-Pascal Lamorisse

Scott’s Review #170

220px-Red_balloon

Reviewed September 15, 2014

Grade: A

The Red Balloon is a poignant short film (34-minute running time) in its innocence and creativity. The film is directed by acclaimed French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse. It tells the story of a young Parisian boy named Pascal who befriends a special red balloon that arrives out of thin air and greets him one day.

Amazingly, the balloon follows him everywhere and they become inseparable friends. The balloon has a mind of its own and acts as a protector of Pascal from schoolyard bullies and others who do not understand nor care about his bond with the balloon. The balloon does not leave his side and during school hours and sleeping hours faithfully waits outside for Pascal. Director Lamorisse’s children play Pascal and a little girl with a similar blue balloon.

The entire film is shot in Paris so many beautiful glimpses of the city are featured. The neighborhood (Belleville) where most of the adventure involving little Pascal and his balloon meandering through the streets to and from school, sadly no longer exists and was destroyed in the 1960s due to decay. It is a bleak, melancholy neighborhood that perfectly contrasts the extreme brightness of the balloon.

The Red Balloon is a thought-provoking short film and effectively contains almost no dialogue. None is needed as a powerful message of friendship, heartbreak, and loyalty is portrayed. The climax of the film is heartbreaking yet uplifting. The Red Balloon is a film for all ages to enjoy and fall in love with and, in fact, for many years the film was shown to children by educators.  The Red Balloon is the only short film to ever win the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay).

Oscar Nominations: Best Screenplay-Original (won)