Sci Fi Short: Scavenger

I love when I run across something that reminds me of all the good things people can do.

This sci-fi short imagines an alien running across the Voyager 1 spacecraft and its precious cargo of music, greetings in multiple languages, and children singing. The alien is understandably entranced, and falls in love with humanity and a human woman, causing him to seek out Earth. Yes, it’s the plot of the first Star Trek movie – cut me some slack, I’ve had a rough week.  

I love being reminded that despite the news, Good Things are still happening. People are still communicating messages of hope by making art and music and working together on passion projects.

I love that technology amplifies crystalline notes of hope, and that anyone with the bandwidth and computer access can experience it.

I love that someone imagined an alien falling in love with the best of what humans are capable of.

I love this, and that I’m still alive to appreciate it.

I love.

Guest Post – ‘Real Artists’ Review by Achariya Rezak

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Hi all! Today I’ve got something really special – my dear friend Achariya Rezak, writer for hockey site SB Nation and master of Jungian archetypes, wrote a review for sci-fi short ‘Real Artists.’ Please enjoy! She’s included a link to the original Ken Liu story, too! 

Title: Cameo Wood’s Real Artists is a Jungian romp through the politics of creation

When I read Ken Liu’s short story, I was immediately struck by his ability to translate our modern discomfort with the uncanny valley into terms of movie making. His short story is about the meta-process of filmmaking, told through the eyes of a “real artist” (“Real Artists” is the title of the film and the short story) Sophia, who has spent her whole life loving — and wanting to work for — a certain film company. Cameo Wood’s twelve-minute short based on this story adds yet another twist, layering on an additional intensity to this parable about creation.

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Sci-Fi Short – Real Artists

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Screenshot from the ‘Real Artists’ site

Sometimes I try to help new or independent filmmakers reach a wider audience. I do this of my own choosing and without receiving or expecting any payments or favors in return. I do not do this for everyone, but feel free to ask!

Recently my good friend Achariya put me in touch with filmmaker Cameo Wood about reviewing the sci-fi short Real Artists. I’ll be honest, a science fiction short starring a black woman and an Asian woman, written and directed by a woman, based upon a Ken Liu short story, about a filmmaker who gets her dream job?  Take me there! 

With that mix of components, it would have been easy for me to just rubber-stamp the movie as ‘Great! This checks all my boxes and you should give the filmmakers money!’ and move on – but I wanted to be sure I gave it a proper, objective look.

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Florida Film Festival 2016

The Florida Film Festival did not pay or ask me to write this post. I am writing about it to promote the festival and spread the word on Florida’s entertainment culture, which, contrary to popular belief, isn’t just police dash cams of people setting things on fire or news stories chronicling the adventures of Florida Man and Florida Woman. 

Regrettably I wasn’t able to see as many films this year as I would have liked, but I still got out a couple of times. It was nice just being out among other filmgoers and seeing all the hullabaloo of people standing in lines at an event.

Well, here we go!

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A ‘There’s Hope for the Future!’ entry: Florida Film Festival, Animated Shorts #5

Maybe I’ve been out of the independent cinema world a little bit, but seeing these amazing films made me really, really hopeful for the future of cinema. That there are such imaginative filmmakers waiting in the wings, to take over the studio system, makes me think that the next 10-15 years in cinema are going to be really, really amazing.

Last night I actually managed to get across Orlando in record time in order to see my first film in this year’s Florida Film Festival, a collection of short animated films.

They were amazing.

Nathan pointed out while we were there that previously, we had been to see the MIDNIGHT shorts, which were a whole other thing–those were usually full of childish scatalogical humor, and left me wondering why the hell any of these people thought they had a future in filmmaking. And wanting my time back.

Not so last night!

Last night, not only was animator Bill Plympton (of Hair High, I Married a Strange Person, and other well-known cult animations fame) in the audience, but not one entry left me dissatisfied. Even the weird, more esoteric one, the Wonder Hospital, I think it was called, was a treat, because it was so weird and otu there it forced me to dust off my enjoyment of the abstract. Eventually I understood it, but anything that’s not facile is always a treat. 

It wasn’t just that the shorts were so creative, but I was impressed by how polished they were. One of them (the one about flying books) looked like an early Pixar piece, and the emcee actually pointed that out, remarking that he’d thought they had submitted an entry to the festival. There was also a common thread of existentialism running through them, but rather than the dreary postwar type, it was a more positive existentialism, that kind that totally aligns with my own personal philosophy of ‘Make the most of what you have.’

I wish I had time to track down the websites for each entry; maybe I’ll do that later today. But if you have a chance to catch any of them at other festivals, here are a few of the names I can remember.

Annie and Danny – A short about an elderly couple’s relationship. Reminded me of the first 10 minutes of ‘UP!’ And I totally cried.

The Birds Upstairs – Stop motion done in the style of a Regency-style anti-romance, about two people (puppets with birdskull heads) and their attempt to conceive and raise a child. Amazing.

Bottle – Long-distance romance between sand and snow, who come to know each other by communicating through a bottle.

Fred – Another stop motion in which a performer (who looks kind of like a muppet) tries to talk himself into quitting his performance. I had the feeling he was going to be a ventriloquist’s dummy, since his boss seemed to be a shouting hand, but it was never confirmed. I wasn’t as keen on this one, although the execution was amazing. I just wasn’t sure why I should care about this seemingly bitter, worn out character.

Tales of Mere Existence – Untraditional 2D animation containing very witty observations on relationships and masculinity. Writing reminded me of David Sedaris.

Guard Dog Global Jam –  Plympton’s entry, which was a sort of redux of his other short, Guard Dog, but all the segments had been done by amateur animators from around the world. He mentioned there were entries from an Iranian woman and a young Chinese boy. 

The Deep – Stop motion animation of keys, gears, and other mechanical devices arranged to resemble abyssal plain creatures. Very creative.

Always, Only, and Ever – A monster deals with a breakup, drunkenly. MUCH better than the summation makes it sound!

Forensic Science  – A young couple visiting San Francisco with too much interest in forensic science are convinced their driver may be the Zodiac Killer. The animation reminded me of the PS3 game Little Big Planet, in that everything had a handmade feel and rich textures.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (here’s a link for this one!) – Amazing, amazing story about a man who discovers a sort of library where the books are all alive, and in caring for them comes to understand the importance of a good story. Totally made me cry, in its beauty and simplicity.

Maybe I’ve been out of the independent cinema world a little bit, but seeing these amazing films made me really, really hopeful for the future of cinema. That there are such imaginative, talented filmmakers waiting in the wings, to take over the studio system, makes me think that the next 10-15 years in cinema  are going to be really, really amazing.