Thursday, May 4, 2006

IF THE SQUIB FITS...

Posted on Thu, May 4, 2006 at 4:00 AM

****
2006 Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts
Rated: NOT RATED
Release Date: 2006-05-05
WorkNameSort: 2006 Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts
Our Rating: 4.00

I'd like to begin this review with a shout-out to 'Mark,â?� the apparently mononymic movie critic for something called Pacific West Monthly, who recently wrote in to castigate me for comparing Lucky Number Slevin to the works of Quentin Tarantino.

'Idiotic reviewers routinely use this short-hand 'like Tarantino' because they are misinformed, ignorant, or lazy,â?� he wrote. 'Please smarten up and get some originality.â?�

Thanks, Mark! And welcome to the critical fraternity. Your copious interpersonal skills should serve you well here. To explain why I ' and just about every other surnamed reviewer in the country ' saw fit to name-check Tarantino while critiquing Slevin, let me just submit: If it walks like a duck, piles up bodies like a duck and drops pop-culture references like a duck, it's probably a duck. (Excuse me; that should be, 'It's a fuckin' DUCK, motherfucker!!â?� BLAM BLAM BLAM!!!)

Anyway, there's a short film floating around called 'Six Shooter,â?� and it's really going to get our pal 'Markâ?� up in arms. The winner of the 2006 Oscar for Best Short Film ' Live Action, it's also become a popular download on iTunes. And it was written and directed by bad-boy British playwright Martin McDonagh ' all of which earned the film the uncommon (for a short, anyway) attention of an article in the New York Times. Guess how the paper of record chose to laud this ultra-sick 27-minute black comedy? By comparing McDonagh favorably to Tarantino. (Hey, Mark: I can get you Caryn James' e-mail if you need it.)

The good news is that 'Six Shooterâ?� effortlessly educes the kind of dropped-jaw delight we all experienced when we first saw (and heard) Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, not the stupor we've since been bludgeoned into by a legion of subpar Tarantino imitators (a group that now includes Quentin himself). A morbid tale about a bunch of bereaved train passengers forced to suffer the incessant yammering of a flagrantly inappropriate young man, the film is willing to find humor in absolutely anything ' from Marvin Gaye's dad to exploding cows to the sad phenomenon of crib (or 'cotâ?�) death.

Faced with the news that a pair of fellow travelers have recently lost their baby, our loose-tongued lad (Rúaidhrí Conroy) breezes that its mother probably 'banged it on somethin'�; gazing at a photo of the deceased tot, he opines that it 'looks like yer man off Bronski Beat.� (Bronski Beat, you'll recall, was an '80s pop band whose singer was very bald and very gay. No word on how he feels to be associated with infantile asphyxiation.)

The lines have the effect not just of Tarantino in his prime, but of all truly great and timely comedy: You laugh first, then look furtively around the room for confirmation that you aren't the only one. You squirm a lot, too, as the mysterious 'Kidâ?� strikes up an uneasy amity with a new widower (Brendan Gleeson) who is at first appalled by his seatmate's coarseness, then develops feelings of protectiveness toward him. Naturally, those charitable impulses lead to all manner of disaster. Cops swarm the train, squibs burst in paroxysms of crimson, and more than one innocent animal takes it on the chin. Beneath the carnage, however, is a stealthy gentleness that's summed up when the Kid helps the grieving widower heal by cautioning him not to be so disappointed in God. After all, 'He cain't be everywhere at once.â?�

'Six Shooterâ?� is part of a touring showcase of Oscar-nominated narrative shorts. None equals the impact of McDonagh's, though a couple have satisfying, O. Henry-esque twists. In the German 'The Runaway,â?� a young boy pesters a single man into a belated reckoning with his past, while the Icelandic 'The Last Farmâ?� shows an aged couple bidding an unconventional farewell to the world. The American 'Our Time Is Upâ?� casts Kevin Pollak as a psychiatrist who learns he's terminally ill and decides to tell his patients the truth for once; it's far more enjoyable than the smug, pseudo-intellectual English export 'Cashback,â?� in which a supermarket employee shares his late-night observations of his co-workers and clientele. The film is basically an excuse for director Sean Ellis to show off new advances in time-shift technology ' and a bunch of naked female bodies he parades in fetishistic 'fantasyâ?� sequences. I'd say that it's The Matrix meets Where the Truth Lies, but that's just the sort of shorthand some readers apparently expect from idiots like me.

(Opens Friday, May 5, at DMAC,
407-992-1200)

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