It’s that time of the year again. The time of great stress, fear, and junk food. It is indeed finals week. But for those able to take a break this past Friday night were treated to a grand display of student films. They’re silly, heartbreaking, provocative, and while not always good, are always an interesting treat.
Clay Play – Maren Gainey
An adorable test of animation where a piece of clay transforms into different shapes depending on the image shown on a nearby photo frame. The way the blob of clay transformed into different shapes, and the way these shapes transitioned into themselves, was a joy to see. For instance, after transforming into a snowman, the blob melts into a puddle and becomes a palm tree after the picture changes from snowflakes to a beach. It’s a great exercise in animation and I’d like to see this concept taken farther.
(Untitled) – Daniel Larson & Katy Dezellar
When you’re working in any artistic format, chances are you’re going to run into a mental block. This is exactly the kind of problem our protagonist runs into, as he tries to create without inspiration. The use of negative white space is used appropriately well given the subject matter. The angles and antics of our favorite artist are a pleasure to watch. And the buildup it creates for the ending sequence is put to great effect. In short, a fine piece of art that never feels uninspired.
RPM 2 – Ryan Fox
What happens when you put a go-pro camera on your car’s tire rim and drive up and down Prospect? Well that is exactly what Ryan Fox set out to do, and the results are breathtaking. The spinning neon lights accompanied by the ever increasing intensity of the sounds gives me the same feeling I had with the very end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. All that’s missing is still shots of Ryan’s face interspersed throughout the sequence.
The End of the Ladder – Hannah Christensen
A documentary about a firefighter about to face retirement. The speaker has a lot of great things to say and the shots of the fire station emphasize his words. For instance, the film shows the firemen eating dinner together when the speaker talks about the camaraderie of the people there. But overall, I feel like these shots could have been a bit stronger; maybe you can show the firemen actually putting out fires?
Kodama – Alex Catalano, Spencer Ortega, Damien Klavern, Joe Beber, Carter Green, Xavier Whitaker, Austin Rogers, & Elizabeth Guokas
Ever watched Captain Planet and wished that there was more supernatural spooks and murder? Well, my friend, you have very niched interests (and are slightly insane). But this film is just for you. Jokes aside, this is a very well orchestrated film about a vengeful spirit connected to a tree. The angles, acting, setting, and sound design all come together in a surreal ride that makes you think about its narrative instead of just spoiling everything for you.
Cutie and Baby – Elizabeth Guokas
This film stars two lovers as they enjoy each other’s company as a voiceover of the woman complaining about her job plays in the background. I’m sure Elizabeth did great work helping out with Kodama, the previous entry, but this film needs some more subtly and direction. I’m sure there some sort of meaning behind the juxtaposition of the narrative and the film, but it’s too disconnected to gleam anything. And the distraction of the sexually charged scenes, with one involving our lovers licking each other’s bodies and eyeballs in a bathtub, don’t help matters either.
Dodgem’ Cars – Maren Gainey
The filmmaker behind Clay Play returns for another cute experiment in stop motion animation. The film consists of a kazoo and a sushi-styled stapler speeding about as if they were moved about by an imaginative child. But there isn’t much else to this ten second short. Regardless, I can see this idea expanded upon with more footage and a few special effects.
Little Red – Sarah K. Henry
A five second Little Red Riding Hood with a unique twist. The manipulation of sand against a light box, while put to use in other works, is still a very unique and difficult medium for a stop-motion short. I’d like to see this short expanded upon, but as a person who actually took a class where we learned and experienced how gut-wrenchingly frustrating animating with sand is, I can understand why this flick is so short.
Pup’s Irish Pub – Brady Loughrin
There are many establishments in Milwaukee to get your beer fix. But this film chronicles an average day at one particular establishment, Pup’s Irish Pub, which is owned by the uncle of the filmmaker. The film does a good job of portraying the atmosphere of the people and the place itself as it changes throughout the day; from sleepy to lively and back again. I think that this would be a good setup for a bigger narrative. But as it stands, it serves to bring out the feel of a bar for a place that looks genuinely fun to be in.
Vivid – Carley Lamb
Have you ever stared on the droplets on the window during a boring car trip in the rain? Well so has Carley Lamb, and it inspired her to create this piece. Despite being more of an experiment than a narrative, it’s still a sight to behold. The way the light circles around the droplets as the flow down the window with the organic and ambient music is a relaxing treat, especially after the more tense films in this festival.
Dinosaur – Spencer Ortega
We’ve seen the narrative of the person in a dead end job who wishes to follow his dreams done before in a variety of films. But I never seen it done so humorously. This film follows the journey of a dinosaur loving office worker as he searches for something more. Everything from the shots of the “transformation” of our hero into a dinosaur to him opening a quivering, glowing box with a key is all done professionally and makes the his antics genuine and relatable. And all with hardly any dialogue. Even though some parts of the narrative are not as clear as others, especially towards the end, it speaks to the dinosaur lover in all of us.
Acrylic on Canvas – Leo Felming
While (Untitled) shows the process of artistic achievement in a more experimental way, this film does so in the style of a documentary. It’s interesting to hear and see the process of the artist’s work, especially about working with the art community in Milwaukee, but the film doesn’t do anything special with the medium. We hear that the artists starts out with an emotion and works his way from that, but we don’t see or hear how that emotion is applied to the piece he is working on. Which is a shame especially since his art is so abstract and not easily understandable.
Thy Kingdom Come – Kirsten Stuck
It’s great to see student films using animation, as they’re not as prevalent as the live action films in this festival. But I never imagined that I would see 3D animation in a student film. This film follows the same structure as games like The Stanley Parable and Gone Home, where you walk around and just witness the world as you learn about its lore. But while those games work because you’re directly changing and interacting with the world around you, it doesn’t work as well for film; a more passive and noninteractive experience. The audience is left to watch a crazy world that they don’t feel a part of, which in turn sucks us out. Being based off the creator’s dreams, the visuals are naturally weird and non-sensible; in one part, Jesus Christ vomits keys from the mouth in his belly. Dreams are an interesting concept to toy with, as well as its religious overtones, but some context and direction are needed in order for it to have a point.
Diminishing – Gunther Rosentreter
This film explores the fading of memories and stories using digital effects, 16mm footage, and 8mm home movies. As you can guess, the old footage combined with the more modern visual effects are used to brilliant effect. This film must have meant a lot to the creator, which really shows. The only problem is that the sequence where we zoom away from the planets, while impressive for a student, has been done to death in cinema, right alongside explosions, slow motion, and anything else Michael Bay has ruined.
Napoleon’s Garden – Michael Frank
Napoleon is known as a conqueror with a huge need for compensation. But hardly anyone knows about the gardens he commissioned on St. Helen where he was exiled, mostly because they probably do not exist. But this film thoroughly believes in this endeavor, and is absolutely brilliant for doing so. The humor is as dry and clever as an average episode of Monty Python. And the acting of our characters as well as the concept really sets this film apart from the others.