Movie Review
Short Takes #001

in the effort to broaden our movie coverage on Stylus, we present a new column entitled Short Takes.

Sir No Sir!

A documentary celebrating the anti-war movement inside the military during the Vietnam War, Sir! No Sir! encompasses a wide variety of stories, ideas, and vitriol in its 90-minute length. The action races from the horrors of the military prison that housed conscientious dissenters to the underground clubs, bars, and ‘zines that served as a unifying force, straight through to a debunking of the myth that vets were spit on as they got off the plane from Saigon. Thankfully, documentarian David Zeiger doesn’t pause for breath to make the obligatory reference to the current geo-political situation, though he doesn’t stop to go into depth over much else either—rendering his take just as schematic as the easily fooled press that propagate these untruths in the first place.

Sir No Sir! is playing in limited release across the country throughout 2006. Check for details.

The Sisters

The Sisters is directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman, best known for Like Mother Like Son: The Strange Story of Sante and Kenny Kimes. So, if while watching, you confuse it for a Lifetime movie, you’d be excused. The cast (Mario Bello, Rip Torn, Mary Stuart Masterson) is the only clue that you’re in a theater at all. And what sold them on it, you ask? The script, which was “suggested” by Chekhov’s Three Sisters, allows each actor to chew as heavily on the few pieces of scenery as they’d like. Chris O’Donnell is one of many actors taking full advantage here; so much so that by the end you’ll be remembering his oft-repeated refrain to Will and Grace’s Eric McCormack: “Will you please shut up?”

The Sisters opened in Los Angeles and New York City on April 14th.

Art School Confidential

It’s not giving too much away to say that Art School Confidential ends with a reference to Bresson’s Pickpocket. It’s an easy play from an easy film that picks easy targets for easy jokes. The fact that art school hasn’t been satirized properly before doesn’t excuse Art School Confidential and neither does Daniel Clowes’ day job as a cartoonist. We expect graphic novels from Clowes, and while Ghost World was morally and narratively ambiguous, there’s too much of director Terry Zwigoff’s Bad Santa at work in Art School Confidential to call it anything greater than a sketch.

Art School Confidential will open in theaters across the country in May.

Cartoons: No Laughing Matter?

The titular question of this shorts program is a rhetorical one in 2006—in a world saturated by “naughty” cartoons, though, independent animators still fly under the radar, scrambling for that one idea that will break them to a wider audience. The eight miniatures found in Cartoons: No Laughing Matter? hardly seem destined for the big-time. JJ Villard animates a frightening Bukowski story in scrawled red and black pen, while George Griffin turns his story inside out so many times, you’re unclear where you are after ten minutes.

But the longer-form pieces show promise: Suzan Pitt’s surrealistic “El Doctor” is a stunning visual performance, transforming Nickelodeon-style animations into demented magical realism. Similarly, “The Flooded Playground”’s story is slight, but the visuals are mesmerizing. Lisa Crafts pits a simple story of a doll and an animated egg versus a spider against menacing computer-generated backgrounds.

The best of the bunch is Suzie Templeton’s “Dog,” which mixes a strong story with Wallace-and-Gromit-on-heroin art direction. Such inspired combinations of narrative and visual occur only rarely at Cartoons: No Laughing Matter?, but more often than not, you get enough of one to tide you over until the next short.

Cartoons: No Laughing Matter? opens May 10 and runs until May 23 at Film Forum.

By: Todd Burns
Published on: 2006-05-04
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