We’re stuck at home, obsessing about the news, worrying about our families, worrying about our job situation. We need a break! So every day, our writers will share a short film, a scene, an inexplicable clip that they love. We hope you’ll enjoy it, too.
April 1, 2020
A Game Show Goes Haywire
I kept myself sane after 9/11 by devouring reruns of the ’80s game show “Press Your Luck” — the mantra “Big bucks, no Whammies!” helped me stay calm. Amid our latest global crisis, I’ve turned to repeats of “Match Game” from the ’70s, and they make me feel like I’m home from elementary school watching TV on a sick day, not self-quarantined during a pandemic.
Everything I adore about “Match Game” can be relished in this five-minute clip from a 1977 episode, including a surreal question about King Kong sitting on a pony, the panelist Brett Somers’s batty digression about how the “Chorus Line” co-author James Kirkwood should be booked as a guest, and comrade Charles Nelson Reilly wearing a wacky cap and puffing on a pipe. But the bizarro climax begins halfway through when another of the show’s regulars, Richard Dawson, loses his cool while trying to convince the judges they should give him credit for what he meant to write as an answer, not what he actually wrote.
Dawson, who explains he was up all night appearing on a telethon and must be “punchy,” cycles through anger, pleading, self-pity and threats. At one point, the “Hogan’s Heroes” veteran grabs host Gene Rayburn’s customary skinny microphone and curses the judges for their unjust ruling.
The show descends into anarchy as the producers taunt Dawson with buzzers and other agitating sound effects, and he starts to walk off the set, declaring himself “obviously all washed up.” Perhaps his apparent willingness to quit can be attributed to the fact that Dawson had already started hosting another, ultimately higher-rated game show, “Family Feud.”
In any case, the clip remains riveting and — in “Match Game” parlance — crazy as a “blank.”
March 31, 2020
The Devil Made Them Do It
Worst. Satanists. Ever.
That’s the tagline for “Born Again,” a wickedly playful short about incompetent devil worshipers who bumble through a summoning of their dark master. The film hits the trifecta of short form horror-comedy: It’s funny, it’s gory and it’s not even seven minutes.
As the film opens, everything is in place for the arrival of evil incarnate. A pregnant woman groans in labor with a pentagram on the floor before her. She’s surrounded by Satanist disciples — named Zahguhrim, Marduk and Aranunna — decked out in voluminous robes and elaborate masks.
Here’s the problem: Greg, the fourth member of their cabal, is late with the ritual scripture and, well, isn’t great at Satanism. When the group’s wicked messiah finally arrives, let’s just say it comes as a hell of a surprise.
What’s great about “Born Again” is that the director, Jason Tostevin, shows a shrewd sense of comedy and timing, and his sharp ensemble of actors makes it click. To keep horror fans happy, there’s buffoonish blood and guts and a dash of blasphemy. Kudos to the special effects designer Shane Howard for making a mess on a dime. As for the story, I hope actual Satanists have a sense of humor.
March 30, 2020
Bodies in Abstract Motion
The experimental filmmaker Jodie Mack is secretly one of the best directors of musicals working today, with prism-paletted stop-motion animation collages set to the sounds of Skype ringtones or her own original music. One of my favorite professors introduced me to her work in college, including this 2016 short “Curses,” a quasi-music video for the bedroom pop band Roommate.
Rather than jumping immediately into her animation, she moves languidly and dreamlike from falling confetti bits, shot horizontally like a river stream of remnants of a birthday party, to her marble printed paper, snipped and pruned, various shades layered one on top of the other.
Mack’s filmmaking and editing to music and sound aren’t overly presentational, but feel organic, as if her images and audio are inextricably finding natural and symbiotic rhythms in one another. Her relationship to music and picture dazzles without showiness.
In “Curses,” there’s whimsy, frivolity and a simple challenge to the viewer to be carried along by color and sound. Mack’s work is special because it finds a complexity in emotion — ebullience, subtle melancholy, even thrill — in deceptively simple animations (though the work obviously requires a lot of labor on Mack’s part).
In these gorgeous abstractions, you can see or imagine hands touching, bodies flailing, the silhouettes of people dancing, and finally, two people running to one another as if they’re floating on a gentle, multicolored fantasy.