Updated: Jan 27
Hair Wolf, dir. Mariama Diallo (2018) ★★★★☆
I knew it was going to be a long week for adventures and meeting up with my family when I arrived back in Chicago, so I decided on a handful of shorts to watch. All of these were available through the Criterion Channel; it's a streaming service I recommend to anyone wanting to explore film more.
Hair Wolf pays homage to 60s horror films, specifically giallo movies. The neon colors and costumes reminded me of the works of Dario Argento and Emilio Miraglia while not being a total rip-off. It's pure camp and uses black culture as a throughline to stabilize the otherwise wacky picture. The main problem is how dated the humor got so fast; it realizes on pop culture for the jokes and while some of them relate to the history of black empowerment, the bits that have a strong focus on 2017 and 2018 fall flat.
Moonbird, dir. John Hubley (1959) ★★★☆☆
For a short from the 50s, this is incredibly experimental. I knew I wanted a bit of animation in my schedule for this week and this fit the bill. It won best short at the Oscars in 1960, and reflects a mature style of filmmaking despite its thoroughly immature subject matter.
The dialogue for the film is simply a conversation between two children. They tell a story about capturing a bird and it was set to animation. This is very different from how most voice acting is done today and it stands out as an innovation in storytelling.
Les 3 Boutons, dir. Agnes Varda (2015) ★★★☆☆
Despite her importance to film I have never seen one of Varda's movies. Perhaps to was the lack of interest my teachers displayed in female filmmakers, or simply that I haven't gotten around to her in my own studies. This was a charming little short from much later in her career about a magical dress and a young girls journey through adolescence. It's a good gateway piece and I hope to view more of her films this year.
The Running, Jumping & Standing Still Film, dir. Richard Lester and Peter Sellers (1959) ★★☆☆☆
This movie was included with Criterion's A Hard Day's Night collection. Anyone that has ever met me knows I'm a die hard Beatles fan. It doesn't have much to do with the beatles but it is drenched in the same humor of the film as it is directed by Richard Lester. It's that weird british slapstick sort of vibe that was often implemented in Monty Python films and shorts.
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, dir. Les Blank (1980) ★★★★☆
As I strive for weekly variety in my movie lists, documentaries are always an easy pick for me. Usually I love learning about music or film, but also history in general. This one was a bit of a surrealistic piece despite being nonfiction. The title really explains most of it though: famous director Werner Herzog eats his shoe. You see him wear them, cook them, and then eat them live on stage. Of course, it gives a little more background to the various bets and outrageous claims he makes but focuses on the act of cooking and eating his shoes. I loved it.
Man Rots from the Head, dir. Janicza Bravo (2018) ★★☆☆☆
After one weird one under my belt I reached for another but this time it was a fictional one. Man Rots from the Head is about a salesman that runs into strange people in an apartment building. There nothing more that I love than a cast of wacky characters, each getting wilder as they are introduced. I wanted to like this more than I did, but the acting fell flat.
The Headhunter's Daughter, dir. Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan (2022) ★★★☆☆
I didn't watch this for the story. You shouldn't either. You watch to for the music. The short follows a Filipino girl moving to the big city to try and make it as a musician. The singing, playing, and atmosphere is gorgeous but the narrative aspect pales in comparison to the music in the film. The film was screened at Sundance to positive reviews and is now, like all shorts featured in this post, available for streaming on The Criterion Collection