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Shorts Showcase - HERE LIES JOE / FATAL PREMONITION / GREG'S GUARDIAN ANGEL

We look at another trio of recent shorts.

Reviews by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)


Here Lies Joe
There is a moment in Mark Battle’s bittersweet, sardonic short Here Lies Joe wherein central character Z (Andi Morrow) - who is a member, alongside the rest of the cast, of the sort of suicide support group that Chuck Palahniuk would write at his most blackly comic - reads a self-penned poem to her gloomy compatriots. The verse is a new draft of her suicide note, but, much to Z’s consternation, the poem doesn’t quite land with the rest of the ‘survivors’, whom she calls out for not appreciating the elegy’s artistry and use of form; "this is iambic pentameter, this is fucking Shakespearean!", Z rails. Aside from setting this impressive short’s acerbic tone, Z’s poem is also a fitting metaphor for Here Lies Joe’s nuance and carefully measured structure, which begins with wry flippancy yet builds to a gripping and affecting finale.
Z and the titular Joe (dishevelled Clive Owen alike Dean Temple) hit it off in the support group, and, upon leaving, embark upon on a small road (block?) trip, cinema’s grand metaphor for self-discovery used here in effective mini. Z and Joe are kindred spirits, serious about the last emotional resort which they find themselves in. The other doyens of the support group are presented as self-pitying, as counterfeit as the cheesy slogans that adorn the walls of the class; It gets better! Find your Bliss! Give Life a Chance!, the sort of blandishments that I would imagine serve to intensify feelings of low self-esteem, not counter the bleakness.
So what is the solution? Cinema Cupids Battle and co-writer Pamela Conway hit straight at the heart by developing the relationship between Joe and Z, with the latter taking Joe to a graveyard to climb trees and eat strawberries; a sort of manic pixie nightmare girl. But, just when you are perhaps beginning to find the tone a little too kooky cute, the film takes a turn towards a genuinely felt and devastating finale, which, despite its emotive heft, feels completely earned. Elegantly shot with likeable, compelling performances, Here Lies Joe lingers in the imagination and the heart.

Fatal Premonition
More attempts at preventing death are to be found in Ryan Crepack and David Esposito’s comedy sketch Fatal Premonition. Esposito plays Landon, a cocky young upstart who lands a job placing him as hapless pal Ed’s (Crepack) boss. But that’s not all, as Landon, an arrogant irritant, is also blessed with a nascent precognition that buffers his fortune; as Landon says, his prosperity is due to ‘luck’. There’s a nice line in satire suggested here, riffing on how far ascent of the corporate ladder depends upon unfair serendipity. The film, however, doesn’t fully flesh this concept out. We don’t really see the effects of Landon’s authority on his pal, as Crepack and Esposito instead focus upon Landon’s premonition of his own murder, which may or may not cause him to amend his boorish ways. Making the most of its budget limitations with a game cast and a witty script, Fatal Premonition is still a fun short.


Greg's Guardian Angel
Following premonitions and grim excursions into the middle ground between life and death, we fittingly finish with Greg’s Guardian Angel, Dan Kowalski and Dan Conrad’s comedy short about the eponymous Greg (Greg Vorob) and his misadventures with the titular angel (Elmer J. Santos), as he attempts to negotiate the everyday conventions of dating and promotion. The broad comedy strokes of the opening act - the angel offers zen wisdom and cookie tips - is the sort of thing I never really go for, but as the film developed, Greg’s Guardian Angel won even me over. It raised a chuckle, and, furthermore, the film has intriguing ideas concerning how people are quick to relinquish their own agency, basing their decisions upon the advice of others. Timothy J. Cox gives his usual solid performance as a domineering boss (Greg’s potential beguiling demon?), and, like Fatal Premonition, the film’s corporate setting of fake smiles, tie etiquette and insecurity is pertinent to the themes of self-doubt and social protocol. A vibrant and amusing short.



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