New from Kevin Wozniak on Kevflix: 2020 Chicago International Film Festival – Comedy Shorts Program

Here are my reviews of the Comedy Shorts Program from the 2020 Chicago International Film Festival.

 

 

 

BLOCKS

Directed by Bridget Moloney

Blocks is a very creative short film about an over-worked mother.  Ashleigh (Claire Coffee) is the mother of two young, rambunctious, messy children.  One day, Ashleigh begins to spontaneously vomit toy blocks.  However, the more blocks that are coming, the close Ashleigh is getting to a breakdown.

Coffee portrays the over-worked Ashleigh perfectly.  Every sigh and every moment of stress is felt through the screen.  Director Bridget Moloney really shows us the stress of a parent, especially one with a not-so-supportive husband.  Though filled with some funny moments, Blocks also plays somewhat of a nightmare for those who don’t have kids, as it shows how consumed your life becomes with them and everything they do.

 

 

PLAY SCHENGEN

Directed by Gunhild Enger

Play Schengen is a short that I wish I was able to watch multiple times as I don’t feel I appreciated the extremely dry sense of humor of the film and probably missed more than a few jokes.

The film details a gaming company’s fraught effort to educate children about the European Union through their newest game.  This is a very quiet film that details how video games are created, from the score to their story, while also layering in humor about wanting to be educational.  Again, it’s very dry and in Norwegian, so I’m sure I missed a few jokes.  But this is definitely a film I want to watch again.

 

 

STICKER

Directed by Georgi Unkovski

Sticker, like Blocks, is a short that similarly looks at a parents nightmare while also being darkly comedic.  The film looks at a man named Dejan who falls into a bureaucratic trap after an unsuccessful attempt to renew his car registration.  The bigger problem, and only thing on his mind, is getting to his daughters dance recital.  Dejan’s patience and determination is pushed to its limit.

Sasko Kocev, gives a stellar performance as Dejan.  He portrays a man who is slowly losing his patience with everything that is happening while also showing the desperation of a man who wants to be a good father to his daughter.  Along with the dark humor of the film, there is a sadness underneath it, as you really feel for Dejan in wanting to get to his daughter’s recital.  Even when his decisions might not be the ethical, we know that everything he is doing is out of love.  Wrapping it up with a darkly sweet ending, Sticker is dark comedy the is buried beneath sadness and desperation.

 

 

DAVID

Directed by Zach Woods

Easily the most high-profile short of this festival program, David is a mumblecore family dramedy about a therapist who’s latest session goes off the rails.

In dire straits and thinking of ending it all, David (William Jackson Parker) turns to his therapist (Will Ferrell) for help, only to have their session disrupted by the therapists son, who also happens to be David (Fred Hechinger).

As crazy as this might sound, but Ferrell gives one of his best performances in a long, long time.  He plays a therapist who has it all together in his sessions and has no issue giving people the right advice, yet can’t control his own son and his own home life.  Ferrell uses his dryer sense of humor here while also flashing a decent amount of dramatic chops.  Director Zach Woods fills the film with awkwardness, humor, and heart, culminating is a sweet ending.

 

 

VIRAGO

Directed by Kerli Kirch Schneider

Virago is one of the more interesting films in this program because it didn’t feel like it belonged here.  Though all the films here are little darker that most comedies are, Virago felt more like an After Dark horror-comedy than a dark comedy.

The film takes place in the cursed village of Virago, where no man has lived long enough to see his fortieth birthday.  Tõnu is about to turn forty and doesn’t know what to expect.

The film does a great job of telling the story of Virago.  It takes through the history of the land and shows, in hilariously dark fashion, all the ways the men in village have died, from catching on fire to bees.  Almost seems like it could have made for an interesting mockumentary.

I really wish the filmed focused more on Tõnu and his emotions about to turn forty.  We really only get that he’s kind of useless, his wife kind of resents, and he’s trying to survive beyond forty.

Though always interesting and very dark, I wish Virago chose which story it wanted to tell better.

 

 

STUMP THE GUESSER

Directed by Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson, and Guy Maddin

 

Stump the Guesser was my favorite short of this really strong group of shorts.  This is an incredible feat of filmmaking and one that blew me away.

Shot like a silent film from the 1920’s, Stump the Guesser is an absurd tale of a man who works at a fairground who can guess anything for a fee.  But suddenly his tricks stop working and in a strange turn of events, he unwittingly falls in love with his sister whom he believed to be lost.

The plot of this movie is so strange and it goes in directions I never thought it would.  I didn’t think this would be a story about a man falling in love with his sister, but it is and you just have to ride it out.  But this is also a story of a man who had everything, lost it, and is willing to forget it all for the love of his life, who also happens to be his long lost sister.  It’s crazy, but it works.

All the credit goes to directors Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson, and Guy Maddin.  This is a visual knockout.  The images are haunting, beautiful, and always stunning and the movie movies at a speedy pace.  Also have to give credit to Adam Brooks who plays our Guesser with a maddening genius.

It might be strange, but Stump the Guesser is one of the best shorts I have seen this year.

 

 

 

 

 

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