Film Reviews

Shorts Illustrated

If the feature-length stuff isn't doing it for you these days -- and who could blame you if it wasn't? -- here are three pieces of short-form cinema you can take in easily this week.

The short with the major Valley connection is The Steamer Cleaner, a mordant little comedy about a creepy experience that befalls a door-to-door carpet-cleaner salesman with a less-than-inspiring pitch. Clocking in at under 15 minutes, this debut effort by Jae Staats (an assistant video coordinator for the Phoenix Suns) and his brother Kai Staats was shot in a picturesque Central Phoenix historic district and features a funny performance by Nate Pleger as the salesman, and a flavorful musical score by Karen Bea. It's a modest effort in terms of content, but it's very handsomely made, demonstrating the potential of digital video to create top-quality productions for very little money. The Steamer Cleaner can be seen on and on

Through a remarkable collage of archival photos and footage, Then There Were None chronicles the little-acknowledged story of how Hawaiian native traditions have been trivialized, and indigenous Hawaiian ethnicity very nearly obliterated by the influx of American culture. The 26-minute short is the work of Elizabeth Lindsey Buyers, former Miss Hawaii and actress in numerous films, including Bulworth and Next Stop, Wonderland, and television shows, including China Beach and Star Trek: The Next Generation. She also holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology. Buyers produced, directed, wrote and narrated the film, adding her family history to the grim general account and punctuating the timeline with a tally of the dwindling "pure Hawaiian" population: More than half a million in 1778; 40,000 in 1893; fewer than 10,000 today. The director, who also goes by the name Elizabeth Kapyu'uwailani Lindsey, is slated to be present at a screening of the film, part of the New Horizons Film Festival, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 29, at Paradise Valley Community College. (For details see Thursday in Night & Day.)

Animator Paul Fierlinger's sweet but moody, and occasionally disturbing half-hour film Still Life With Animated Dogs is a self-narrated chronicle of Fierlinger's life, organized into episodes involving the more memorable of the many dogs he's owned, both as a dissident artist in Czechoslovakia and as a resident of the U.S. The animation is lyrical and charming, and many of the episodes are funny, but there's an unsparing dark side to the material, too. Fierlinger's dogs resemble more realistic, less pungent versions of George Booth's dog drawings, and they show the same sort of closely observed personalities. The film isn't just cute -- there's an avowal of the loss that comes with dog ownership, and also of the hard reality of where pets fit into our lives as priorities. Though the movie makes no great didactic point, it resonates, elusively but upsettingly, with political and spiritual meanings. Still Life With Animated Dogs is scheduled to be shown at 10:30 p.m. Thursday, March 29, and again at midnight on Saturday, March 31, on KAET-TV Channel 8.

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M.V. Moorhead
Contact: M.V. Moorhead