Our regular arbiters of short-film taste, Carrie Fisher and Garry Marshall, go at it a bit, mostly playfully, in their discourse over this week’s five flicks.
The contestant field is quickly narrowed to 10 helmers after “Lot” host Adrianna Costa delivers the grim verdict to Shira-Lee Shalit (pictured) at the top of this week’s show. We see a montage of Shira-Lee at work in her trademark straw hats, and then she’s on her way, positive attitude in tow.
“It’s sad to leave, but it’s also: ‘What’s next?’ This is not the end,” Shira-Lee says confidently as she walks off, suitcase rolling behind her.
The assignment for this week’s five contenders is to make a short based on the theme “When two worlds collide.”
Adrianna puts them on notice that the stakes are indeed higher than ever because next week not one but two directors will be eliminated as a result of the public’s vote on this week’s five films.
First up is “Lot” darling Zach Lipovsky, with a characteristically clever idea he’s dubbed “Time Upon a Once.” Hard to describe without seeing it, which can be easily done at www.thelot.com, but suffice it to say that a very straight-laced suburban couple gets some unconventional new neighbors, who raise eyebrows but quickly redeem themselves.
Before the judges open their mouths, the audience Applause-O-Meter is going into the red. Zach’s sheepish grin is pretty wide.
Fisher likes “Time” but admits she “expected a little more” from the golden boy of the competish. Luke Greenfield (2004’s “The Girl Next Door”), this week’s guest judge, has no qualms about professing his love.
“You’re a natural storyteller, man...and we need more of you,” Greenfield enthuses.
Marshall can’t say enough about the dog Zach used.
Hilary Graham steps up next with “The Legend of Donkey-Tail Willie.” It’s a high-concept little fairy-tale Western about a guy who has the misfortune to be saddled with a donkey tail. He’s ostracized, even by the town’s hookers, until one day he meets the girl who was clearly made for him.
Fisher continues to be Hilary’s biggest booster, praising her directorial touches. Greenfield thought it was “overall a good job” but could’ve used more comedic bits here and there. Marshall was happy that Hilary finally took his direction and “backed up” enough to deliver some wide shots.
Will Bigham also goes Western in his short, “Spaghetti,” meant as a comedic homage to the spaghetti-Westerns he loves. He packs in most of the motifs in a short amount of time: Slit-eyed guy wearing a blanket, smoking a cigarillo and clicking his jingle-jangling spurs together. The introduction of a contemporary cellphone-wielding gunslinger makes it a fun few minutes. It gets a good response from the crowd.
Fisher is happy to see Will deliver some dialogue for a change. “Welcome to the talkies,” she said. “I thought it was really cute.”
Greenfield thought he needed to drive home the subject of his parody a little harder and a “little more punch” of an ending. But he still declared it a “great job.”
Marshall was upbeat and praised Will’s economy of production.
“You had one set and three actors,” he observed. “Producers will love you.”
Following Will, Shalini Kantayya had the toughest time of the night. She sought to make a strong point about materialism in contemporary culture and the importance of looking beyond the surface of Prada handbags and Jimmy Choo shoes.
But the end result in “First Sight” was something of a PSA, and two out of three judges weren’t shy about saying so.
“There’s a saying in Hollywood,” Fisher instructed Shalini. “If you want to send a message, leave it at the beep.”
Greenfield said he felt like the short “took branding iron with morality and burned me with it. It felt preachy.” But Marshall leaped to Shalini’s defense.
“Worlds are colliding here. I liked it,” he said. “Women in will tear up.”
“What about subtlety,” Fisher said, with anything but.
“Subtlety is what plays in Connecticut, where nobody goes…,” Marshall responded, prompting Fisher to (gently) pummel him on the shoulder.
“I like Connecticut,” Fisher countered.
“Well, you go to Connecticut. I’ll go see Shalini’s films,” Marshall counter-countered.
In the final slot tonight was Adam Stein and his “Worldly Possession.” A Pentagon bureaucrat’s mishap with a cup of coffee winds up sending a package meant for Andrews Air Force Base to one “Andrew Bates,” an empty-headed suburban status-seeker with an equally soulless, avaricious wife.
When they learn their strange new globe can yield them great riches, greed gets the better of them, and their entire tract-house-dwelling neighborhood. The actors who play the couple are particularly good, as Greenfield notes in his remarks.
Fisher declares it her “favorite film of the night” but Marshall admits to being a bit confused about the whole thing, which brings more groans and mock fighting from Fisher.
Fisher sticks to her guns and cites “Worldly Possession” as her fave of the night when Adrianna asks. Greenfield is still swooning over Zach's “Time Upon a Once.” Marshall votes for the one he calls the “most improved filmmaker,” Hilary and “The Legend of Donkey-Tail Willie.”
Next week, it’s time for some car-crashes, chase sequences and pyrotechnics as the five other remaining contestants are challenged to show what they can do in the action-adventure genre.