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Case Number 20865: Small Claims Court

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Ann Arbor Film Festival DVD Collection, Volume 3

IndiePix // 2009 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // March 9th, 2011

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All Rise...

Bars and tone is one of Appellate Judge James A. Stewart's favorite classic TV shows.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Ann Arbor Film Festival DVD Collection, Volume 1: Time Pieces (published January 17th, 2009) and Ann Arbor Film Festival DVD Collection, Volume 2: Unexplored Territories (published January 14th, 2010) are also available.

The Charge

"The longest-running independent and experimental film festival in North America."

The Case

With 48th Ann Arbor Film Festival: DVD Collection Volume 3, it's time to get weird, with alien invasions, robots, a cat and mouse couple, blood and body parts, and talking animals on the program.

The disc has nine short films:

• "Black Rain"
The fast, flickering images are puzzling but visually interesting. The background card that comes with the DVD says this stuff comes from STEREO, a pair of satellites following Earth's solar orbit. It's from England's Semiconductor (Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt). (3 minutes)

• "The Attack of the Robots from Nebula-5"
A man tells viewers about the cosmic telegraph ray that changed his life by warning of an alien threat. He's serious, but it's silly. The film is in Spanish with English subtitles, and by Spain's Chema Garcia Ibarra. (7 minutes)

• "From the Archives of an Inventor"
This story of a man and his robot is just too long for a one-joke short. Once it turns boring, it's boring—even when the robot turns up at a topless parade. It's from Wisconsin's Stephen Wetzel, and it somehow won a jury award. (20 minutes)

• "Please Say Something"
A cartoon cat and mouse work through an unhappy marriage. The situations are extreme (it's a cartoon), but it has the ring of reality. It's also got a stylish computerized look. It's touching in a just plain strange sort of way. In meows and squeaks, with English subtitles that include profanity. It's from Germany's David OReilly, and it won the festival's best animated film award. (10 minutes)

• "Travelling Fields"
It looks like the fields—and a city—are travelling, upside-down. It's interesting to look at, anyway. This film is by Norway's Inger Lise Hansen. (9 minutes)

• "The Presentation Theme"
Inspired by the novel Sex and Death, it's about…sex and death, with a protagonist on a grim journey to see a priestess for some answers. It's crudely drawn, and that includes the meaning that covers "privates" and sex scenes. There's also some blood and body parts. It's by Chicago's Jim Trainor, and it won something called The Stan Brakhage Film at Wit's End Award. (14 minutes)

• "Vineland"
A drive-in is seen from a variety of angles as action and mayhem play out on the big screen. There's an interesting-looking industrial bleakness here. The card says this came from Los Angeles' last drive-in. It's by California's Laura Kraning, and it won a well-deserved jury award. (10 minutes)

• "Sleeping Bear"
Scenes from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan range from blades of grass to waves to an abandoned house. In grainy black-and-white with mainly ambient sound, it's sort of like an arty relaxation travelogue. Ann Arbor's Jack Cronin won the Best Michigan Filmmaker Award for it. (11 minutes)

• "Beauty Plus Pity"
A mix of animation and live footage provides the visuals for ruminations on children, deer hunting, zoos, and religion. There's profanity and irreverence toward religion (a song with animation presents God in need of his meds). Duke & Battersby of Syracuse, New York, claimed the Best of Festival Award for it. (14 minutes)

Minimal extras include two ad spots for the festival, a short on the making of one of the spots (it's interesting, actually), and bars and tone, presumably for viewers looking for something comforting and familiar from TV's past. The picture quality varies, but most of the source material could be described as rough.

If you aren't particularly a fan of short films, I didn't see anything here that's likely to change your mind. However, if you're already into the experimental, particularly if it's just plain strange, you'll want to check these out. While I was only impressed about half the time, I only found one ("From the Archives of an Inventor") tedious.

If you're in Los Angeles, you might want to check out that drive-in, too.

The Verdict

Not guilty. Bend your mind nine times, if you wish.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 88

Perp Profile

Studio: IndiePix
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Independent
• Short Films

Distinguishing Marks

• Promos
• Background Card

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