second-guessing slate’s sci-fi shorts selections, day 4

Another day, another doorknob, and another sci-fi short reviewed from Slate.com’s 2012 best-of list. Spoilers ahead, so watch the film first.

Seed is the first short of this series that feels like the script and production design are both so classy that I might be watching a wide-release indie film. All of these shorts have professional-looking FX and mostly solid cinematography, but a lot of the landscape in Seed is especially exquisite and would be great documentary footage on its own.

Other good thing: The future as presented in Seed feels the realest of all the shorts. Partly it’s just the lack of fancy gadgetry; Kamp’s gear looks practical, not stylish, which seems only appropriate, and a lot of the film feels as immediate and as threatening as it should.

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second-guessing slate’s sci-fi shorts selections, day 3

I ragged a lot on the first two shorts I reviewed for this series, which has been picking apart Slate.com’s list of 2012’s best sci-fi shorts. Today, though, I’ve got one that has a lot more going for it.

(Check day 1 and day 2 at your leisure.)

The following doesn’t summarize the film, so you may just want to watch it above and then jump into my analysis. (Spoilers ahead, of course.)

In sum, I find that Tempo uses its sci-fi tech well but also serves up an emotionally gratifying story. Harp, the scientist hero, functions well here as an everyman thrown into peril and making the best of a crap situation. The story is compelling, and it helps that Seth Worley, the director, makes the introduction of the invention a natural part of the plot via the rough documentary footage that begins the short.

The clapboards in the doc have labels, so we’re already picking up the nuances of the “time cannon” (a label I made up because it looks like the t-shirt cannons they use at baseball games). We see both its slowing and speeding functions, but also its regrettable effects on living targets. This strategy — familiarizing us with the time cannon by documentary — is fairly organic to the story, unlike the methods of yesterday’s short, Memorize.

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second-guessing slate’s sci-fi shorts selections, day 2

Today I continue my critique of Slate.com’s 2012 sci-fi shorts with Memorize. You might want to check out yesterday’s post on Archetype if you haven’t already. Spoiler warning again, if you can say that discussing a seven-minute film embedded in the very page you’re reading is “spoiling” it.

Memorize‘s first mistake is that it subscribes to the theory that in the future, everyone will look like a model. It’s a look so prevalent in sci-fi that it’s a kind of convention, and you could just be chalk it up to the filmmakers’ desire to make the future look slammin’. But while stylization like this has its merits, it’s hard to justify from a story perspective, and in a drama like this, it probably detracts from the sense of visceral grittiness that we are probably looking for, especially in this sort of noir-ish dystopia.

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second-guessing slate’s sci-fi shorts selections, day 1

I’ve finally got around to checking out Slate.com’s list of the six best sci-fi shorts of 2012, so starting today, I’m taking a look at a short a day.

I don’t have a particular rubric I’m working off of, but for each one of these, I’ll be thinking specifically how the sci-fi element helps/hinders or maybe even hydrates/hogties the storytelling.

I will say, every one of these shorts boasted dazzling FX, at least by the standards of my untrained eye, so I will refrain from sliming on that aspect.

Today’s short is Archetype, from director Aaron Sims.

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