NoBudge Breakdown is a weekly round-up of featured films at NoBudge. For this installment, Vague Visages’ Q.V. Hough examined two weeks of short films (before NB’s summer break) and picked a few that stood out the most.
VV PICK: Fanny (Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel; July 5)
In this 29-minute short, a Norwegian woman struggles to find herself while studying. Visually, Fanny looks and feels like a truly professional production from the start; there’s a sense of rhythm, and lead actress Kristin Thorp’s star power drives each sequence. Director Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel doesn’t push too hard with his early exposition, even when Fanny succumbs to peer pressure and dons a creepy mask while oversharing with her new classmates. The collective images feel purely organic and offer a layered look at the main character’s quest for inner peace. A coffee and cigarettes sequence works on its own, all the while paying homage to an iconic American director. Like so many outsiders, Fanny doesn’t reveal too much; one must decipher the character subtext via Thorp’s non-verbal behavior. And her expressive eyes, during moments of realization and uncertainty, make the viewing experience worthwhile. Fanny should be a feature-length film, and Thorp will undoubtedly find more work in independent cinema.
VV PICK: Three Michaels (Tom Levin; July 2)
To be entirely honest, the lighting in this 28-minute short initially feels distracting — too much outdoor influence. However, Three Michaels succeeds because of the character chemistry and sharp improvisation via Don Fanelli, Michael Kayne and Connor Ratliff. A man struggles with a broken romance, and his two pals attempt to cheer him up with jokes; whereas so many inexperienced performers overcompensate to appear “relatable,” these guys have clearly been working on their craft for years and thrive with the ebb and flow of it all. The pure comedy caught me off guard, as I was expecting a sup-par Zach Galifianakis imitation from Ratliff, based on the opening sandwich fiasco. Ah, a poor man’s “Hangover,” I thought, until it became evident that each actor could not only effectively land a joke but also push the plot forward without getting too cute. Once the narrative reaches its climax — complete with cosplay and premature ejaculation jokes (Japanese Ghost!) — Three Michaels feels like a wonderfully bizarre Saturday Night Live bit, reminiscent of Will Ferrell’s strangest characters.
VV PICK: 4/4 (Kyle Sawyer; June 25)
Vibes. Major vibes. At only six minutes in length, this short packs a lot into each sequence. A musician struggles to find her groove, and her lack of creative mojo ironically inspires a sense of rhythm during routine activities. Here, the visuals have the look that I was hoping for in Three Michaels; director Kyle Sawer successfully establishes the mood with his cabin setting and mise-en-scène, while actress Katie Billo carries the narrative with her charisma (plus, she’s beautifully framed by her director/cinematographer). Rather than taking a purely stylized approach with 4/4, Sawyer balances out the short with small narrative details and bold visuals, whether it’s the lead’s “Virginia is for lovers” sweater, her fake piano hands or the outdoor influence that ultimately provides inspiration. It’s a feel-good short but also captures the inherent drama of feeling stuck in a big, big mood.
Q.V. Hough (@qvhough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor and a freelance video essayist/writer for Fandor. From 2014 to 2017, he wrote over 600 video scripts for WatchMojo, and he’s the author of their first e-book, ‘WatchMojo’s 100 Decade-Defining Movie Moments of the 1990s.’ From 2006 to 2012, Q.V. lived in Hollywood, California and worked closely with ABC On-Air Promotions as the production manager for LUSSIER. He now resides in Fargo, North Dakota and has written for RogerEbert.com, Screen Rant and Crooked Marquee.