Arts Desk

D.C. Shorts, Showcase 1: The Best Mixtape

Short reviews of films from this year's D.C. Shorts Film Festival

This dinner sampler of foreign starches and spicy veggies is like the best kinds of mixtapes. You get South American gun play, dead pets, women of dreams, carnivorous existentialism, two-timing loose limbs, dong shots, and evil cats, while an autistic Malaysian steals the show.

Thinking Inside The Box: Rampant cellular phones facilitate courtship but also neuter first-contact romance. In this paper-heart vignette, a rainbow xylophone-laden score skirts around technology with an agoraphobic protagonist that uses boxes and mailmen to win over the pretty perfect stranger.

La Mirada Perdida: A mother dunk-tanks her daughter in comforting, animated imagination while gangsters in track jackets, turtlenecks, and aviators pull home invasions. General Jorge Rafael Videla's 1976 right-wing Argentine coup is the backdrop.

Why Do We Put Up With Them?: An homage to man's best friend no longer than a Chess Records single, this animated poem rides a Blues Clues vibe—complete with blue dog and preschool rhymes—but leaves an impression with a great closing line: "There's too much room when they're gone."

Рука ("Hand"): This September, if you see one romantic comedy about a Ukrainian woman who falls in love with a freelance limb she finds on a bench, make it the sweetly dark Рука. At first the Addams Family hand teaches guitar chords and makes you morning coffee, but it develops a taste for scandalous texts and domestic violence.

Murder Mouth: An impossible-to-dislike Greek-Australian twentysomething gets existential about her meat and Instagrams her way up the food chain by killing fish, chicken, and lamb with no filter (we see her killing animals alongside culinary experts and it's heavy footage). She asks her fisherman and butcher subjects the right questions, and without driving moralist inroads sets the table for great post-screening conversation.

The Photographs of Your Junk (will be Publicized!): A Gil Scott-Heron-inspired spoken-word toast to how a newsfeed of lowest common denominators will bury ledes because all the important stuff has too many characters. The film lost me when someone held up a tablet computer that read, "Word."

Schrodinger's Box: This cornball horror experiment about a sociopath doctor aims high conceptually, but isn't scary enough.

Good Karma $1: A national ad agency's creative director drills into the craft of American panhandling—by exploring the perspective, sales pitch, humor, and elegant simplicity that goes into Sharpie-on-cardboard signs. Afterward, over hot chocolate, you and your date can talk about what you'd write on your cardboard sign. To clinch the hookup, give the next homeless person you encounter a crumpled five-dollar bill, and make sure your date is watching.

Guang: An autistic man collects soda-can tops and wine glasses with very specific hopes. He keeps Betta fish in a drawer and slights his guardian brother by prioritizing his hobby over job interviews. When he completes his collection, the payoff is catharsis.

Thursday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. at E Street Cinema (followed by Q&A)

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