Lost in the Sky (2023) [Cinequest 2024]

Director Simon Öster and his team really do deliver an accomplishment of cinema, it’s a short film about the power of companionship and the classic tale of a species ending war that might not have resulted in the best outcome when all is said and done. “Lost in the Sky” revolves around a scavenger robot who has spent what we can only assume is an enormous amount of time in the aimlessness of space looking for humanity of any kind.

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Make the Call (2023) [Cinequest 2024]

Chelsea Gonzalez’s short horror film really manages to be an outstanding piece of filmmaking from top to bottom. It’s a horror movie that’s teeming with social commentary about spousal abuse, domestic dysfunction, and our ability to sacrifice our own health to protect our own façade of domestic bliss. I loved every moment of “Make the Call” as writer Sal Neslusan knows how to perfectly explore this unusual situation within its small window of time and perfectly illustrate how these domestic situations can rip apart friendships and lives.

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Bounce House (2023) [Cinequest 2024]

Callie + Chris’s short apocalyptic film watches like if Wim Wenders decided one day to direct his own post-apocalyptic flick. And I mean that as a compliment because while “Bounce House” isn’t too concerned with action, it does deliver to us the idea of what monotony would look like at the end of the world. Once it’s all gone down and you’re alive: then what? Do you keep living or find something else. “Bounce House” is more about the absurdity of the end of the world and basically waiting around for some kind of new development that may or may not ever come.

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#DoudouChallenge (2023) [Cinequest 2024]

The team of Julie Majcher, Alexandra Delaunay-Fernandez, Sixtine Emerat, Marine Benabdallah-Crolais, and Scott Pardailhé-Galabrun creates one of the most entertaining and cutest animated shorts I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a complex yet simple adventure that masterfully comes full circle within a small time frame. So much about “#DoudouChallenge” reminded me of Pixar while also establishing its own hilarious style and niche, in the process.

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The Conqueror: Hollywood Fallout (2024) [Cinequest 2024]

“Of the 220 people that were constantly on location shooting in Utah, 91 came down with cancer…”

“The Conqueror: Hollywood Fallout” is an important documentary, and one that warrants a mass audience with as many people as possible, if only to view how Hollywood can often become the folly of the rich and powerful as well as how one man’s hubris can destroy so many lives in one fell swoop. Although William L. Nunez’s documentary is very much about the calamity that was “The Conqueror,” the Howard Hughes and John Wayne vanity project that amounted to a massive epic scale shooting that ended with an abysmal often derided biographical film, it’s also about the corruption of the American government.

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Bunny to the Moon (2023) [Cinequest 2024]

The team of Akira Maynard, Sammy Liu, and Justine Fong really do create something so unbelievable and special with “Bunny to the Moon.” It’s a classic tale about friendship, companionship, and the idea of sacrifice and learning to care for oneself before caring for others. Although the “Bunny to the Moon” does suffer from a run time that could have used at least ten more minutes, the short is beautifully animated and feels so much like a callback to films like “E.T.” or “My Neighbor Totoro.”

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The Reclaimers (2023)

I don’t know if “The Reclaimers” is a proof of concept short film or not, but if director Jason Sheedy is planning a bigger feature, count me in. “The Reclaimers” is a stellar horror scifi hybrid that watches like a mix of “I Am Legend” and “Bird Box.” It’s an interesting concept in a well worn concept that works very well thanks to the single performance by star Erin Ownbey. After her grandparents are killed by invisible creatures, a determined young woman seeks to avenge them with the help of her canine companion – the only one who can see the mysterious invaders.

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