The moment we’ve all been waiting for is almost here – the nominees have been picked, the statues are being shined, and for the past month nary a carb has touched a collagened lip in all of Hollywood. Why? Because it’s awards season — that delightful time of year when we all gather to celebrate what are supposedly the best films of the last 12 months. But is it really fair to say these shows present awards for the best of anything when year after year an entire genre of brilliant short films that’s every bit as brilliant as the awards nominees, is never even mentioned?
Well of course not!
But don’t you worry, doll face. Just because the awards show judges don’t get these films doesn’t mean you won’t, and watching them’s as easy as flipping on your TV.
The film begins with a straight couple standing in their kitchen, the woman up front talking to a friend on the phone. The subject? Her diet, of course. “Yesterday,” she confesses, “I had an apple turnover.” Upon hearing the phrase “apple turnover,” her sweet dolt of a husband’s ears perk up, and he begins rifling through the fridge in search of these delicious treats. But all he finds is a bunch of yogurt! She mentions more treats. He finds more yogurt. The film ends with her asking him what he’s doing and his gazing guiltily into the camera.
Now, I suppose there are probably some of you who would argue that this film perpetuates two unfortunate stereotypes that run rampant in these little movies – that men are just big, sweet, dumb, messy children who can’t buy their own groceries, and women are their reasonable but mean mommy-wives. And maybe some of you even find it unfortunate that this woman is just starting out her big diet even though she is in no way overweight, or maybe you’re irked by the notion that regular women spend most of their phone conversations putting their friends in the roles of priests to whom they must confess their food sins.
But you guys have got it all wrong! This movie isn’t about food and diets; it’s about a couple whose relationship is falling apart. The refrigerator is a metaphor for their marriage — a cold steel box in which the sweetness that the husband so desperately needs has been replaced with artificially sweetened bacteria, sealed in plastic. They’re just like the sad couple in that Revolutionary Road movie everyone loves so much, only we learn this couple’s whole story in 99.6 percent less time.
Another misunderstood gem is the action/drama Slim Fast Optima. Our film opens with a thin, attractive woman drinking a can of a mysterious liquid while the phrase “morning ritual” appears in white at the bottom of the screen. Moments later she finds herself attacked by a giant croissant and a big ol’ bagel. She kicks them both away, tightens her belt, and walks off, a proud smile on her face.
I guess some of you might argue that in a similar commercial starring a male protagonist, we would expect him to not only run toward that bagel, but try and eat the entire thing himself, for which we’d find him admirable, or at least doofily charming. Men in this genre are applauded for their overeating the same way women are applauded for eating nothing at all.
But once again, you’re totally missing the point here. Slim Fast Optima isn’t about food; it’s about drug addiction! It’s like Rachel Getting Married, but with less whining and more exciting action. The big bagel and giant croissant? Drug-induced hallucinations! The fact that consuming these chemicals is part of her “morning ritual”? Proof of her problem! But unlike the blah, ambiguous close of that Oscar-nominated drama, Slim Fast Optima’s ending makes one thing clear: While our protagonist may have kicked away her hallucination pastry, we know she hasn’t kicked her dangerous habit. In approximately four hours — according to the narrator — she’ll be ready for another hit.
And speaking of kicky stuff, what about the recently released short Extra Fruit Sensations? This little film begins with a woman dressed in a kicky little outfit, riding up a mall escalator at the top of which is a cookie stand. The moment she spots the cookies, a voice in her head begins having an argument with itself over whether or not she should be allowed to have a cookie. Finally, the woman takes a pack of gum out of her purse and pops a piece in her mouth. “Wow!” the voice says. “You’re good, you!” And then our cookie-less heroine bops away
OK, I can hear you getting ready to trash this one, too, saying how it’s sad that we’ve so complicated our relationship with food that it’s almost universally accepted that eating things full of sugar and fat makes us bad, guilty people, but if we instead eat a piece of gum flavored with poison, we are “good.” And making the amount of calories we consume into a moral issue is in fact extremely harmful to our mental well-being as well as probably counter-productive to taking good care of ourselves.
But I’m like, “Whoa! Hold your horses there cow-girl!” Don’t know where you’re getting all of that from! This movie is just like that adorably quirky Happy-Go-Lucky, but better! Unlike Happy-Go-Lucky’s Poppy, with her easy-going, take-life-as-it-comes attitude, Extra Fruit Sensations’ protagonist has actual substance: She’s very obsessive and doesn’t seem to like herself very much, so we regular women can relate to her. And also didn’t you hear all those voices in her head? She’s probably schizophrenic!
Maybe one day the Academy will give these films their due, but until then I’d like the makers of my favorite shorts to know there’s at least one person sitting on the edge of her seat and pumping her fist in the air in celebration and appreciation of all their hard work (at least until next week, when the cable company comes by to fix my TiVo). •
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