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Fantastic Fest 2020 delivers a flawless block of diverse and unforgettable short films — seven deeply satisfying gems ranging from hilarious to horrifying.

When it comes to film festivals, it’s the features that tend to get the most buzz and generate the highest levels of audience excitement. But I implore you, if you ever find yourself at a great genre fest, do not skip the short blocks. In the time it takes to watch one film, you can dive into numerous narratives and enjoy a fast-paced thrill ride like no over, all while discovering the best up-and-coming genre talent.

A well curated short block is a work of art. Striking just the right balance of disparate styles, tones, and unique stories is no simple feat. And no one does it better than the talented team at Fantastic Fest. Their short program curators never fail to disappoint, and their 2020 virtual selection is no exception. I had the enormous pleasure of tuning in for Fantastic Shorts on Friday, September 25th, which celebrated some of the year’s most fantastic short film offerings, spanning a myriad of genres and sensibilities.

A truly exceptional offering featuring seven very different films — ranging from joyfully whimsical to devastatingly beautiful — there wasn’t a disappointment in the bunch.

BLOCKS

Dir. Bridget Moloney, 11 minutes, USA

Blocks is an existential comedy about the mother of two young children who begins to spontaneously vomit plastic toy blocks. Refreshingly funny and entertaining, it’s a story about navigating the emotionally complex waters of life and parenthood that employs layers of metaphor and creativity.

It begins with a young woman trying to clean a titanic mess, and you can immediately feel the weight of the world on her shoulders. Suddenly, her stomach is upset, and she rushes to the bathroom where she ends up vomiting a large amount of Lego-style building blocks. Obviously, she’s shocked and troubled by this strange malady, but she is scared to tell anyone about it. As she continues to try to live her life, joining in on play dates and romantic evenings with her husband, the upchucking of blocks continues.

Blocks culminates in a wonderfully sweet, very funny, and joy-inducing finale that emphasizes the importance of making the best out of a bad situation.

In the stress-inducing, anxiety-fueled days of 2020, this short from a mother of two who holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology is a welcome treat that will remind you of your power to create the reality you want.

I LOVE YOUR GUTS

Dir. David Janove, 17 minutes, USA

Two girls working in the graveyard shift at a fast food restaurant fend off a belligerent drunk guy while also confronting their own friendship. Making its Texas Premiere, I Love Your Guts is an uproarious, fast-paced, endlessly charming testament to the strength of friendship and the power of healing through laughter.

I absolutely loved I Love Your Guts! It begins with two young women, Kristina (Allie McCarthy) and Jacqui (Daniella Kay), goofing around to pass the time during their late-night drive-thru shift at Woody’s. We then learn that Kristina is harboring a secret crush on her BFF Jacqui. In fact, the goofier, cruder, and more ridiculous Jacqui is, the harder Kristina swoons. However, their friendship is tested when Jacqui admits she’s looking for another job and Kristina’s attempt at finally kindling a romance goes up in flames.

But awkward tension and heartbreak is only the start of their very bad night, and things quickly go from bad to worse when a drunk customer (Scott Shilstone) shows up demanding service and refusing to take no for an answer.

With very little time for character development, we immediately buy into and care about the bond between these two women. The characters feel real and lived in, and we yearn for more time with them. McCarthy and Kay are extraordinary and absolutely light up the screen. With an expertly crafted, infinitely quotable script by David Janove and a pitch perfect ending, I Love Your Guts is a hilariously charming and wickedly fun short that really needs to be a feature… immediately! 

SOLUTION FOR SADNESS

DIR. MARC MARTÍNEZ JORDÁN, TUIXÉN BENET COSCULLUELA, 14 MINUTES, SPAIN)

In this World Premiere short out of Spain, a mysterious package offers a woman a reprieve from her melancholy, only its results are more permanent than she realizes. It’s a remarkable short that manages to be both wonderfully surreal and absurd, as well as incredibly poignant.

A woman begins by talking to the camera, showing off all her belongings. However, there is one thing she owns you can’t see: her sadness. She cries all the time. She doesn’t know why she is so sad, and nothing she does seems to alleviate her misery. Then, one day while sunning out on her lawn, a mysterious bag is tossed into her yard. It’s labeled “Solution for Sadness”. She reaches into the bag and pulls out a gorilla mask, which she promptly puts on.

Hours go by, and the mask doesn’t seem to be working. Still deeply depressed, she tries to remove the mask only to discover it won’t budge. To add to the serious Twilight Zone vibes, not only is the mask fused to her face, but no one around her seems to notice she’s even wearing it. In fact, people seem happier than ever to be around her. And just when she thinks can’t get any weirder, a strange man shows up to explain what’s really going in. This leads to a clever reveal and an absolutely perfect payoff.

Shot in LA during quarantine, Solution for Sadness is an intelligent and thought provoking look at mental health — an entertaining metaphor for the masks we wear when we’re trying to fit in with society and hide who we really are. Writer/director Marc Martinez Jordán is responsible for the well-reviewed short out of thi