Shuffle: A life out of order

10-Oct-12 4:05 PM by
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What do you get when you cross Quantum Leap, The Time Traveler's Wife, and "All Good Things…"?

The answer is Shuffle, a 2011 film from writer and director Kurt Kuenne, creator of the Showbits Summer Shorts pieces Rent-a-Person and Validation. Kuenne reunites with Validation star T.J. Thyne for Shuffle, a mystery about a man living his life out of order for a reason he has to decipher — before it's too late. Here's the trailer for the film that production studio Theatre Junkies describes as "Twilight Zone meets Frank Capra":

Kuenne's previous shorts were so sincere and touching that I'm eager to see how he manifests the human condition in Shuffle. The film was released this past August to home video, streaming via Netflix, and rental from iTunes and other services.

Summer Shorts: Validation

03-Sep-10 11:00 AM by
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Today brings to a close this year's Showbits Summer Shorts. Over seventeen weeks, we have brought you a variety of remarkable independent films — from fact to fiction, tragedy to comedy, animated to live action. Through it all, I've been saving the best for last.

It was just about a year ago as I was exiting the Boston Convention Center with the curator of the Apple II History site when we realized we'd not gotten our parking validated. As we trekked back into the building, Steve was reminded of an Internet film he'd seen some time ago. After we parted ways, I went home to find it for myself and was immediately taken with its cleverness, sincerity, and uplifting message.

Labor Day Weekend often marks the end of summer, but before that milestone, I want you to see one last summer short: Validation.

This film starts with a simple and superficial play on the word "validation", and it could've ended there, too, as a short and funny but not very motivated comedy. Instead, the film follows an arc that has proven successful for such storied tales as Star Wars: an initial victory, a crushing defeat, and finally, a surprising and resilient triumph. And without having a large cast of central characters or much time in which to tell its tale, Validation manages to throw some curveballs that I never saw coming.

Like director Kurt Kuenne's other film, Rent-a-Person (which makes sense of one of Validation's scenes), this story is about finding professional and romantic success no matter what comes your way. We see this evidenced not only by our parking attendant, but also Victoria's mother, who we discover plays a pivotal role and one that makes the short incredibly empathetic. As the son of someone with multiple sclerosis, I know too many people whose conditions aren't getting better and may never. Yet they nonetheless keep a positive attitude. I don't know how they do it, but I know the value of doing so. Seeing second-hand impact Vicki's mother has on her family is evidence of that.

I'm a sucker for happy endings, and Validation fulfills that need, but not before telling a poignant yet enjoyable story. Even when you've lost everything you have and can't have what you want, you never know what will happen next. As Tom Hanks said in Cast Away: "I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?"

Summer Shorts: Rent-a-Person

27-Aug-10 11:00 AM by
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In sharp contrast to last week's colorful Flower Warfare, this week's Summer Short is a film whose humor and tone is not nearly as stark as its black-and-white imagery. But then, it's rather hard to take seriously a romantic musical comedy set in a men's bathroom. You'll soon be sold on Rent-a-Person:

Given that some of my favorite films are Office Space and Stranger than Fiction, it's no wonder I like this short: it's almost as if either of those were adapted to a musical. Despite that, there's not much to dissect here — Rent-a-Person is a silly, fun tale about how even nice guys don't have to sleep alone. There's some attempt at character evolution as our hero thinks he can substitute money for women (or use one to get another) before realizing his life is as empty as before. But even if that arc proves futile, it's encouraging to see him recognize his life's potential and find the motivation to actually do something about it. Too many people are satisfied with the mundane and subpar without taking advantage of their natural talents to realize the good fortune that could be theirs.

Coming next week: the exciting conclusion!