Two of the best shorts I’ve seen in years

by Martin Hafer

I recently went to a screening of so-called “alternative shorts.” I’m not exactly sure what that meant…I thought it meant that they were odd and didn’t fit in any of the usual categories. This seems like a reasonable way to label these two films after having seen them. While they are musicals, they certainly aren’t like anything I’ve ever seen before and I simply love them both–so much that I strongly advise you to find the films.

Hopeful Romantic

Grade: A+

This is the story about the break-up of a long-term relationship. This comes as a surprise to one of them, as he had been completely happy and completely in love. Following this, he becomes very depressed. Ultimately, however, he obtains a life coach (George Takei) and slowly works towards accepting this loss and getting on with his life. And then,…the unexpected occurs.

Hopeful Romantic is a non-conventional film in many, many ways. There is no dialog just singing. And, in many ways the short plays a lot like a story and a music video merged into one. While this is unusual, what is really unusual is that the story is also a romance….a gay romance. While this might turn off some viewers, I was shocked how much I loved the film. I’m not gay but whether you are or aren’t doesn’t seem to matter in the least. It is amazing from start to finish for a variety of reasons. The leading man, Matt Zarley, is simply amazing. He has a fantastic voice–one you certainly cannot help but admire. As he sings throughout the entire short and he has a gorgeous voice, the film already has a huge plus going for it. Zarley also, incidentally, wrote the story. Additionally, Benjamin Pollack’s direction is impeccable….and the montages, acting and music all work perfectly together…perfectly. Overall, it’s a film that can’t help but touch you and I found my eyes tearing up again and again through this uplifting and very romantic film. A truly wonderful short.

Sumo Road

Grade: A+

When the film begins, a fat student is being bullied and made fun of by his peers. Suddenly and totally unexpectedly, this scene is interrupted when a huge group of sumo wrestlers appear and dispense justice! Soon, this young man is welcomed into the brotherhood of sumo and he’s found a new home. However, Ryuji has a very hard time fitting in…even with his fellow wrestlers. It seems that his confidence is extremely low and it appears that poor Ryuji might not have the necessary fighting spirit and determination needed to make it in sumo. What’s worse, the strongest and toughest guy among them is determined to make Ryuji a man…a task that just might not be possible! So how will a laxative unite these two men in friendship? And, does Ryuji have what it takes to be a sumo great?

While the story might not sound all that interesting, the film works because the film has such a wonderful sense of humor. Plus, it’s never subtle nor little in any way…it’s epic!! This sense of urgency and importance really make you laugh…as did the Busby Berkely-style choreography of the men all wearing their muwashis (that sumo diaper thingie they all wear). Their singing, dancing and wonderful songs really make you smile. When the film ended, the entire audience broke into applause–it was that good. Very funny, wonderfully written and the lead, Lin Yu Chun, really did a great job singing in all the songs and was very ably backed up by an accomplished cast.

Very charming and a film not to be missed!