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First Sunday in ... Well, Every Month

Ongoing film festival presents a grab bag of comedic shorts, both animated and live action.

Pictured: Uber-nerd Toby dominates animator Lance Myers' short, "The Butterfly Effect."

Editor’s note: The following really should be a blog item, but there hasn’t been a chance to post new content recently, so check out a companion video on the Blog.

Belatedly, Jester dropped in for the First Sundays film festival at the Pioneer Theater in Manhattan’s East Village on December 2. The festival focuses on comedic short films, and gives audiences a chance to vote for their favorite, on the first Sunday of every month, of course, and has been doing so for about six years. The ongoing festival grew out of the Chicago City Limits improv comedy group.

The shorts were a mix of animated and live action, and the audience award was dominated by the film “The Blood of the Cross,” written and directed Todd Lubitsch -- because the filmmaker and his posse were in attendance. But this satire of directors with a messiah or god complex was actually a bit uneven, with comic timing between the actors that left too many pauses between lines and a generally amateurish feel.

The true standout of the evening was “The Butterfly Effect,” an episode in an animated Super Deluxe web series called the Ted Zone. This episode chronicled Toby Radloff, a nerd with a heavy Chicago accent, who has a nasty eccentric mother who tells him he needs to get laid. Radloff scoffs at his fellow comic-convention nerds and schools them on the butterfly effect and what it means. The biting tone really made this a gut-buster.

Not too far behind was “The Time Machine,” a live action short by a recent NYU film student, Ben Joseph, who wrote, directed and starred in the piece. Joseph has fun with the idea of a time machine put to use to take back a mistake in behavior with his girlfriend. Even with a low-rent time machine that’s cross between a George Foreman grill, colored paint with glitter, and a combination lock, the concept is put across sufficiently for the audience to buy into it and enjoy the piece.

Not in competition, but still fairly amusing, was “Hippy Gypsy,” made by one of the co-hosts of the evening of films, Victor Varnado, as a film-noir parody with a strong nod to “Chinatown.” This short featured the winner of the previous month’s “Wanna Be A Star” contest -- each month someone associated with First Sundays directs a short with a contest winner for the next month.

Varnado and Jay Stern, the co-hosts who do some patter and pose some trivia questions before and between the films, could be a little grating -- seemingly not even knowing what to say at points, but the chance of seeing a gem outweighs that inconvenience.




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