Server (short)


Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 
Server (short 2008)

Server (short 2008)
Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 

Olin Rain (Brian Biggie) lives in the desolation that has become human territory since their world was taken over by a machine.  With the gift of a rifle from his grandfather (Howard McGowan), Olin joins a long list of men, known as Champions, who set off to find and disable the "Server."

Laura:
This 17 minute short, written, directed, shot and edited by Patrick Gordon, uses the animated still technique of "La Jetée" and the man vs. machine theme of many a sci-fi story, yet feels fresh due to Gordon's manipulation of his still photos and the intimate nature of the storytelling. The nonprofessional actors's narration is often stiff, like line readings for a high school play, but the visual emotional expression is right on target.

No Champion has ever returned, but it is known that each will have attempted to leave messages in his wake.  Olin, gas mask donned, sets off hiking, heading for the fabled Wastelands that encompass the city where the Server is attended to by the human technicians who serve it. A ghost town 'village' (actually abandoned military base housing used to eerie, post-apocalyptic effect) yields Olin his first note.  'There will be machines' says the first scroll as it is unrolled from its plastic tube.  The Wastelands are crossed, with Olin made smaller and smaller against majestic rolling dunes studded with leaning utility poles.  Eventually, he traipses beneath an overpass and enters a city center where he comes face to face with one of the aforementioned machines, a towering, Robocop-like mass of metal.  He is saved from his own awe by Argus Emmet (Terlonzo Amos), a surviving Champion who has been waiting years for another of his kind to arrive and help him put his two-man plan to find and destroy the Server into action.

Using a combination of color and sepia-toned stills, Gordon animates his tale with dissolves or animation of his central figure within its frame.  Special effects include separately animated falling leaves and menacing Mecca robot, as well as fire and smoke effects.  The editing advances the story briskly and fools the eye when necessary with tight cutting, an over the balcony fight scene done simply yet effectively.  One of the best shots in the film, a head-on closeup of a goggle-eyed technician (Glenn Higgins, great casting), looks as if it were lifted from a graphic novel.

The filmmaker has achieved a rich array of locations with great economy, having shot his entire film within Malden City center and the dunes of Truro on Cape Cod.  The story is well written, taking care to limit characters's sense of their surroundings to their world as it now is, Argus contemplating why a vehicle would be referred to as an 'auto' when it still needs a pilot. Small details, like the Apple logo on the finally found Server, hold bigger messages. Viewers will undoubtedly note references to other films and the filmmaker promises Easter Eggs for those who enjoy the hunt.

The film is currently (fall 2008) running on Malden's Access channel (matv.org), but can also be seen on the filmmaker's blog.

B

Robin:
The future is here and James Cameron is proved right: Machines will take over the world and mankind will be their servants, forever. But, a stalwart underground group has been sending out fighters to find the central brain but none has yet returned. Now, the last warrior, Olin (Brian Biggey), heads into the wilderness to fulfill his mission and destroy the “Server.”

Writer-director-producer Patrick Gordon does not cover much new ground with his cautionary tale of man vs. machine. But, the short film is made with imagination and skill. Shot and edited using only Adobe Photoshop, the filmmaker tells his story with a smooth flow and even pace. Using still photos and fluid editing, Gordon gets the proper images from his small cast as the warriors of the future boldly walk into the jaws of death to bring humankind back to life.

Besides using a succession of stills to carry forward “Server,” Gordon also uses voiceover narration, mainly Olin, to tell the futuristic story. Here is one place where a professional, rather than amateur, voice would have beefed things up a bit. Techs for such a small-to-no budgeter are above what they should normally be, showing that the director paid careful attention to detail.

Shot in and around our home town of Malden, MA, it is interesting to see familiar locales shown in a different light. We don’t normally review short films but when a friend puts the effort and time into creating his vision, we have to pay it some attention. I’m glad we did and I give it a B.

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