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Cinema Pacific Preview: The Best of the 36th Northwest Film and Video Festival

This well-ordered and wisely chosen selection of shorts from Portland's Northwest Film and Video Festival is a promising overview of Northwest short film. Most of the selections are smart, spry and inventive — and a surprising number are animated, all in different styles and with wildly varying subject matter. "The Mouse That Soared," which opens the program, is a playful, vividly colored short that aspires to be one of the brief, wordless pieces that preface Pixar films. The animation is a little high-gloss, but the characters are charming. "Nature On Its Course" is exactly the opposite — a rough-hewn, interestingly textured short about a man, a mountain, a gun and an avalanche.

The dense, shifting imagery of "Endless Tunnel" and the succinct, amusingly dark "Stick" supply even more animated appeal. And then there's "Missed Aches," Joanna Priestly's animated vision of Taylor Mali's "The the impotence of proofreading," a poem about spellcheck, word choice and double entendres, which doubles its humor quotient about every 12 seconds. (The red pen is your friend, indeed.)

Among the live-action shorts, "Damian and Ende" is an appealingly atmospheric, gently mournful piece about the divulgent paths of two close friends. The two-minute "Eros" builds a lushly threatening mood via the careful preparation of an intensely decadent meal. As Rod McKuen narrates his poem "Eros," Sean Nelson (of Harvey Danger, and easily identifiable by his hair) slices, fries and grates a tableful of indulgence, then dips into the medicine cabinet before going out.

“Nous Deux Encore,” a 16-minute piece by Portland’s Heather Harlow, is an effectively pitched love story that tells its end first; using photos and voiceover, Harlow traces a romance that ended too soon. The short, though, feels as if it’s about to end several times before its actual ending, which makes it feel drawn-out.

“Don’t Worry, It’s a New Century” starts slowly, but builds up its idea of “idea recycling” through dryly delivered voiceover that comes from a fuzzy TV screen traveling Portland’s streets by car. Creating new ideas, the voice says, is bad for the environment. So why not just reuse others’ ideas, like, say, recreating a famous car chase with your bearded pals? Watching low-key dudes in nondescript modern cars intercut with scenes from Bullitt is funnier than you might expect.

The Best of the Northwest Film and Video Festival shows at 10:30 am Saturday, May 8, at DIVA. Festival director Bill Foster, filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt and Cinema Pacific director Richard Herskowitz will discuss festival programming following the screening. See cinemapacific.uoregon.edu for more.