Seems hard to believe that Jacques Thelemaque and his scrappy collective of independent movie creators at Filmmakers Alliance have been “green-lighting themselves” for a full decade now, but come Wednesday, they’ll be celebrating with a party in honor not just of their own survival in a crowded marketplace, but also of special guests Laura Dern and the Polish brothers (though feting them right after The Astronaut Farmer somehow doesn’t feel quite right, when Dern’s coming off the Inland Empire juggernaut). Then there are the films themselves — the seven best shorts produced by F.A. throughout the past year. It’s fitting that this part of the program is bookended by movies about the fear of childbirth: Much like independent cinema, parenthood is a time-consuming, painful, expensive, often thankless task that’s ultimately pretty rewarding if your baby turns out okay. Happily, most of these have. The opener, Bueno, is rather oddly shot in black-and-white video and focuses on the physical-comedy aspects of male sympathy pains; it could push the envelope further than it does, but for that we have the closer, Plus or Minus: A Few Things I Thought I Should Consider, in which caricatures of female anxiety devolve into all-out horror-movie gore. Far Sighted, which was the winner of an F.A. Grant, is the only short not made available for review; in its absence, the best of the program is also the simplest, Will Braden’s Henri. Essentially nothing more than shots of the director’s (or a friend’s?) cat, it somehow manages to be a hilarious parody of European existentialism, on a budget probably no pricier than a week’s supply of cat food. Lisa Temple’s The Bear and the Geisha is billed as “a delightful tale,” but all it amounts to is two actors in the titular costumes dancing around in a forest — nice outfits, but the point eludes me. All the Fish in the Sea plays a bit like a more efficient, female-centric telling of Memento, and seems like a promising calling card for director Charlie Chu, who shows the strongest visual sense of any of these directors. Finally, there’s Marty Elcan’s Crossing the Line, which demonstrates a skill with editing and pacing that might be better put to use on a more substantial story than that of a husband who doesn’t want his wife to leave him. The after-party promises catering by “some of Los Angeles’ best restaurants,” but remember, you have starving filmmakers to compete with for a spot in the buffet line! (Directors Guild of America; Wed., Aug. 15, 7 p.m. www.faevents.com.)
—Luke Y. Thompson
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.