Slip these surly bonds of Earth, and acclimation is required. And so it is with Orbit(film), an omnibus project in which each planet in our solar system earns its own short, all but one under 10 minutes, by a different indie director.
The very definition of microbudgeted DIY filmmaking, the shorts vary wildly in approach. Think of them as remixes of what traditional narrative storytellers would do, and surrender to the avant-garde excursion.
But be careful: You just might learn something.
With a lone screening scheduled for Thursday night at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, the film starts with the sun and works outward, so if you wish to follow along, simply dig into your brain’s recesses to recall that mnemonic device you were taught in grade school, i.e. “My Very Educated Mother Just Sits Upon Nine Pins.”
“Look at the Sun” visually examines disappearing sunspots, fueled by a post-rock instrumental score that grows fiercer with every solar flare. The effect is hypnotic. Immediately, with the second segment, “Mercury,” one can see how disparate Orbit(film)’s elements are, as the names of the planet’s craters are sung via a folky, tongue-in-cheek ditty.
The first failure arrives in “Venus,” from Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo director Jessica Oreck. Venus’ atmospheric conditions are discussed in monotone over appropriately grainy shots of sunbathing beauties and not-so-beauties lying on sandy beaches. Next, “A Quick Note About Earth” serves as a salute to Copernicus.
“I Seen the Moon” possesses an odd beauty, with footage of our missions to the moon floating under an unseen, unnamed narrator’s recollection of an accident he experienced. Next, “No Message Received” attempts to wring wry humor out of NASA’s Pathfinder mission to Mars, but succeeds only in trying one’s patience.
Your reward is a hiccup in both order and flow with “… These Blazeing Starrs!,” a meditative piece on comets. With a sparse, ambient score built partly with SETI-captured sounds, the 14-minute work serves as Orbit(film)’s trippiest segment — even mesmerizing if you allow it. Hypothetically, if there were a time to drop acid, “Starrs!” would be it.
The storms of Jupiter, Fla., versus the storms of the planet Jupiter are the impetus for “Jupiter Elicious,” an animated, cut-and-paste photo collage of a meteorologist recalling his dreams. And what does Voyager 2’s Saturn fly-by have to do with hula hoops and The Carpenters’ “Close to You”? The answer pleasantly unfolds in the irony-laden “Scan Platform Problems.”
“Uranus” may be the most baffling, but “Neptune Calling” is the most outright comedic, as a dumpy King Neptune (John Merriman) prank-calls the other planets — or unsuspecting people who share the names — from his bathtub.
Finally, “Pluto Declaration” tackles the controversial declassification of Pluto as a planet. This short won’t stand for it! And, as with this ambitious, arty mixed bag, that’s something we can get behind.