This year's HollyShorts had a great cadre of films on their roster, and some of the more interesting ones were during the Period Piece block. With a focus on a time period, each one brings its own attitude and thoughts to whatever period it chose, with films ranging from World War II to the early 1990s and much, much more.

Dance and music are incredible art forms to express through film, as so much of it is subjective and much not actually spoken. From musicals to interpretive dance, these films push the boundaries of the way films can be made and how art can be expressed through different mediums.

One of the biggest parts of festivals like this is the ability to show off not just films from American creators, but those from other parts of the world, as well. This block of films focuses on international filmmakers, giving them all a chance to show the beauty of their work.

This year's HollyShorts Film Festival is full of brilliant minds creating beautiful films, all dedicated to a specific genre or audience. For this block of films, the creators were all focused on young people and their experiences. The filmmakers are both focused towards a younger audience and by a younger audience. With that being said, here are the selections for this year's Youth Block at 2017's HollyShorts.

This week certainly belongs to Diana Prince (also known as DC Comics’ Amazonian superhero Wonder Woman), given the theatrical release of Warner Bros.’ highly anticipated Wonder Woman feature film and the celebration of Wonder Woman Day on June 3rd. While not as currently buzzworthy as its cinematic partner, fans enthused with the new movie will also certainly find themselves rewarded by revisiting the 2009 DC animated film of Diana’s origins, now available in the recently released Wonder Woman: Commemorative Edition Blu-Ray/DVD set. This more classic interpretation of the character’s beginning is sure to, once again, delight fans and promote constructive and enjoyable discussion in comparing its take on the characters and themes present in both the animated and live-action Wonder Woman feature films.

Even though it’s called Vixen: The Movie, this isn’t exactly a movie. It’s actually an animated web series, with episodes of around five minutes apiece, assembled here in a single, cohesive structure. You might think that would be cumbersome, but in fact, it’s pretty seamless for the most part. The only clue that this isn’t just a regular animated superhero movie is the fact that there are two or three completely independent story arcs within the space of a little over an hour.

The best way to describe this franchise is “Hogwarts for superheroes.” By taking the DC heroes that we know and love, transmuting them to high school age, and putting them all together at “Super Hero High,” the film definitely gives off a Harry Potter vibe, especially in the beginning. Still, by the end, it manages to find its own footing.

From the animated Sword in the Stone (1963) to John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981), from Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur (2004) to Starz’s Camelot (2011), and not even including the various comics, books, video games, short stories, and other texts, Arthurian tales have enjoyed incredible longevity via adaptations and re-imaginings. It’s a genre that seems immune to accusations of unoriginality in Hollywood, which is cyclically plagued with remakes, sequels, and prequels. The mythology is so epic and timeless, yet so well known and open to playful reworkings, that each new iteration adds something to the legend, truly making it a dynamic mythology.

“We almost pulled it off, despite what everybody thought.”
                    -- Floyd Lawton, Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad is so achingly close to working as a movie that I quite enjoyed it when I saw in theaters back in August. But watching it again as part of the Suicide Squad Extended Cut Blu-ray release, available today from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, it is easier to see the seams in the storytelling and the conceptual errors that drag it down into a film that almost pulls it off.

I’ve never quite understood the aversion many people have to film musicals (or stage musicals for that matter).  One of the biggest reasons people give for going to the movies in the first place is a desire for escapism from everyday life.  The movie business boomed during the Great Depression, as people wanted a retreat from the hardships of that era.  What could be more escapist than people bursting into spontaneous song and dance numbers accompanied by an invisible orchestra?  Yet the same people who revel in the unreality of Star Wars, people who will literally go out in public dressed as aliens, reject the unreality of a musical.  It makes no sense to me.  For whatever reason, audiences seem more inclined to accept musical numbers in animated films but not live action.  (Incidentally, “How Far I’ll Go” from the recent Moana is a pretty good example of a song that informs both her character and advances the plot of the film.)  Even one of the most successful musicals form the past 15 years, Bill Condon’s Chicago, worked to hide the production numbers and, in a way, apologize for them – they all took place in Roxie Hart’s imagination and not in the real life of the film. 

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