The Best Birthday Ever (2013): Political Party Punch Line (Review)

Cole Jaeger

Not being a huge fan of politics or political satire, “The Best Birthday Ever” could have been bypassed by us completely.  However the uber short film about a teenager, who talks like a small child, celebrating his birthday  is amusing and somewhat pithy.

Written and directed by Cole Jaeger , this five minute film stars Jaeger, as Dimpton, Timothy J. Cox as Father Bo and Scott Schuler as Uncle Bib.  The film starts with Dimpton reading  his “book.” The crayon illustrated book has three title pages and Dimpton reads each and every one out loud.

He talks about his presents, Father Bo (the republican) and Uncle Bib (the democrat.  His special day includes a trip to the beach and chicken mcnuggets. He puts glue on his special meal.  

Father Bo tries to talk reason to the boy but his sage advice, given rather gruffly, is ignored.  After Bo yells at Dimpton for putting glue on his snack, the boy continues eating his mcnuggets while a revolted Bo looks on.

The initially comes across as so much nonsense. There is, however, more going on here than a odd look at a birthday boy’s antics. In order to get what Jaeger is up to, one has to look at the visual messages of the film.

At one point, Father Bo is pushing Dimpton in a swing. Uncle Bib, the democrat, steps up and starts pushing the boy.  Bo snarls “democrat” at his brother and the two men argue.

The point here, and in the film overall, is that political parties push their themes to a helpless public. Although to be fair, it could mean something else altogether, but that is the message this reviewer got.

Jaeger’s entire, and extremely short, film appears to be a massive poke at US politics. With Dimpton as the “Joe Public” figure, the birthday boy is the unsuspecting, uneducated voter. Visual images include the Democratic party “Donkey” laying on its back, like a helpless turtle, and crying.

There is also a mention of Obama, made while Dimpton cowers in his “cave” as Father Bo and Uncle Bib are arguing. Once again the implication is one of willful ignorance and a certain helplessness toward political issues.

The Best Birthday Ever is classed as a comedy and it really is focused on making fun of politics, or more accurately the political party system. For instance, Jaeger, as Dimpton, reads his title three times. This appears to be a nod to the three party system, i.e. the  Republican, Democrat and Independent party.

The film is a clever little production that benefits from having too little time spent on anything other than its message. It is an interesting look, in a very abstract way, at the “system.”

If Jaeger is not cocking a snook at American politics, he has managed to make an interesting comment on the state of the US system and its voters by delightful accident.

It will be interesting to see what other projects Jaeger may have in the pipeline.  He certainly makes his minimalistic cast and story work very well, although his ace in the hole is character actor Timothy J. Cox.

The Best Birthday Ever  feels like a cinematic  version of flash fiction, or perhaps a movie made following the guidelines of YouTube, where 15 minutes is considered too long. Regardless of the influences behind the film, it is an interesting project.

Cole Jaeger’s film is a 3 star effort. The editing works well and the cinematography is competently done. The Best Birthday Ever is definitely worth a look, or two, as a sort of political party punchline with a very short buildup.

 

Thirteen for 13 an Introduction to Larry Underwood’s Short Fiction

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I made the acquaintance of Mr Underwood on Facebook via mutual friends (like you do) and I noticed the other day that he’d gotten one of his stories, an excellent piece of Western horror flash-fiction, promoted by Amazon.com as a limited freebie.

I love free anything and I immediately shot over to the Amazon sellers and found that it was not free on the UK site. I sent Larry a quick line to say so. This generous and talented gentleman sent me a personal  copy and on top of that, he sent me copies of two more of his short stories.

All three are part of an ongoing project of his called, Thirteen for 13.

All three of these tales were different and entertaining.

Terror on the Plains deals with an Indian legend.

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Hiccup is a time travel tale with a sense of humour.

The Clothes Make the Man is just brilliant.

There is another story that is part of this project entitled Dreams. I have not read it yet as I wanted to quickly jot down my thoughts on his work thus far.

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The wonderful thing about all Larry’s work is its “visual” texture. I literally felt like I was “reading” episodes from some classic anthology program like The Twilight Zone or Ray Bradbury‘s Theatre. Any one of these stories would make a great adaptation to the small screen and I’ll be very surprised if that doesn’t happen.

The fact that all of the books are horror related should come as no surprise, if you read his Author’s Bio on Amazon. In case you haven’t seen it, I’ll pop it (in its entirety) below:

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Larry Underwood is best known as an award-winning TV horror host in the Middle TN area where he introduced late-night creature features for 13 years as Dr. Gangrene. He has written articles for various magazines including Scary Monsters and Outre. He lives in Hendersonville, TN with his sons and four dogs. He can be found online at drgangrene.com 

All four of these tales are available on Amazon and worth the time spent reading them. 

Check them out!

Author Larry Underwood.
Author Larry Underwood.

 

Another New Chapter…

So, when I was first offered “Ill health retirement” I was shocked. I’d been told, when I asked about when my back was injured and did not seem to be improving, that it was nigh on impossible to get. “As long as you can hold a bloody pencil mate, they’ll use you.”

Riiiiight.

That, however, did not turn out to be the case. I was offered a “lower tier” pension. That means I’ll get it until I shuffle off this mortal coil. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Trust me when I say it is not. The amount I’ll get each year won’t even keep me in “beer and skittles.” But honestly, the amount that I do not know about the whole pension system and what I’ll get along with any benefits added in, would not fill a matchbox.

I am hoping to learn. Mind you, I was hoping to learn before I had to make up my mind to take the retirement. It just wasn’t to be.

So in about the shortest time span ever, I’ve changed direction with my life once again. I think that this has got to be a new “personal best” for me. Three years ago, I leave my wife of over 25 years and set the wheels in motion for the divorce. Then last year I got injured at work and lost almost six months off of work and just started back when I had the heart attack.

Two surgeries later, I’m out of the hospital after four days with the doctors astonished at how quickly I’d recovered. Then just over four months goes by and I’m invalided out of Her Majesty’s Prison Service. Three years with a matching number of events, two of which were life changing.

Karma is sort of kicking my ass. I just don’t know if it’s because of something I’ve done in this life or the last. I’ll have to see if I can get in touch with Shirley MacLaine; she’s an expert in that sort of thing.

But despite the Keystone Kops pace of my life’s recent changes, I am at peace. Not all the time. I came close to having a spectacular blow-out the other day caused by too many questions and unknowns that were starting to panic the crap out of me. One thing that has helped me to keep a more or less even keel through all of this is my blogging.

I stopped by work for the last time today and said goodbye to the few friends who were on. One of them asked if I’d still be doing my blogging. Oh yes, I replied it was keeping me sane and even though it wasn’t paying any bills, I was pleased with the amount I was writing and the fact that I was pretty much doing it daily. I even went so far as offering the opinion that it might just lead to employment someday.

We all had a chuckle at that and I made my excuses and left. The one constant thing in my life right now is my writing. I started doing short stories again, although really they are more like flash fiction and hopefully I’ll accrue enough of those plus a few longer stories to fill a collection. Who knows?

It is amazing how satisfying it is to be creative again. I know, a couple of short stories do not a creative world make, but, most of my writing is in a sense creative. Even when spouting my opinion about things I’ve seen or read or watched, I do have to have a touch of creativity there. But like my slow recovery to fuller health, I am getting better at it (the writing) the more I do it. *At least I think I am and if you think otherwise, please keep it to yourself.*

The two short stories (flash fiction) almost wrote themselves. They actually had to wait on my uncoordinated fingers to type the words out for each one. The first one started as a sentence that just randomly popped into my head three weeks earlier. Two years ago, it would have been shoved to the back of my head for instant flushing. I had lost the overwhelming urge to take an idea, or a sentence, and run with it. See where it headed or died.

When I turned my back on the acting world I turned my back on creativity. I did not think I could do that anymore. But now that I’ve found that I have not lost the “knack” and I can rescue that little niggle in the back of my head. My new catchphrase in this new chapter of my life will be creativity.

In fact if I was writing the story, which in a sense I am, I’d title this chapter I Knew I Could.