Rian Johnson’s Forgotten Comedy Shorts
If you like murder-themed movies set in tropical locations that are full of unpredictable plot twists, chances are that this weekend you’ll be streaming Rian Johnson’s undisputed masterpiece: Yes, we’re talking about Ninja Ko, Origami Master, the short film he made as a high school student in 1990. Those who doubt the fact that a high school student directed this short are kindly invited to skip directly to the end and listen to the unexplained fart sound.
In the short, Ninja Ko demonstrates why he’s Origami Master and not Origami Underling by folding pieces of paper into stuff like weapons, food and a functioning car (which Johnson was just barely old enough to drive when he made this ). It’s a shame that Johnson abandoned a character with so much dramatic potential after only one film, instead moving on to more traditional premises like “a murderer being haunted by a bouncing golf ball that follows him around like Droopy Dog.”
That’s the idea for the appropriately titled Evil Demon Golf Ball From Hell!!!, a student short Johnson made in 1996 while attending the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. As of 2018, the short was still being used to teach USC students how to tell a compelling story with no money, and Johnson liked it enough to include it as an Easter egg in the Looper Blu-ray. Hopefully, it also got him a good grade in his Introduction to Golf-Themed Horror Filmmaking class.
If you’re thinking that has to be Johnson’s weirdest premise yet, then you’ve somehow never heard of Ben Boyer and the Phenomenology of Automobile Marketing. This 2001 short is about a man going for a late-night poop and hearing a somewhat German-accented voice coming from a ventilation duct that enlightens him on the dark medieval symbolism hiding within car company logos. You will never look at car emblems or night s**ts the same way again after this.
We then come to Johnson’s last short before his first feature-length film, 2002’s The Psychology of Dream Analysis. This one is about a woman who finds out that she’s been getting some random guy’s dreams her whole life, so she sets out to meet the guy to start dreaming about herself. It’s 15 times shorter than Inception and 30 times more insane.
Nobody who saw this in 2002 thought for a second that this guy would end up directing a Star Wars movie. The “making some nerds unreasonably angry” part isn’t that surprising, though.
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