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If you've ever wondered if your favorite filmmakers were geniuses (or mere hacks) back in their youth, Reel Talent: First Films by Legendary Directors will help clue you in. A compilation of 12 short films by directors who would go on to make Star Wars (George Lucas), Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis), and Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly), Reel Talent is an eclectic collection of work that shares one thing in common: all nine of the directors attended film school at the University of Southern California. Though Lucas gets the most play with 3 shorts--including the exhilarating A Man and His Car--it's Zemeckis' work that shines. He exhibits subtle nuances and a keen eye for storytelling with The Lift, which hints at both sci-fi and the supernatural with its tale of an old elevator that seems to operate on its own whim. And with Field of Honor--which won the Student Academy Award in 1975--he balances humor with chaos as he tells the bittersweet story of a Vietnam vet who is released from a mental institution. Though parts of the short are played for laughs, the film also invokes a feeling of panic as it makes the viewer realize just how challenging it can be for any former soldier to fit back into civilian life. Another standout production is Richard L. Bare's sparse The Oval Portrait. Shot in black and white, the silent film is based on an Edgar Allen Poe story and tells the sad tale of an artist who is so obsessed with painting a perfect portrait that he allows life to pass him by. It gets off to a slow start, but picks up as the film flashes back to the painter's vibrant younger days. Bare, who would later make his name with The Twilight Zone, shows maturity and patience as he tells his epic story in just under 19 minutes. While legendary is a subjective word that befits a household name such as Lucas, it seems over the top in its use to describe all of the directors included here. Yes, the filmmakers are inarguably talented, if not all legendary. Still, the collection is a must-see for film buffs curious about seeing some of their favorite directors' earliest works.

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FX2242083 Reel Talent--First Films By Legendary Directors DVD (1951/Ava Gardner) $14.98 $13.49