Generation DIY, Slackavettes, mumblecore … all these terms have been bandied about in recent weeks as part of an effort by some film critics to try to inaugurate a new American film movement, focused on the charmed lives of the hang-out-and-do-nothing set. Of course, slackers come in all shapes and sizes: There are those who talk a lot and make twee little observations and hop in each other’s beds … and then there are the guys in John Hime’s Second Place, which played the 2003 Slamdance Film Festival to great acclaim and is one of the best lo-fi shorts we’ve seen in recent years.
A hilariously deadpan flick about two Milwaukee roommates who can’t pay their rent or get much of anything done because they can’t stop competing with one another in a series of pointless contests (balancing cups on their heads, eating muffins, etc.), it manages to be both a droll little comedy of small gestures and a deceptively potent allegory of how petty fixations can ruin one’s life. And despite the film’s extremely low-budget look, Hime displays an efficient, streamlined style that suggests a director with a genuinely refined visual sensibility. Luckily, others have noticed as well; the director won a prestigious McKnight Filmmaking Fellowship in 2006; we can’t wait to see what he does next. —Bilge Ebiri