Netflix’s Homemade is an anthology of 17 short films made amid the current pandemic. Celebrated filmmakers from around the globe have created an outlet for their imaginations during the COVID-19 isolation with an assortment of varying short films crossing multiple genres. Actor/Director Maggie Gyllenhaal created a short film about a man trying to endure the solitude involved with the unexplained virus that’s attacked the solar system, causing him to strive in unusual ways to maintain his sanity. Actor/Director Kristen Stewart is trapped inside of her house amid a sleep deprived state while being jeered by crickets, hallucinating between being awake and asleep. Sebastian Lelio makes a short piece centering on a woman who sings about enduring the struggles that have risen in her life amid the quarantine with powerful lyrics that convey a message about how this pandemic has affected the lives of humans around the world. These short film’s can be viewed in any order and serve as a refreshingly innovative perspective on the current state of the world, allowing for imaginative filmmakers to capitalize on the fact that the world is bizarrely out of order, calling for a perfect opportunity to capture the uncertainty around the world amid these trying times.
Under ordinary circumstances, to capture the city of Los Angeles in an empty, barren condition, one would have to acquire permits and spend vast sums of money to shut the streets down – not just roads but including businesses. Ana Lily Amirpour, the acclaimed writer/director of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) and The Bad Batch (2016) has ingeniously capitalized on the current state of Los Angeles by making a short film centering around the second largest populated city in the United States. Ana Lily Amirpour portrays herself, under a hat, face mask and sunglasses, as she engages in a composed and tranquil bike ride emphasizing a disconcertingly abandoned and desolate, but creepily hypnotizing Los Angeles during the 2020 lockdown.
The name of her short film is Ride It Out, and it’s soothingly narrated by the actress Cate Blanchett (who recently starred in Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette) over a documentary production style with low-angled tracking shots, various bicycle mounts and drone photography that captures Ana Lily amid a surreal isolation and seclusion from society in what appears to be a bizarre sight of a city that was once infested with cars and infinite amounts of traffic. There is an uncomfortable and eerie stillness in the streets of Los Angeles as Ana Lily rides her bike through Hollywood. Cate Blanchett’s voice-over narration speaks profound truths, spewing philosophical analogies about human beings amid the pandemic. Ana Lily rides her bike in the middle of the surreally barren streets passing iconic locations, such as the El Coyote Mexican restaurant between Fairfax and La Brea. Various shops are closed with gated bars and the way she rides her bike in tranquility through the windswept streets adds a dreamlike ambience to the film, thus making it bizarre, considering what we’re witnessing is true to the fullest affect.
Ana lily Amirpour ingeniously takes advantage of this lockdown situation and capitalizes on an opportunity to execute her creative perception of a city she clearly admires, but it’s almost as if the film evokes a feeling of bewilderment as we witness, through her eyes, a city being seen in a different light. The pandemic has painted Los Angeles as something post-apocalyptic, and Ana Lily manages to capture that feeling through shooting this film over a single weekend while riding her bike around Los Angeles. The fascinating part behind the film’s tone is that everything mentioned is accurate information, causing the shake of a head in confusion. Ana Lily’s perception cements the reality of the situation in how Los Angeles is shutdown like never before seen in history. On any given day under normal circumstances, Hollywood Boulevard, La Brea Avenue, Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, along with Wilshire, Franklin, Olympic and Sunset will almost always appear uninhabited and deserted just after the white stroke of light hits at dawn until minutes before sunrise. This is obvious nonetheless, because in pre-pandemic Los Angeles, citizens were just waking up and/or commuting on highways during those early hours. Businesses and offices don’t open until 8 or 9AM, so it’s possible to catch glimpses of what these prominent streets would look and feel like when they’re empty.
What separates that atmosphere from the current one depicted and captured in Ride It Out, is that we’re seeing a desolate and lonely LA in broad daylight, and the thought of it reoccurring for weeks and months is mind-boggling, considering it’s the second largest city in the nation. At certain times in this short film, Ana Lily creates a feeling of mystery and suspense, and her analogy of ants in conjunction with rising overhead ‘God Shots’ captured with a drone camera are so incredibly profound, they serve as a chin-checked jab to the audience as a friendly reminder in how human beings, no matter how powerful, are miniature in perspective and comparison to the planet – not to mention the fact that we’re surrounded by 100 billion galaxies in the universe. Taking into consideration that the Milky Way Galaxy is one of the smallest, and how planet Earth is also one of the smaller planets within, humans are analogized like ants who flock with their colonies without fear because like the insects, we’re unaware and/or unconcerned with how small we are; our world is only as large as the one surrounding us. Ana Lily rides this profound concept around Los Angeles and back home, which serves as the underlying theme of the film that both reminds us how small a role we play as humans, and how we shouldn’t hold fear, because this too, will pass. She shows us a shot of a billboard in LA that reads “Don’t Trip”. Taking this billboard into consideration, in conjunction with the film’s clever title, Ride It Out is telling us to do exactly that; to arrive carefully through something, especially a storm or a period of endangerment and inconveniency.