Sean Ellis, 2004

Cashback is an Oscar-nominated short film (18 minutes long) about which I knew nothing when I watched it — I was just randomly surfing around and followed a "here, watch this" link to it on Google Video. It hooked me pretty quickly by drawing attention to the fundamental condition of modern life, so fundamental that people rarely question it: the fact that we have a limited number of hours to experience the universe, and yet we spend so many of them doing things we don't want to do, often quite inane things, in exchange for money. How do we cope? What should we be doing instead?

The movie centers on a British supermarket, Sainsbury's, and the people who work there. We meet Matt and Barry, two goons who deal with the situation by goofing off as much as possible, conducting scooter races through the aisles and suchlike. We meet Sharon, a cashier who goes to remarkable lengths to avoid seeing how slowly time is passing, putting tape over the face of her watch and shielding herself from the sight of the store clocks with cracker boxes. And then there's Ben, the narrator, whose coping mechanism is so unexpected that I will put it behind a link for those who'd rather just watch the movie and come back later.


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