Why Watch? Feeling more like a folktale written by children than for children, this beautiful short from writer/director/animator Brent Bonacorso blends tongue-in-cheek fantasy with the CGI chops to layer a whimsical fiction on top of reality.
Beyond the evocative name itself, West of the Moon feels a lot like what Georges Melies would make if he had today’s filmmaking tools. In the story, an old man regrets a lost love and details with absent-minded precision his adventures with a card-playing robot and a monkey on a mission. Playfully heartbroken in its execution, there are touches of Tarsim Singh’s The Fall and Big Fishhere, but Bonacorso proves to have a style all his own — painting with just about every color on the palette and inventing visuals with DP Tarin Anderson that command attention while defying logic.
Plus, lead actor Jacob Whitkin truly brings the old man to life solely through his movements and expressions, adding a saltiness that pairs perfectly with the narration. Overall, it’s a delight from start to finish. A masterpiece of short fiction.
Why Watch? If you see a cat with human hands, don’t pet it. Just run away. Just run. It’s that simple. For those that forget, Robert Morgan‘s midnight-fueled short film is a nice reminder. In it, an old salt tells a young man the tale of a boy who found a cat with human hands by the very same well they’re visiting. What happens next is face-rippingly good. The short here is spooky like an old fairy tale meant to scare children into behaving, but it works on all ages. It succeeds through surreal imagery that brings a nightmare to stop-motion life, sound design that’s lip-smacking disgusting and a satisfyingly complete package of a story. Poe would be proud. Thanks to screenwriter Simon Barrett for posting it up on Facebook. What Will It Cost? Just about 6 minutes. A new short film posted every week day at 2pm Central.
Short Starts presents a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. With the role of Tom Buchanan in Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby, actor Joel Edgerton continues his rise in stardom. He even has a couple of character posters to show for his fame. Long before he was embodying a character from classic American literature, though, and long before he was hunting Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty and fighting his brother in The Warrior and even playing Darth Vader’s stepbrother in the Star Wars prequels, he was a regular figure in the short subjects scene. We can thank part of this on his nationality, as Australia is a great country for short films (it’s home of Tropfest, after all). On top of that, he came up through the film collective known as Blue-Tongue Films, alongside his writer/director/stuntman brother Nash (who is Joel’s double in Gatsby) and filmmakers David Michôd (Animal Kingdom) and Spencer Susser (Hesher). Joel made his film debut in Blue-Tongue’s first work, a nine-minute film from 1996 titled Loaded, which is directed by Nash with writer Kieran Darcy-Smith. I thought about simply posting that early baby-faced short start from the actor, but seeing as he’s in so many shorts, most of which are online, I’ve sampled five of his first appearances after the jump, two of which aren’t Blue-Tongue productions, all of which feature Joel pre-beard and pre-bulk.
Why Watch? Sure, there’s controversy surrounding it so it’s a great water cooler topic (if you can find a water cooler these days), but all of that extrinsic nonsense detracts from the intrinsic gusto of Xavier Dolan‘s (Heartbeats, Laurence Anyways) music video for Indochine’s “College Boy.” It features some graphic visuals, including a teenaged character being crucified and shot repeatedly after being bullied by classmates. It’s a powerful if not bludgeoning work featuring some absolutely stunning black and white shots, and while the symbolism is greatly obvious (blindfolds on cell phone-armed on-lookers, Christmas lights slung over the cross), the sheer terror and isolation is still greatly palpable. Possibly, for some, to a sickening degree. When the bullies drive the first bolt through the boy’s wrists, it sends lightning up through your feet. The image itself seems to shake. It isn’t an easy piece to watch, but it’s also gorgeous, meaningful and possibly even vital filmmaking. Hat tip to The Film Stage for featuring it. What Will It Cost? Just about 6 minutes. A new short film posted every week day at 2pm Central.
Why Watch? West Edmonton Mall is the largest shopping mall in North America. It’s so big, in fact, that it has an expansive waterpark inside. The kinds of penguin and sea lion shows that you might get in a sprawling aquatic theme park? Yeah, it has those too. And a bungee jump. It’s easy to imagine that it’s overwhelming. The kind of sensory overload that’s designed specifically to disorientate a person to the point where all their money falls out of their pockets. And yet as well as that mood is captured in this fly-on-the-wall short from Evan Prosofsky, the cinematographer-turned-director finds a bit of serenity floating along the machine-made waves. Aided by languishing (often discordant) sounds, the short is truly hypnotic, luring viewers into a relaxed state with slow motion captures of crowds hugged by bright yellow tubes and sunshine filtered through industrial-strength windows. The irony — or at least the humor — of fabricating nature inside a temple to impulse buying isn’t lost in the mix, but the images themselves are presented wisely without filmmaker comment. There’s a message if you want to find it, but if you don’t, you can just as well let the endless summer whisk you away to the sunny beaches of Canada. Waterpark is presented as part of the Sunday Shorts over at Nowness. What Will It Cost? Just about 10 minutes. A new short film posted every week day at 2pm Central.
Why Watch? Because it’s been far too long since you last watched a really good movie about birds. The Thieving Magpie is the first of Emanuele Luzzati‘s two Oscar-nominated short films, the other being 1973′s Pulcinella. This painter, illustrator and animator had quite the career, designing for the opera and pop concerts as well as making cartoons. There’s even a museum of his work in his native Genoa. This medieval-inspired cartoon is one of his best. The set-up is simple – three kings, who have been warring for a century, decide to take a break and go on vacation together. How do they distract themselves? By killing birds. Yet there’s one winged creature who won’t fall to their arrows, a mischievous magpie that eludes and torments them.
Why Watch? A young girl is strapped to a table with a few medical tools at her side. Her mouth is covered in duct tape. This set up has become so standard that it comes as a free template on screenwriting software, but where this beautifully smart short from writer/director Rob McLellan gets it right is in introducing us to a different kind of Hannibal Lecter. The killer’s plaintively polite introduction is the first cold shiver, and throughout an existential session of villainous monologuing, there are a handful more that crawl into your skin and find a place to live. The parallels are eerie — the disconnect, the drive to do something others say is wrong, the freezing lack of empathy beyond an infant’s understanding (and desire for) love. That’s all echoed by a character design that uses the uncanny valley to its favor. McLellan and Craig Stiff have crafted something human that’s unmistakably not. And yet, behind those kind eyes and soft voice…it’s really hard not to like him. This is probably what happens when Blinky™ grows up and gets organized. ABE features stellar work all around. The camera (beyond a few floating moments in the enclosed space) is interesting, and the sound and score help build some serious tension, but the real star is the one holding the scalpel. What Will It Cost? About 7 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? Thanks to impeccable sound design, a situation infused with drama and tenderness, and two nuanced performances, this short from Eric Kolelas and Guillaume Miquel is a true standout. In it, a young man (Kolelas) is taking a young woman (Anoushka Ravanshad) to the other side of Paris at the behest of his mob boss. His situation, his family, and the city itself urge him to make a drastic decision. First of all, this movie is beautiful in an unconventional way — showing Paris neither as the capital of Romance nor as a sleazy bed of dead concrete. It’s just a city here, and it remains beautiful. Part of that is because the verite cinematography and the sound design hold hands the whole way through. There’s a rawness to everything, even when we get a heightened sense of the smallest things. A telephone keypad button being pushed, a footfall on the sidewalk, a door flying open and shut. That naked sensibility is reflected in the performances here as Kolelas and Ravanshad have to achieve a lot with very little dialogue. And while the film doesn’t provide a lot of context, it uses a cinematic language we all already know to fill in the rough edges. In rare form, Fifty Pence uses a light touch to deliver something heavy. What Will It Cost? About 11 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
This week we’re highlighting the films of Popcorn Horror’s Blood Games. Give it a watch, then head over to vote if you like it. Why Watch? A man suspended by his wrists, a secret kiss in a garden, a bloody tourniquet. This short film from Dan O’Connell is more of a patchwork of scenes, floating freely between each other. All of them play out and add up to the reality behind some bloody mayhem. The production value here is fantastic. The camera dances around, changing up styles appropriately for romantic seques and dreamlike flashbacks alike. It’s also not too shabby when it comes to the red stuff. It’s a kind of feverish tango that features some eyebrow raising visuals, gorgeous scenery and a slightly disturbing story featuring two women scorned. What Will It Cost? About 11 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
This week we’re highlighting the films of Popcorn Horror’s Blood Games. Give it a watch, then head over to vote if you like it. Why Watch? A young girl closes her eyes, begins counting, and her friends all start to hide. It’s a common game, but hide-and-go-seek doesn’t usually involve a gigantic masked man stalking the house with a butcher knife. Robert Nevitt‘s short is a quick trip that has a bit of a low budget charm and some cheek to it. A tiny diversion, it’s a story in service of a punchline, but the delivery is still sweet, and the title is spot-on. What Will It Cost? About 2 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
This week we’re highlighting the films of Popcorn Horror’s Blood Games. Give it a watch, then head over to vote if you like it. Why Watch? This short is all about patience in its execution. When it opens, a hooded man has a noose around his neck as he tip-toes on top of a wobbly chair. The filmmakers made the difficult decision to calmly watch what he does, and it becomes an agonizing few minutes. It’s the empty moments that cut the most, but the stranger dangling on the edge of death gets to swim through a kind of 5 Stages of Grief while questioning what he’s done to earn his new hemp necktie. Unfortunately, it builds to an ending that doesn’t quite work. It’s a nice blended metaphor trying too hard to have an external consequence. They were so patient in letting his internal struggle play out, but they (for whatever reason) couldn’t resist the urge to put an unnecessary cherry on top. What Will It Cost? About 8 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
This week we’re highlighting the films of Popcorn Horror’s Blood Games. Give it a watch, then head over to vote if you like it. Why Watch? This low-budget short from Mark Callum is little more than a display of a nifty nail-through-the-hand effect. In it, four men sit around a table while one shuffles Styrofoam cups around. Once each has their own cup in front of them, they start slamming their hands down to see whose is empty and whose has a sharp surprise waiting on the other end. Again, the marks of a limited budget are visible here, although what they lack in camera quality, they make up for in camera movement. The shots are interesting, but the drama is drawn a bit thin considering how generally uninteresting watching someone shuffle cups can be. What they get away with is cool, but it’s still a fairly bland platter to serve up a single idea, and while the ending comes as a shock, it does so by killing any tension the game itself can have. What Will It Cost? About 4 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
This week we’re highlighting the films of Popcorn Horror’s Blood Games. Give it a watch, then head over to vote if you like it. Why Watch? In the opening moments of this short from William Prince, a few children are playing in the courtyard of what looks like an abandoned set of buildings. The “Lord of the Flies” feeling continues as they bicker between each other, but generally goof around (ominously) without any supervision. Then the feeling grows. These kids are more than alone. There doesn’t seem to be another living being in existence. But they’re about to play a simple game that suggests they aren’t the only ones on the block. The tension in Click is pretty much immediate thanks to a droning score, a Dickensian set of buildings haunting a modern time and children who are woefully unguarded. That intrigue never lets up, and we get to see Prince and DP Mark Reeson deliver some spine-chillingly suggestive framing — mostly playing around the the geometry of the buildings. And then there’s the game. Echoing a quick match of Bloody Mary, the children gather round a light switch and see what happens when everything goes dark. From here, it’s near-perfect execution of a quiet, reserved terror all the way to the finish line. What Will It Cost? About 12 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Short Starts presents a weekly short film from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. Australian comedienne Rebel Wilson is really on the rise, and very quickly at that. It’s only been two years since she made her mainstream Hollywood debut (if we exclude playing a featured goth extra in Ghost Rider) with a small yet memorable role in Bridesmaids. But last year she was on fire with six major parts including a voice performance in the latest installment of the Ice Age series. Her big breakout, though, came with her scene-stealing stint in Pitch Perfect, which she’ll have a chance to reprise in a newly announced sequel. That movie helped her land the gig hosting last Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards, a ceremony hip to what’s hot at the moment. And now this Friday she can be seen in smaller capacity as a “penis magic” specialist in Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain. To find her short start, we only have to go back to 2009′s Bargain! This isn’t exactly the beginning of her career, which for years has consisted of regular TV work Down Under, but it is her first lead performance in film. And while this lead performance is only a few minutes in length, it garnered Wilson a Best Actor award at Tropfest. The funniest thing about it, however, is that it’s nothing compared to the confident comedic standout we know her for only three years later. She’s great in the film, which is written and directed
Why Watch? Dropping us into a world of vibrant creativity and trippy slackerism, this playful short from Anton Groves uses some fantastic design work to translate the hectic inner world of a loser into a place that we can see. Dan’s (Mihai Stanescu) reality is inhabited by monsters that look like an arts and crafts nightmare, looming everywhere he goes and symbolizing his greatest flaws. We get to learn all about him through the voice over of a young woman (Ana Ularu) who takes a romantic interest in him (probably for the stubble) and seems all too aware of the inventive decorations that cloud his mind. Fun and breezy, just about every scene is sourly milked for the comedy of a lovable loser, but it’s without a doubt the clever monsters that they’ve built that are the real stars here. The production team has taken a common idea and displayed it in a unique, mirthful way. Plus, you can learn how to make them for yourself after you fall in love with one. What Will It Cost? About 8 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? Equally sharp and absurd, this short film from Stuart Blumberg features Marisa Tomei and Elodie Bouchez as a couple who are close to ending their marriage, David Wain as a high-fiving mediator, and a few ridiculous flashbacks. Each piece of their shared history that they fight over forces them to remember the full spectrum of their relationship while creating some very funny scenarios. Especially if you’re into Aubrey Plaza making “fox babies.” The dialogue is sly, and it’s often difficult to figure out whether a line is meant as an insult or flirtation, and the talent here delivers. It’s also sleek with smart visuals and seductive — both while sharing the calm power of generosity and when sliding a loose dress slowly up the back of its star’s legs. This comedy is a long, slow pour of whiskey with a smooth finish. What Will It Cost? About 7 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? Well, because Steven Spielberg calls it the “Citizen Kane of animated film.” That’s not enough for you? Here goes. One Froggy Evening is among the best of Chuck Jones‘s cartoons, recognized by the National Film Registry along with Duck Amuck and What’s Opera, Doc? It’s the first appearance of Michigan J. Frog, American cinema’s most influential singing and dancing amphibian. The top-hat wearing vaudevillian toad starts out in a box, hidden in the cornerstone of a just-demolished building. The innocent construction worker who finds him can the piles of cash waiting to be collected before his eyes (literally, because this is a Chuck Jones cartoon), and rushes him off to an entertainment agency. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. We all know the story: the frog never performs when he needs to, and everyone thinks that the poor sap selling him is a lunatic. It’s almost like Raoul Servais’s Harpya, though nowhere near as viscerally disturbing. In the end, Michigan’s cakewalk through the tunes of the Ragtime era and Tin Pan Alley become grating reminders of the man’s failure, and he tosses him back where he came from. Yet as an audience, we can’t forget him. The songs themselves, especially “Hello! Ma Baby” are indelibly linked to this short and its dancing frog. It’s been spoofed a number of times, including by Mel Brooks in SpaceBalls. Whether it’s actually the “Citizen Kane of animated film,” I’m not sure. I think I’d rather give that title to Duck Amuck. Yet no matter how you rank it, One Froggy Evening
Why Watch? By 1990, Shepard Fairey had already been littering the streets with stickers of Andre the Giant’s face and the phrase “Andre the Giant has a Posse,” but the image was about to get a lot bigger. Acting on an ambiguous school project at Rhode Island School of Design, Fairey defaced a campaign billboard for former mayor/convicted felon Buddy Cianci. Julian Marshall‘s brash short film tells that story with a middle finger and a smile. There’s a one-man Animal House aspect to it with more punk rock thrown into the mix, and while that might normally mean quick cuts and aggressive shots, Marshall keeps things glossy and polished all the way around. It features a tight script that wastes no time in dropping us into the world and giving us exactly what we need before hopping to the next sequence. Plus, it’s filled with some sharp dialogue that makes Fairey sound a lot wiser than he probably was at the time, and Josh Wills (the actor playing Fairey) enhances that feeling with a shit-eating grin that keeps his tongue in his cheek. In fact, most of the scenario’s feel tailor-made to build to a stand-off with authority simply so that Wills can offer a kind of Alfred E. Neuman shoulder shrug before getting back to scamming the computer lab. There’s little consequence to this tale beyond the fascination of how far its young subject has come, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun right down to the last winking
Why Watch? After their previous entries, the team at Bloody Cuts essentially has a standing invitation to be featured here. They consistently make high quality, intriguing horror work, and I hope sincerely that they make more than the promised thirteen movies they have planned. Don’t Move is their eighth, and it combines claustrophobia with hellacious creature design courtesy of Cliff Wallace (Hellraiser, 28 Days Later…) and Millennium FX. Six friends get together for a game night that results in them unleashing a powerful entity that’s a lot like a T-Rex: it can only see you when you move, and it loves ripping vital body parts away from their owners. The short itself plays out like a bottle episode of a television show with heightened parameters. Writer David Scullion and director Anthony Melton achingly squeeze out all the angst that comes along with watching characters unable to move, but there’s nothing inert about the plot as supposed friends use some clever tricks to get each other to shuffle off their mortal coil. There’s one cringe-worthy moment when one young woman lays out what we already know, but everything else is airtight, and the team must have had plenty of the red stuff on hand because they’re not afraid to let it fly. Special kudos go out to that face-ripper of a final kill and to all the design work in service of a dangerous and exasperating horror concept. Whoever created that teeth-smacking, cheek-sucking sound effect for the demon deserves a special place in hell. What Will It
Why Watch? Incredibly easy-going, this short animation continually draws back our perspective through hazy landscapes until we reach a destination. Floating on piano keys, it’s a small hint of minimalist beauty — like the last bite of dessert. Nothing overwrought. Everything balanced. A nice showcase of simplicity. What Will It Cost? Around 2 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? Betty Boop is mostly remembered these days as America’s first cartoon sex symbol, with her Jazz Baby get-up and high-pitched squeal. That’s the general thrust of her cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, certainly. She’s was the animated incarnation of Pre-Code Hollywood decadence, at least in her early years before Fleischer Studios made her more demure and redirected the cartoons from adults to children.
Why Watch? Her name is Rosie, and her father’s just been bitten by a zombie. Alone except for her, he swallows his own emotional devastation in order to ensure that his infant daughter survives in a world that’s doomed him to walking death. Beyond the smart twist of the genre concept, this moving short film from Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke has a host of small touches that hit home without pouring sugar in the wound. Their leading man is facing a tragic, challenging scenario, and the production tackles the largeness of it with clear touchstones — communicating instant information to get the best of the short runtime. In other words, it’s tight, but the impact is powerful thanks to beautiful cinematography and the excellent execution of a clever concept. Hat tip to io9 and to Rod P. for sending it my way. What will it cost? Around 7 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? Prepare for your breath to be sucked from your lungs. In Paris Zarcilla‘s long-form music video, a young warrior races over land and through sea to safe his beloved from death, creating a powerful story through its high concept, its imaginative design and booming sounds from Slow Magic. The song itself is a slow jam synth enema while the visuals (particularly the smoke-and-skull constructed visage of death) are vibrantly earthy. Everything combines to add emphasis, building on each element’s momentum to create a totally wondrous experience. Incredibly, it’s the first short from what’s obviously a fantastically promising new directorial voice. What will it cost? Around 8 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Filmmaker Les Blank died today at age 77 from bladder cancer. He is best known for directing Burden of Dreams, a feature film on the making of Werner Herzog‘s Fitzcarraldo. Roger Ebert, who we lost to cancer just days ago, called it “one of the most remarkable documentaries ever made about the making of a movie.” Two years earlier, Blank made another film with Herzog as the subject. It’s wonderful title is Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. Probably not coincidentally, it also involved one of Ebert’s favorite films of all time, Errol Morris‘s directorial debut, Gates of Heaven. The 20-minute short film is, of course, literally named. Blank shows us Herzog cooking up his shoe and then eating it during a public event, part on stage at the UC Theater in Berkeley in front of a large crowd and part at a famous Berkeley restaurant called Chez Panisse. Why did Herzog eat his shoe? Because he told his friend Errol that if he ever manages to finish that first documentary of his that he’d eat his shoe. Plain and simple. In the short, Herzog offers that he’ll eat the other shoe he’d worn that day if a major studio picks up Gates of Heaven for distribution. New Yorker Films, which ended up finally releasing Gates in 1980, didn’t count.
Why Watch? After all the cultish love and the trivia and the rebooting, isn’t it nice to get back to its roots? Also, The Rebooting is a horror movie I’m writing. Don’t steal the idea. It’s pretty obvious to see the DNA for The Evil Dead in this short where Bruce Campbell plays himself with terrifying make-up (and a mysteriously deep knowledge of ancient rituals). In fact, it was made specifically to raise money for a feature film called The Book of the Dead that Campbell, Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert were planning on making. It…didn’t succeed. It only played publicly one time — before a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Detroit — but Raimi and company didn’t have permission to use the music, and the whole thing became a clustercuss that would haunt them all the way through the 2002 special edition release of The Evil Dead. There are sadly no high quality versions out there, but even through the wavy VHS-friendly lines, you can still make out the abject terror that comes with running a camera as low to the ground as possible in a disgusting forest. And the horror make-up effects! So good. So, so good. What will it cost? Around 30 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? With commanding visuals and a supreme sense of timing, this short from Benjamin Wong tells the story of a world-weary fighter faced with a newcomer’s sword and the guilt of a haunted past. The opening sequence is a testament to how gorgeous slow motion can be when it’s not overwrought — the figures and their swords carved out of the space with a fine patina, a remarkable anguish on the old man’s face. But the tale it silently tells is compelling as well, sharing an insight into the kind of man the samurai is that explains ultimately why he’s struggling, yet still fighting. Beautifully choreographed and executed, it’s a killer combination of antique visuals and timeless honor. What will it cost? Around 6 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? Because Dušan Vukotić is your new favorite old school Croatian animator, I promise you that. Piccolo is a gleefully ridiculous exercise in allegory, poking fun at the Cold War at its peak. Two neighbors share a house, split down the middle. They lead a quiet, friendly existence until one of them buys a tiny (piccolo) harmonica. His refusal to put the damn thing down, even in the middle of the night, kicks off an arms race in miniature as they try to out-blast each other with an endless progression of instruments. In a way, this is a musically-minded remake of Norman McLaren’s Oscar-winning Neighbours (1952), but without its bleak sense of humor. Piccolo‘s comedy is beaming, taking advantage of the dynamic character of Vukotić’s style. A pair of cymbals turns into a bicycle. The walls of the house are punctured by pizzicato. There’s a particularly clever gag involving a bottle of gin. The music used is mostly bombastic and recognizable, classical pieces chosen in the spirit of Chuck Jones. It’s also very well paced, growing louder and louder without reaching the pinnacle of orchestral noise too quickly. The finale, two armies of identically marching soldiers with two decades of totalitarian irony underfoot belting out Verdi choruses, is both bluntly political and charmingly absurd. Brightly colorful and skillfully animated, it’ll make you think twice about pulling out that guitar after dark. If you like Piccolo, you should check out Vukotić’s Oscar-winning Surogat and the delirious Ars Gratia Artis. What Will It Cost? Around 9 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? In the first few moments, this clever short film from Alexei Popogrebsky plays a visual trick that becomes the curious heart of a simple story of Boy Meets Girls. After a passing train causes a picture’s framing glass to break, a young man peeks into a two-dimensional world and makes a new connection. The success of this whimsical movie is the marriage between camera work and production design. The former moves like a ballerina while the latter sets up a lot of nooks and crannies to magnetize interest. His apartment is a bohemian rhapsody (which explains why an elevated train is right outside his window), while her house is a little bit of paradise complete with an inset firewood shelf. Beyond the look and illusions, there’s a simple sweetness to it as well. As a showcase for imagery, it wisely keeps the story at a basic level, although if you’re inclined to look deeper, you’ll probably see a parable about the way we interact with art and the frames we have hung in our house. Particularly the one you’re looking at now. What will it cost? Around 6 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? Last fall, when the world was all set to end, Nikolas Dane asked people from all over the planet to answer the question of what memories they would want to endure even as the rest of our existence was wiped out. The idea was kind of like a video time capsule that wouldn’t seriously be needed, but beyond the Mayan anchor to the experimental project, the idea of treasured experiences lived at the core of what Dane was doing. Using a window pane look into the raw footage, what emerges is a host of similarities and common bonds: babies, parades, natural and man-made wonders, adventurous images and everyday simplicity. The most fascinating thing is the short’s ability to take intimate (otherwise meaningless moments) and make those of us on the outside understand them. It’s a cipher for inside jokes. Knowing that these are memories someone wants to live on, to share, makes it immediately obvious what’s happening even if we’re filling in blanks more than a little (I need to learn the rules to that hand game). It’s a bit long, and that’s made most clear by the repetition of some of the footage. That’s also the product of using 6 feeds at once, but even as dreamy as it is (in that We Are The World kind of way), it could probably be cut into a tighter experience. Otherwise, it’s nice to let The End of the World Project wash over you, but after you take a deep breath and
Short Starts presents a weekly short film from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. Director Fede Alvarez, who made the Evil Dead remake out this Friday, broke out with a short film that went viral. You’ve probably seen that one, the giant robot invasion pic Ataque de Panico! (Panic Attack!) — watch here if not. Before that, though, he and his Evil Dead writing partner, Rodo Sayagues, made a few other movies including one that you can also watch online. And it’s a lot more akin to what we can probably expect from his Hollywood horror debut. There’s blood, boobs, semen, guns, machetes and screams of pleasure and of pain. It’s called El Cojonudo: La Nunca Jamas Contada Historia De — loosely translated on screen as The Never Ever Told Story of Mr. Balls.
Editor’s Note: We don’t need a reason to find Kubrick “topical,” but the release of Room 237 definitely doesn’t hurt when it comes to excuses for re-posting this valuable bit of film history. Why Watch? It’s Stanley Kubrick‘s first movie. This newsreel short is swelling with history because of the iconic heights its creator would go on to. Perhaps someone smarter than I can “see” Kubrick somewhere in the style here, but it’s hard for me to see the future master within the confines of the 1950s information short confines that seemed director-less. Of course, fighting would become a major subject for Kubrick, but as far as the visuals, I could have watched this without ever knowing how directed it. As a bonus, Open Culture featured this and two other short documentaries alongside the full story of Kubrick’s early career. It’s a must-read (and must-see). What will it cost? Only 16 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films
Why Watch? The concept and blend of animation styles in this short film make it a mesmerizing watch. A boy living in a world of eternal winter and a girl living in a never-ending spring find each other and create the first autumn. The use of the black background is a masterful element to the animation here because it allows the world to grow larger and larger with each story development. Plus, the balance of semi-realistic movement (for the little dogs), clean lines (the environments) and CGI-modeling (the boy and girl) create a kind of depth that works well with the somber poetry unfolding. It’s truly captivating work. Hat tip to Short of the Week for featuring it. What will it cost? Around 8 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? Filled with aggressively melodramatic statements about a simple logo and theme song, this short from Room 237 director Rodney Ascher is a deftly funny exploration of something that should be (and is) completely harmless. But it’s got a trick up its sleeve. Maybe it’s the hypnotic throng of the continually repeated synth theme or the queasy presentation of nightmarish scenarios, but after the laughter dies down, you really start to feel uneasy about that damned “S.” The dichotomy is pristine — a joyous sound accompanying a slick-looking, vibrant icon matched with bizarre personal accounts of terror. Ascher and the production stick to their guns the whole way, never smirking, never winking at the audience. When aliens find this in 10 years (yeah, that soon), they’re going to believe this company’s logo really was the handiwork of Satan. And of course you’ll want to stay through the credits for one last twist of the knife. What will it cost? Around 8 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? Silly and cheerful, this joyous horror short from writer/director Stephen W. Martin sees a bullied little girl try to grow a friend from a formerly used body part. It’s Mary Shelley’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green. There are definitely some lost gambles here (and a little bit of low budget shining through), but overall the bombastic nature of the sound design and music, paired with some unorthodox camera options make it a fun, semi-ridiculous jaunt that presents jump scares like a fresh bouquet of flowers. It’s not at all scary, but that doesn’t mean it’s not bloody. If it were only possible to have David Cronenberg in a crushed velvet suit introduce this one. What will it cost? Around 10 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? Smoke swirling in the air after exhalation. An ankle turning violently against a high heeled shoe. An umbrella obscuring the view. With a slow motion series of images — all delicately orchestrated — Alban Delachenal has crafted a seductively somber dance where a beautiful young woman ends up with strong hands against her throat while the world outside moves on without caring. A small child is the only witness, and her screams seem to go unnoticed. The triumph here is in exquisitely crafting moments that look stunning but also push the story along. Yes, it’s a simple story, but it’s a deadly one, and that comes with its own impact no matter how blithely the nameless characters treat it. Delachenal calls this a tribute to Hitchcock, and that seems clear only from a few camera set ups — most notably an overhead shot moving through an ornate art deco lobby. It’s got style and substance, but it also seems more like Hitchcock injected with a large dose of the New Wave. What will it cost? Around 3 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? In this short from Brian McAllister, an old man routinely visits a coffee shop, explaining to the young man behind the counter that he takes his coffee plain before pocketing a bunch of sugar packets. The young man lets his imagination run wild with thoughts of what the old man wants them for. Tom Everett Scott (That Thing You Do!) narrates this tale via a long-form ABAB-style poem where things go from mysterious to syrupy sweet. It’s covered in nostalgia despite a mostly modern setting, and the camera does a lot of the heavy lifting by pulling in focus to the actors’ eyes or floating along gracefully when the mood strikes. Plus, it’s grounded in something that lets the tenderness of it breathe. This is the exact kind of thing that could feel false and smarmy, but ends up warm and inviting because it’s an exercise in the importance of telling stories as much as it is a demonstration of great storytelling. The poem is honestly a bit much at first, but it grows on you, and the story itself is a lot like an ice cream truck — you hear it coming from a long way off, but you’re still happy when it arrives. Hat tip to Short of the Week for this one. What will it cost? Around 8 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? In its first web series, Reddit has managed something charming but adult. Fortunately, they chose a subreddit category that isn’t horrifying. The concept behind Explain Like I’m Five is both hidden deep inside the title and a favorite of advertising campaigns, but its the execution that finds an excellent balance between subjugating children to mature concepts like “Exatentalum” and delivering something sweetly non-toxic. In this entry, Michael Kayne and Langan Kingsley talk to a group of children about Friederich Nietzsche and his philosophical legacy of challenging the Socratic status quo. It’s a tortured concept that most college freshman can’t grasp, but these five year olds seem to catch on pretty quick. Especially when it comes to stealing toys they want. It’s simple, sure, but it’s also a damned delight. What will it cost? Around 3 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Short Starts typically presents a weekly short film from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. This week we present short films from the start of Irish cinema. While St. Patrick’s Day is technically specifically a holiday to honor St. Patrick, because he’s the patron saint of Ireland the occasion has become a time for celebrating all things Irish. For many of us, that means wearing green, drinking Guinness and/or Jameson (and/or Harp, Kilkinney, Bulmer’s, Smithwick’s, Bailey’s, Old Bushmills … alcohol in general) and blasting Dropkick Murphys while drunkenly attempting to/mocking stepdance. For a few of us, it’s also a moment to recognize Irish cinema, and by that I don’t just mean Darby O’Gill and a bunch of IRA/”Troubles” dramas (though many of these are great). Maybe it means something by one of the McDonagh brothers (like Martin’s foreign-set In Bruges or John Michael’s domestically placed The Guard) or any one of the Roddy Doyle Barrytown Trilogy adaptations (if you’ve only seen The Commitments, get to Stephen Frears’ The Snapper and The Van too). You’re also encouraged to watch some shorts, particularly since Ireland is a great producer of shorts, many of which go on to Oscar consideration like Martin McDonagh’s Six Shooter, which won in 2006, and recent nominees Pentecost, The Crush, The Door, New Boy, Give Up Yer Aul Sins and Fifty Percent Grey. And we can go all the way back to 1900 for the beginning of short films shot and/or produced in the country. Check
Why Watch? Two years ago, Chan-wook Park announced that he was making a short film with his brother Chan-kyong shot entirely on an iPhone. At the time, he lauded the device for being portable, easy to use and populist in its appeal. It was exciting — a seasoned filmmaker was toying with something new. Anything could happen. In the film, a man goes fishing (after a rock band jams for a while…) before encountering a mysterious woman and engaging with the spirit world. It’s horror done through Park’s tilted lens with a hint of South Korean melodrama and religiosity thrown in for good measure. Sadly (but not surprisingly), the clarity and camera work is absolutely an issue. Although there are a few impressive panning shots that use several well-placed focal points to create the illusion of expansion and contraction, over all the iPhone element is a gimmick that hangs like an albatross. Fortunately, the story is imbued with some colorful, joyous strangeness and an enticing exploration of sacrifice and loss. There are moments that channel Kurosawa and others that go off on their own path through the wilderness. The black and white segment is especially ghostly in its shaded wonderments. It just would have been great to see it shot with something you can’t play Angry Birds on. What will it cost? Around 30 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.
Why Watch? A pitch-perfect spoof of 80s action films (that only falters slightly when it says the phrase “80s action movies”), this excellent short is a great example of how taking something that’s silly seriously can result in a lot of laughs. Facing their toughest challenge yet, a group of warriors has to infiltrate a terrorist cell that has one of their own’s brother held hostage. It’s going to be dangerous, but not that dangerous, because they’re all on a paintball course. The camera work and the too-gruff acting are both excellent, but the ridiculous score is the real standout, punctuating most scenes with a towering faux-poignancy. Plus, I have no idea what kind of accent the bad guy is going for, and that’s a good thing. All in all, a very fun little action flick. What will it cost? Around 6 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.