Short Films

The Snowman Short Film

Why Watch? An adorable snowman loses his nose, a group of mischievous (or hungry) rabbits decide they want to eat it, and a clumsy race over a frozen lake ensues. Naturally, silent film slapstick is involved. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s essentially the same thing Frozen did with its teaser trailer (plus a reindeer and minus the rabbits), and that’s why Kelly Wilson and Neil Wrischnik, the filmmakers behind The Snowman, are suing Disney. It’s a keen, sweet little short. Pleasant for all ages with simple animation and a sharp comic sense of raising the stakes that works to make the battle for a snowman’s nose smile-inducing. Also, the rabbits are fat, leading me to believe that they’ve been successful at de-nosing other snowmen before this. There’s obviously the curiosity of the suit, and Slate goes down the icy rabbit hole quite a ways on that, but you can see the short for yourself by clicking through the embed below.

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Pure X Heaven

Why Watch? This short film from Ben Kitnick has the look and feel of a standard music video, but instead of the next Abercrombie model in line for the job, they’ve chosen to follow around Corey Busboom — a man known for his hook suspension work. And, yes, there are images of hook suspension among the blissful images of carnival rides and demolition derbies. Tonally, Heaven is a lost summer. It’s childlike in its wonder, particularly because of the juxtaposition of amusement park antics and the free-wheeling spirit of soft focus, but Busboom brings a severity to it. He’s grizzled and tanned, and his final suspension act is poignant despite the easy ebb of the music. On that front, Pure X’s sound evokes a chillwave feel with Ben Kweller-like vocals and a sunny guitar strum (adding to the lost summer tonality). A smiling aural tranquilizer. The gimmick of blending real life and a music video isn’t taken to its full endpoint, and there have been others before it that tell a true story, but fortunately this pleasing, thoughtful short goes beyond the hook.

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Sintel Short Film

Why Watch? You can’t see this short film on YouTube anymore. As reported at Cartoon Brew, Sony had it taken down from the site despite zero Sony-made images or sounds appearing in it. Fortunately, you can still watch Sintel online in all its CGI glory. Directed by Pixar animator Colin Levy, it follows a tragic, obsessed warrior who is on the hunt for a dragon. Not to kill it, but to save it. Even at four years old, the animation resonates, and the story resounds powerfully. Like most action shorts, it begins with a balletic fight scene proving our hero’s dominance, but unlike most action shorts, it heads in an uneasy direction marked by ferocity of purpose and the blindness of loyalty. Such is this adventurer’s hamartia.

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Movies Starring Movies Short Film

Why Watch? This is not going to be the most profound thing you see today, but this short film from Portal Party is a pun-filled visual delight. It’s also clearly targeted at us movie fans. The premise is as basic as it gets — short,  vignettes featuring a sprinkle of tension delivered alongside  some highly talented DVDs. To be blunt, it’s dumb fun that knows how dumb and fun it is, and with any luck, you would have been sold by the header image and skipped right over my writing. Movies Starring Movies is a sweet distraction, and I’ll be looking forward to future installments.

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Meat Bingo Short Film Lot 13

Why Watch? The Meat Bingo team has done it again, creating a short film that is unsettling and not wholly explained. In Lot 13, directed by John Panton, a sparsely populated auction house achieves an uneasy silence for the items up for bid until a sealed box ignites a passive aggressive battle of bigger and bigger numbers. For one, the use of space is first-rate, creating something familiar (at least through movies and TV) and perverting into a place that feels uninviting and off-puttingly religious. Instead of dank dark, it’s overly bright. Every detail is exposed, and not all of them are pleasant. That awkward environment is established immediately, and is then pushed in a way that might make your skin win a crawling race. If crawling races are a thing. Do I wish they had a bigger FX budget? Yes. It is solid nonetheless? Absolutely. This brief stint into stark-raving insanity is an excellent example of the kind of fun that should come with blood pressure pills.

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The Last Ten Short Film

Why Watch? We start high, impossibly high, staring down into a stairwell as a living trench coat opens the door and kicks on the lights. What follows is a test of will, stretching out the time it takes to boil pasta to its breaking point with a noirish angle that Hitchcock might bust a gut at. David Higgs‘ short film The Last Ten is clever in its execution — from toying with lighting for intensity to forcing the imagination to do heavy lifting with off-screen events. It’s also excruciating in the way it refuses to give you what you want. It offers no quarter on a traditional front, on a framing front, or on an editing front, but it ends up like cringing excellence. Like being given an amazing dessert and being allowed only a toothpick to eat it with. Fortunately, while waiting for the sweet stuff, it offers some truly impressive sepia tones laced with some kind of spine-affecting drug. Plus, not only is the sound design the platform that keeps the plates spinning, Higgs found a way to mirror the noises he used (sex audio and strangulation audio are eerily, comically similar). The Last Ten is unconventional, frustratingly delightful, and it pops.

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Chrysalis Short Film

Why Watch? A cute young girl gets into a car with another boy, and a young man falls apart. Nick Rutter took that concept literally for his short film about growing up while your heart breaks. The broken heart in Chrysalis belongs to a boy whose physical appearance matches his mindset — his seams are splitting, fingers falling off and his muscles twist and snarl as if the bones have been melted. All of it is aggressively punctuated by atmospheric droning from Lapalux, thoroughly crafting an environment that’s disturbing while dipping its toes in Cronenbergian waters. It’s a chilly shawl the short film wraps around you, using a minimum of (beautifully done) gore to make you feel the loss.

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Shifter Short Film

Why Watch? Here’s the deal: this short film from The Hallivis Brothers has a lot of stupid 80s action tropes stuffed into it. Everyone is model attractive (including the Kate Beckinsale lookalike), there’s a steroid-infused bad guy, none of the characters are defined beyond being hot, a cartoonish amount of bullets are expelled, and all the dialogue is laughably cliched. But here’s the other thing: it all looks amazing. Shifter has fantastically executed action that blends neatly with some inventive CGI (the elevator cables are an inspired touch). The Inception riff is easy to spot in the form of a mystery-computer-suitcase, although the science fiction element feels silly (injected with that 80s action sensibility again) when it serves only to turn one chase scene into two chase scenes. On that front, it has an entertaining throwback quality that puts the generic in genre, but it’s difficult to deny that the complete package is built purely for speed. It thinks with its biceps, and some will find ironic enjoyment there, but there’s serious skill behind the careening camera angles, the energetic economy of the editing and the overall sheen. It’s the cinematic equivalent of parkour — which oddly enough features no parkour. All adrenaline tricks, no real substance. But clearly that was the point.

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This Is Not a Time to Lie Short Film

Why Watch? There’s a lot going on in this short film from Lei Lei. Maybe too much. Not satisfied to use a singular rectangular space, the artist instead creates what looks like a Trapper Keeper explosion of different configurations and patterns. This Is Not a Time To Lie requires a wandering eye or multiple viewings. Among the shapes that create transforming landscapes is a large-eyed hero who finds a sailboat and heads out on a trippy adventure. It’s surreal, yes, but there’s a structure at work both visually and in its poetic storytelling. There’s also an antique feel to the textures which Lei Lei uses — crafting a backdrop that resembles torn book pages and a foreground marked (and marred) by synthesized water marks and shadows.

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Enormous Web Series

Why Watch? If you were wondering what Pacific Rim would be like if we didn’t have any real technology to fight the Kaiju, the new web series Enormous promises to have an answer for you. The concept behind the series — and its first installment — is that society has been hobbled by gigantic terrors, and a debilitating virus has rocked the humans who remain. A one-two punch of bad luck. As a first chapter, it’s a snippet of things to come, but it also serves as a quick and dirty one-off. It’s a rugged introduction, although nothing so far is off the well-beaten path beyond the blending of two genres into one. There’s the group of heroes who believe that children (somehow) are the future, there’s the group of selfish banditos trying to steal from those with a higher purpose, and there’s the giant eyeball staring into the 30th floor window. Directed by BenDavid Grabinski (who did the excellent Cost of Living short), and with a script from Trollhunter‘s Andre Ovredal, the language of Enormous is pulpy and terse even in its exposition. It looks great, particularly the juxtaposition of a sunshine-lit working over and a dank high rise that offers a new hope. Unfortunately, the CGI-crafted monster is on par with what we’ve come to expect from a YouTube-dwelling budget. It’s like a cartoon beast shows up in the real world, and while it doesn’t sink the whole enterprise, the weak effects hopefully won’t show up all that often. Or, if Kaiju are going […]

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float short film

Why Watch? Yesterday we went flying with Superman, but this animated short film from Haruki Kawanaka is a flight of a different kind. float is a gorgeous, living sketch book with a score that sounds like a video game console wrote it. For the most part, it’s a blend of geometry and water color-style work that takes us over the city and across the sea as a piece of paper transforms into something else. Purely experiential, it’s a beautiful — strangely comforting — piece of visual poetry.

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Superman with a GoPro

Why Watch? Haven’t you always wanted to know what it’s like to fly like Superman? Of course you have. This short video is just pure fun. Corridor Digital has a first-person POV winner here, but it’s also a curious artifact on innovative technique. Not mind-blowing innovation, but certainly a sharp use of a drone and a GoPro camera. We hear a lot about how easy it is to make movies now — how the equipment is cheaper and better than ever, how the internet has opened up distribution, how creativity can be instantly rewarded. This is slight, no doubt, and it’s little more than a diversion, but it’s also cool. It’s also an example of the way that video is opening up and the unexpected ways that people are using it. The reason it’s watchable for a full 3 minutes is that they don’t merely zoom around town showing off the landscape. There’s a whisper of a story here, less in a plot-driven way, and more in a day-in-the-life way, but it’s all enough to put a Ritalin smile on your face.

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Findher Short Film

Why Watch? This short film from director Gal Ziv opens with a man and woman getting a phone call regarding their lost dog and then jumps down a rabbit hole to reveal violence, desperation and revenge. First of all, some of the shots are oversaturated — an amateur sheen — but the story is intense, the acting tight and aggressive and the photography itself (angles and composition) is often evocative. Findher is punchy, but it’s also entertaining in the twists and turns that take place on rocky streets.

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SOC 2014

Why Watch? Ah, memories that we didn’t make. It’s amazing to look back at films made a century ago — a full lifetime before we were born — and think of them as familiar. Old pals. There’s a real beauty in being able to grow up with images from bygone eras. Fortunately, The Society of Camera Operators put together this wonderful diversion for film fans to enjoy. Think of it as a moving museum wall you can check out from home.

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Torturous Short Film

Why Watch? What if the Hostel and Saw crew grabbed the wrong guy? And what if the madman wearing the leather apron and rocking an electric drill was having an existential crisis? This excellent short film from Angus Swantee finds the perfect balance between blood-soaked fear and bone dry laughs. Not an easy task, it manages to bring comedy to a terrifying situation by allowing the victim to keep his cool and the villain to react like a human. That naturalism in the face of genre rules makes for some fantastic absurdism that all plays out in a spot-on parodic set. Fantastic concept, stellar execution. No wonder it’s played a bajillion festivals.

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The Ride Short Film

Why Watch? In The Ride, a young man is waiting on his friends to go on a road trip when he runs into his ex-girlfriend. They talk, reminisce, and connect in a surprising new way when he offers to take her home. Timothy Melville‘s short film is nine parts verite chemistry and one part rug-pulling shock. The kind of storytelling that eschews exposition for a sweet mystery of life, slowly letting us into the couple’s world as they reconnect beyond small talk and awkward cadences. Stars Benjamin Rigby and Belinda Misevski both hold attention in an effortless — admittedly Abercrombie & Fitch — way, but it’s really their connection that matters because with lesser actors, the film wouldn’t float nearly as well toward its punchy conclusion. At this point, it’s pretty clear Melville has a favorite style.

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Project Skyborn

Why Watch? We’ve all been there. You wake up in a snow-covered, Earth-like alien world with a loaded science gun and a limited amount of oxygen. It seems dire, but fortunately there’s someone hunting you. Maybe it’s the Herrmannesque score or the near-constant heavy breathing, but this short from Marko Slavnic is a muscle tenser. It’s a snare drum exercise in atmospheric worry that doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but still adds a new tire to it.

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Most Shocking Second a Day Video

Why Watch? This awareness ad from Save the Children has been making the rounds, and rightfully so. It’s a stellar, concise flash of storytelling that shows a year in the life of a young girl as it’s ripped out of normalcy. It’s also amazing for subverting the empty-headed second-a-day video meme that typically does nothing except for profoundly showing that time moves forward along with hairstyle changes. Right down to the title (Most Shocking Second a Day Video), it uses the language of viral content to hook an audience that then receives a deeper message.

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Miraculous-Tales

The 2014 True/False Film Fest has come and gone, like a strange and wonderful whirlwind. Every film festival wants to be a physical incarnation of the love of cinema, but a lot of them wind up taken over by the business end of things. This four-day Columbia, Missouri, party for docs and doc-lovers is the real deal. The programming is creative and eccentric and so are the audiences and volunteers, among the most refreshingly enthusiastic people I have ever encountered in a movie theater. It really is a unique and shining spot on the American movie calendar. But enough about True/False on the whole. I saw a whole bunch of really interesting, unexpected films over the course of my long weekend in Columbia. Many of them took the name of the festival to heart, blurring the line between narrative and documentary. All of them contributed to the growing notion that nonfiction cinema is an equal form of artistic expression to more traditionally art-house fiction filmmaking. Here are my eight favorites: READ MORE AT NONFICS

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Life After Pi Short Film

Why Watch? As movies become more and more reliant on visual effects, the cracks of a problematic industry model have started to tear the fabric of how CGI artists can continue to do what they do best. If you kept an eye on the Oscar protest yesterday, or remember Rhythm & Hues winning last year for Life of Pi a week-and-a-half after going bankrupt, you know how dire the situation is. With a full, fascinating picture (and some magical CGI transformations), Life After Pi offers the fundamental problems in a startling fashion. It’s a matter of passionate people being asked to do impossible things. And yet, think of what might happen if VFX workers were united in a refusal to work. To take back the power calculated directly from the major studios’ reliance. If you can’t make billions without the team that creates your cape/tiger/talking raccoon/disaster sequence, shouldn’t that team be worth more? Shouldn’t their workers be treated fairly, not have to live out of hotels, and not be forced to work 100-hour weeks? If altering your production means adding more construction money and acting fees, shouldn’t it mean adding to your VFX budget? It’s one-sided, certainly, but Life After Pi is a vital half-hour for all movie fans to watch.

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