Best Short Films

Multiverse Short Film

Why Watch? At the opening of this short film from Michael DiBiasio, a young woman (Rebecca De Ornelas) obsessively tucks her hair behind her ear, gets a text message and then tentatively heads for her front door. It’s a sequence that becomes overbearingly familiar as she experiences a series of hollow social encounters filled with literally blank faces. Where Groundhog Day set out to make repeated sequences entertaining and fresh, Multiverse uses quiet echoes for an opposite, alienating effect. Coupled with an agoraphobic’s eye view of abjectly meaningless jaunts into generic parties and bar scenes, we get to share in her angst to the point where tossing on some stretchy pants and staying in feels like a damned fine idea. The editing also aids the disconnected feeling — shooting us from the doorknob straight into the middle of a crowd — and the cinematography keeps focus on De Ornelas while almost always framing her slightly off-center (not to mention she’s the only set of eyes we get to see). She is unmistakably alone and surrounded. This is a great example of transforming something benign into a nerve-gripping trial. Heading down a hallway becomes the space walk from 2001. Going to see a comedian becomes the grownup version of dreaming you’re naked in school. By the end, you can easily imagine Franz Kafka watching this, putting his arm fraternally around DiBiasio and then buying him a beer.

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This Land is Mine Short Film

Why Watch? In the spectrum of using an inappropriate platform to deliver an important social message, this short film from Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues) reaches Monty Python levels of purity and dedication. Eschewing the typically dry, somber way that profound conflict is often portrayed (while utilizing the absurdity of action movie violence), This Land is Mine strips away everything except murderous domination in order to color a history of a land with many names. Israel, Palestine, The Levant. This short doesn’t exactly offer illumination on the current crisis happening in Gaza, but it condenses thousands of years to show one angle on and beyond the devastation. Again, wacky animation with Andy Williams boldly crooning “The Exodus Song” and a body count rising is a teaching method with teeth. It’s aggressive, semi-satirical and proves you can laugh with your jaw on the floor. There’s a read on this movie that it crassly shares a hopeless message of the land being doomed to bloodshed, but I don’t see it that way. Instead, I think of it as a simple reconstruction of reality — pared down as it may be. No, the Eastern Mediterranean isn’t defined solely by its wars (not by a long shot), but it’s powerful to see so many people singing the same song.

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Quentin and Lisa at the Grocery Store

Why Watch? Two things stick out about this comedy(?) short film from Thane Economou besides it being a single, six-minute-long tracking shot. First, it’s an intense blast of the full emotional spectrum contained in a tiny space. Second, it shrugs off its own ferocity with Dude-like, headphone-blasting zen. In Quentin and Lisa…at the Grocery Store, two fiery exes run into each other in an area built for 1.8 shopping carts to exist and proceed to brutally assail each other across the entire establishment. Things get ugly — maybe too ugly at times — but the manic energy is infectious, providing two brains devoid of rational thought a chance to collide. The comic timing is sharp, the camera movement is acrobatic enough to impress in the tight squeeze, but the short film also works largely because it focuses on a rocket blast of an argument that’s meaningless from a few feet away. It works you into a lather before reminding you that it isn’t really that big a deal. Beyond that foundation, the humor comes directly from the uncomfortable fear of confrontation, played naturally and followed by two free radicals finding their verbal fists. Let the fireworks commence.

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Dinner With Holly Short Film

Why Watch? Rob and Anna are looking to add some seasoning to their sex life, and they’ve actually been doing a good job if their need to clean the kitchen counters is any indication, but when their friend Holly comes to dinner this short film from Josh Crockett and Daniel Sinclair gets hit with Office-level dashes of uncomfortable propositioning. There are really two keys to the brilliance of Dinner With Holly. The first is the shared chemistry between its actors — Kristin Slaysman, Bob Turton and Bridget Moloney — that creates a realistic base of comfortable characters shoving well past their comfort zone while allowing for all the overwhelming emotions that naturally tag along. These are our friends and neighbors. Every decision seems rooted in figuring out what a dull suburbanite would do when faced with uncomfortable situations that are largely self-desired and self-created. They realize in the middle of their quest that letting loose has consequences beyond scrubbing their cooking surfaces. The second mark of magic is editing that is fearless in allowing pregnant silences to hang even as we’re caught tapping our toes, desperate for the scene to change. It bolsters everything the actors are doing by offering an anti-laugh track environment. Like a stranger making prolonged eye contact, we have no choice but to accept the situation or look away, and if you can handle staring something awkward in the face, this short film will yield a lot of hilarious dividends.

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Every Runner Has a Reason Short Film

Why Watch? Busting through like Rocky without the gray sweats on, Ronnie Goodman flies in slow motion down the streets of San Francisco like every sports documentary subject of all time. Just to hammer the standard tropes home, his low voice provides an autobiographical voiceover while chill wave music crawls in the background. At first, this short film is hallmarked by gorgeous photography and calm, simple sentences telling an athletic story as common as 110% showing up in a post-game, locker room chat. Then, Every Runner Has a Reason shifts, and shifts again. It’s due completely to Goodman and his personal story, marrying a common documentary method to a worthy, compelling subject. At less than 3 minutes long, it also manages to offer facts about Goodman in a specific order that challenges preconceived notions, purposefully letting the audience make assumptions about a man who is (within seconds) going to push hard against them.

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A Truncated Story of Infinity Short Film

Why Watch? Imbued with Eternal Sunshine‘s DNA, this fantastic short film from Paul Trillo makes repetition interesting and vibrant by framing a single, unimportant man on an unimportant day faced with unlimited possibilities Gorgeously dynamic visuals are to be expected from Trillo (see his previous work Salience), but not only do we get abstractions like an Escherian tea pot eternally pouring into a never-spilling cup, we also get to see the banal made fresh. Sometimes that’s through the subtlety of fingernail polish colors shifting, sometimes from a television smashing to the sidewalk. There’s also a hint of Stranger Than Fiction here, as the narrator for A Truncated Story of Infinity discusses his generic subject with dry witticism and flatly offered profundity. It’s the blend of those sweeping, plain as day observations and the beautiful photography of common paradoxes that makes this short film a wondrous delight.

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Straight Down Low Short Film

Why Watch? Almost a decade ago, Rian Johnson turned eyebrows with Brick by passionately sticking to noir conventions while subverting them just enough to breathe fresh life into a musty genre. To be fair to that genre, it’s one that will eternally and repeatedly enjoy new resurgences, potentially along the same tidal lines as the western, and Brick hit just at the right moment with all the right ingredients. This short film from Zach Wechter follows that same formula, and through doing so, reminds us that its the familiarity of the story beats that keeps entries in this seedy world so satisfying. Like Johnson’s film, Straight Down Low (announcing its genre right there in the title) asks a cast of high school students to get to the bottom of a gangland murder, and in not attempting to reinvent the wheel, he instead conducts a master class in cool. Beyond the tropes, Wechter’s movie has a different sheen to it — a modern noir told through clearer lenses and a drug-dealing plot that feels classic without feeling dated. The leading man is handsome and enigmatic (although I don’t totally buy Shamar Sanders as “nerdy”), the femme fatale is beautiful and wily (and I fully buy beautiful and wily from Daniele Watts), the bad men are very bad, and the twisty turns are told through the standard spoken poetry of our hero’s heady contemplation. You may need a stiff drink afterward. Overall, it’s a strong example of knocking one out of the park by nailing the fundamentals, and […]

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Follow Your Fears Short Film

Why Watch? To be honest, there’s a lot of schmaltz going on in this documentary short film from Live Unbound, but sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that dreams can be both big and personal. Sometimes it’s good to remember that, damn it, you can work to achieve your own thrills in life. Follow Your Fears has everything a soft focus inspirational story needs: a crazy person attempting something crazy, a kind message of life’s brief brilliance by a beloved relative, and a money shot that requires a mental crash pad. Brad O’Neal has wanted to launch a motorcycle into the air high enough to base jump from since he was a little kid, and now that he’s a professional Motocross racer, he’s decided he has the skills necessary to make it a reality. To be specific, that means riding a motorcycle off a ramp so high that he can pull a parachute and make it safely back to the ground. Sadly, no one else seems to want to make it a reality, so it takes an education and guts into his own hands to do something that could potentially break most of the important bones in his body (all to the tune of navel-gazing post-rock). Yes, it’s a little bit funny to pump so much grandiosity and poignancy into a 2-second bike stunt, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded that there are wonderful, wacky people out there trying stuff that we shouldn’t attempt at home.

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Chaser Short Film

Why Watch? At the center of this short film from Sal Bardo is a sex scene made uncomfortable to watch not by the presentation of the act, but by the orgy of emotive facial expressions projected by the film’s star Max Rhyser. In Chaser, Rhyser plays Zach, a teacher (with surprisingly empathetically intelligent young students) who is alienated and alienates himself from a conservative family. While his brother and sister-in-law have bought a new house with enough rooms for new humans, Zach views a foundational future as something beyond his reach, and seeks comfort in a barebacking house party that offers easy sex as a temporary fix. “Fix” is a good term for what Zach is chasing — both as a solution and as a high. There is both pleasure and pain in his stripping down in an unfamiliar room and having sex with strangers, but through the act, Zach reveals that he was used up before he ever walked into the party. There are a few hiccups — notably some stagey-feeling acting (that ends up working thematically in the story’s favor) and a few amateur lighting cues — but the overall impact of the short film is potent and aggressive. I especially loved the image of a piece of paper with continuous hollow fun advertised on one side and the chance to escape the cycle on the other.

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Beneath Short Film 2014

Why Watch? At first, this short film from director Frank Maldonado feels like an unauthorized music video, but it quickly coalesces around an enigmatic chase and several shots of self-destructive emotion. Beneath features a young man wallowing in angst and whatever’s handy at the bar, riding the subways of New York City until he spots a thuggish figure in a ripped-up black hoodie who inexplicably starts following him. Boasting that it was shot in a single night throughout Brookyln, Manhattan and Coney Island, the short film feels like it — but only because the story takes place over the span of one night leading into the sunrise. It’s gorgeous, shot with precision that makes great sense of motion (a shot of our hero walking away from us as a train heads speeding toward us is particularly strong) and showcases the loneliness of the young man regardless of whether he’s lost in thought under a shower head or surrounded by the metropolitan crowds. The editing also helps to blur the night together, flashing between moments as a collective instead of a linear series of events, placing us into his troubled headspace. It also works well because it leads in an unexpected direction. In spite of being mostly abstract — and swimming in neon-soaked visual nods to work like Only God Forgives – there’s a significant payoff for wordless curiosity.

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Time Travel Lover

Why Watch? Let’s say you tell your friend that if you ever love a Michael Bay movie, he should just go ahead and kill you. Then, 10 years later, you rave about Bay’s latest (a heartfelt remake of My Fair Lady), and your pal shows up on your doorstep with a gun. He’d only be doing his duty, right? Even more complicated, in a world where time travel exists, what authority do you have to make decisions that will affect your future self? This excellent short film from director Bo Mirosseni and writer Elisha Yaffe (presented by Partizan Films) toys with the more mundane uses of the profoundly powerful tool, proving that it’ll be the personal things (and probably not assassination attempts on Hitler) that will do the most damage. Time Travel Lover is a hilarious — often dispiriting — exercise in having a plan laid out before you that you never asked to see. In it, a young man (Yaffe) and woman (Stephanie Hunt) are about to make it past third base when a disheveled version of the young man appears to warn him of the heartbreak he’s inviting. Naturally, things aren’t that simple, and the room fills up rather quickly. Somehow, Bruce Willis never pops up with gold bricks taped to his back. More than anything else, this short film lives on the clever shoulders of Yaffe’s script and the chemistry he shares with Hunt. They both own each moment (large and small), and give the premise the exact right amount of incredulity to maintain the […]

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The Nest Short Film

Why Watch? Typically we think of David Cronenberg‘s movies as grotesquely challenging our relationship to our own bodies. Mention his name, and the expectations are chest vaginas and goopy ears falling off their owners — regardless of his clearly displayed versatility and drama mastery. That’s a major reason why I love his new short film The Nest. Without any makeup fx or visceral transformations, he manages a discomfiting atmosphere that uses suggestion and unknowns to poison our imaginations. With disarming minimalism, the movie focuses on a young woman who wants to get her left breast removed because insects are living in it. So, yeah, that’s a Cronenbergian synopsis right there. It’s constructed as an unflinching POV shot of the young woman, resting entirely on and proving wholly the powerful presence of Evelyne Brochu (who some will recognize from Orphan Black). Simply put, this is a dull film without her intensity and calm insanity (similar to another of Cronenberg’s modern shorts). She sells a delusion to the point that we’re left questioning whether her garage-set surgical consult is actually the right course of action for a human wasp’s nest. Or maybe the doctor (voiced coolly by Cronenberg) is a mad opportunist taking advantage of mental illness. Or maybe a dozen other things. We’re left pondering a lot of possibilities, but it seems clear that no matter the reality, what’s going to happen next will be terrible.

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Ignition Short Film

Why Watch? There are few sounds in this world worse to wake up to than the noise of your beloved automobile being stolen. For Jake (Hank Spangler), it’s a fried out Kombi called Betsy, and he’s probably wishing he didn’t sleep in his tighty whities. Or that he didn’t lock himself out of his house. This short film from Dylan Kai Harris is front-loaded with potential — looking like the kind of thing Guy Ritchie and Edgar Wright might make if they had teamed up in college. Ignition takes a high concept script and fills it with colorful figures (none more vibrant than the Naked Cowboy look-a-like at the center of the action) and clever editing that offers a shot glass of gasoline. It’s also a fine example of a movie that’s 90% where it needs to be. A little amateurish acting, some timing issues and an indulgent Tarantino-aping textual trick can all be forgiven because there’s a lot of fun to be had watching a burnout aggressively asking, “dude, where’s my car?”

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Looking Thru the B-Sides Short Film

It’s Go Skateboarding Day! Go skateboarding! Or, if you aren’t the type to go skateboarding, don’t. Most of us aren’t, really. I’m not. But I do love skateboard cinema and so should you. The kinetic energy of the sport has inspired countless films over the years, from the early experiments of the 1960s through the massive culture of skateboard videos on the web today. We’ve come a long way since 1965′s Palme d’Or-winning short film, Noel Black’s SoCal surf rock classic Skaterdater. The proliferation of amateur footage online is almost breathtaking, and much of it is a lot better than you might expect. And, of course, the rough and tumble fight against gravity has inspired a whole bunch of excellent animation as well. The movement of the skateboarder and the aesthetics of skateboard culture beg for cartoon representation and a handful of filmmakers have risen to the challenge. Looking Thru the B-Sides is a bizarre cross between a skateboard video and “Through the Looking Glass,” funded by FUEL TV and directed by Saiman Chow and the team at the Golden Lucky animation studio. The plot is pretty simple. A young skateboarder, affectionately named “Ollie,” heads out to go to his local skate park. Upon arrival, however, he finds the gate boarded up and covered in intimidating signage. In a rage he tears off one of the warnings and seems likely to hop the fence, only to be met by a buffoonish cop who looks lifted right out of a Rankin and Bass TV special. The subsequent chase […]

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I Will Never Let You Down Short Film

Why Watch? In the rare example where corporate synergy doesn’t create an awkward, lumbering Franken-short, Diego Luna has managed to craft a short film for Pepsi with soccer and Rita Ora at its core without compromising quality. The result is I Will Never Let You Down (conveniently sharing its title with Ora’s summer hit), a balletic view on elderly people playing the beautiful game. Like the most epic pick-up match on record, Luna makes sweeping use of slow motion and a hazy lens that gives everything a shot of instant sweet memories. It’s the slow motion — particularly making slow-moving people move even slower — that offers a wry touch of brilliance, but it’s the transformation of the players into 78-year-old children that ultimately brings the magic here. There’s also the sprightly, tinkling score and the pleasantly absurd elongation of the ref’s whistle to provide a few smiles. I’m not taking sides or anything, but that bearded keeper has some serious swagger.

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Modern Love Beyond Years Short Film

Why Watch? This is a fantastic short film, and the good news is that it’s only the start of a promising series of documentaries pinging off the New York Times column “Modern Love.” Equally parts heart-warming and -wrenching, every personal tale provides another signal that partnership comes in about a billion different varieties. Beyond Years is no different. In it, a man in his 40s and a woman in her 20s describe their relationship and the event that could have torn them apart. It’s accompanied by an animation style that uses minimalism, a hint of Escher and several gorgeously constructed visual metaphors to enhance each new sentence and situation. Animator Freddy Arenas does wonders with suggestive shapes and a limited palette — a segment using two trees is particularly striking, offering a sorrowful euphemism that holds hands with the narration instead of bludgeoning it with redundancy. As with most minimalism, there’s an everyman quality to it, open spaces where we can easily place ourselves. Even if we haven’t experienced the exact same shoes that these two find themselves in, the core emotions are all there (as well as the core fears), and Arenas’ style complements a story that politely asks for empathy.

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Enlisted show

This post is in partnership with Cadillac Cadillac and the Producers Guild of America recently launched Make Your Mark, a short film competition that challenges producers to create compelling content with limited resources. Contestants will make a short film over a single weekend in late June, and the 30-second Cadillac spot featuring the grand prize winner’s film will air during the 2015 Academy Awards. As such we’ll be speaking with last year’s winner Jason Shulz, who offers his experience and some helpful lessons for those filmmakers who want to hoist the trophy for themselves this year. Plus, in a segment that tears us apart, Geoff and I will chat about the pure, accidental brilliance of The Room and what it’s like to watch an unintentionally terrible movie while sitting next to its director. Last, but definitely not least, we’ll talk to Enlisted creator Kevin Biegel about why he’s fighting so hard to promote a show that’s already been cancelled. He’ll also offer some keen advice about breaking into TV writing that you won’t want to miss. You should follow Kevin Biegel (@kbiegel), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. Please review us on iTunes Download Episode #62 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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Dont Fear Death Short Film

Why Watch? For many of us, Rik Mayall was Drop Dead Fred — the magic man who brought an eight ball’s worth of energy and mom-defying brilliance to a movie about growing up after you’ve already grown up. Not to sound schmaltzy, but he was an imaginary friend who believed in us. His resume, of course, extends far beyond that 1991 non-fantasy film. It’s dominated by television shows — particularly the public dole celebration of Bottom and his early breakout The Young Ones – and an ever-present sense of smart, cutting edge work. Mayall died today, leaving behind loads of comedic offerings and countless people inspired by what he brought to the creative world.  Name a favorite modern comedian, and they’ve most likely publicly offered their Mayall fandom and remembrances already. He was a titan against the status quo. His last credited work is a short film from Louis Hudson called Don’t Fear Death. It’s a cruelly funny piece of black humor that feels inappropriately appropriate for today. Mayall acts as narrator, explaining all the wonderful things about being dead, from conveniences to existential freedom. Naturally, the short benefits wholly from his unique delivery and the angry joy that pervades the shouting climax of his speech. It’s one last reminder that he will be impossible to replace.

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Troops Kevin Rubio Short Film

Why Watch? When we reported that Josh Trank would be directing a standalone Star Wars movie in the expanding universe, we included a found footage comedy short film he’d made which shows why you shouldn’t bring a lightsaber to a house party. Kid don’t play. Thus, it’s only fair that we highlight the ingenious 1997 short film from Kevin Rubio that mashes Cops together with stormtroopers  to fantastic result. As a mockumentary, it doesn’t miss a note. Not only does it include sly nods to the movies, it allows the comedy to breathe on its own by stepping back and letting dramatic situations play out in absurd ways — turning a straightforward script into comic gold by putting it in the mouths of familiar pop culture figures. The funniest part is that you can actually see this being a realistic part of the day-to-day trooper job when Luke, Leia and Han aren’t busting up their business in the name of freedom. Let’s call it believable ridiculousness. When the big adventure leaves the frame, someone has to answer the domestic disturbance calls and issue traffic tickets. The cherry on top is our friendly cop narrator who sounds like he transferred from Fargo PD. Here’s Rubio explaining where the idea first came from along with clearer (yet cropped) footage.

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Nike The Next Level

Why Watch? Wind sprints are tough. That’s why most of us will never play professional soccer. That, and a million other reasons, but it’s mostly the wind sprints. Fortunately, Guy Ritchie has our back just in time for the World Cup. He’s teamed with Nike to create a short film that puts us into the body of a pro footballer in order to experience training hard, earning glory and whining like Meryl Streep explaining her hatred of dingoes when we barely get clipped inside the box. And if you bristle at me calling this advertisement a “short film,” watch it and see why. It’s a gimmick, yes, but it’s a pristine gimmick. This isn’t merely about strapping on a GoPro and letting it do all the work. Ritchie choreographs some beautiful trickery that’s rounded out by sound design that rips through the rock-heavy soundtrack to create a multi-sensory POV experience. It’s a lot like being John Malkovich. If John Malkovich had a wicked penalty kick. It also benefits from editing that lets impressive field sequences play out while maintaining an urgent sense of chaos. Watching this should count as gym time for the day. On that note, I hope you enjoy puking. Or at least watching it from someone else’s POV.

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