One filmmaker on the rise in a big way is Denis Villeneuve, from Quebec, Canada, who just premiered his latest film Sicario to rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival (here's our review). He's next set to direct the Blade Runner sequel/reboot/restart with Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, not to mention Roger Deakins as cinematographer. His previous work is also impressive (and worth seeking out): Incendies, Prisoners and Enemy. And if you want to go back even further, you can now watch his 2008 short film Next Floor that mocks the "endless symphony of abundance". It's a wicked commentary on excess that's powerful to watch.
Ohhhhh my goodness this is gorgeous!! If you love animation, or Miyazaki, or Studio Ghibli, or Syd Mead, or anything like that, this is a must watch. There is a short pitch video/trailer going around the web that has earned quite a bit of buzz (Open Culture states the "internet over in Japan was lit ablaze last month by a student film") because it feels so much like a classic Hayao Miyazaki animated film. Titled Celles et Ceux des Cimes et Cieux, which translates to Girls and Guys from Summits and Skies, this stunning Vimeo video plays like a trailer for this film about a boy who lives in a village on a giant tree. It was made by Gwenn Germain as a project for the French art school Créapole. If anything, it's just an impressive concept.
A long time ago, in a cinema far, far away, this short film played before Empire Strikes Back, and now it has been rediscovered. No seriously, that's the story behind this. Back in 1980, George Lucas commissioned his art director, Roger J. Christian, to make a short film that would show before his Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back. That short was called Black Angel, sort of a classic fantasy about a lone warrior fighting a dark force. It only played in a few hundred UK cinemas, but it was hugely influential anyway. And even though all the prints were thought to be lost, Christian has restored and released the full 25-minute short Black Angel online - seen below. It's actually pretty good, and has some very iconic shots in it. Enjoy.
Think you know everything about Steven Spielberg's style? Think again. We've already seen and posted a shot-by-shot analysis of Jaws before (view that one here), but this latest one breaks down and analyzes the filmmaking techniques Spielberg used in one particular scene in his shark thriller classic Jaws (released in 1975). Specifically, Julian Palmer takes a look at the early beach attack scene in Jaws, where the young boy gets eaten. It's a detailed analysis (perhaps over-analysis) but includes very intelligent references that will allow anyone to understand how beautifully this scene is crafted, and just how talented Spielberg really is. There's always more to learn about filmmaking techniques from films old and new, so always keep watching.
Another cool sci-fi proof-of-concept (to follow The Leviathan). Dylan J. Nathan, a VFX / CGI artist, is looking to make the leap into filmmaking and has debuted his 2-minute short to show us what kind of world he wants to create. His new short is titled Speedhack, part of the Extropy sci-fi series he is developing. As described: "Speedhack is a high-octane journey through a near future city sprawl created entirely by Dylan J Nathan, Speedhack is a proof of concept scene from EXTROPY, a sci-fi feature film for the 21st century." Everything looks cool, I just hope there's a good story in here. Another site calls this a "FPS mashed-up with Akira and Tron" but it's just a sleek proof-of-concept for an intriguing sci-fi world. Recommended viewing.
"What do you like about living on Earth?" Google Play has just premiered a short 10-minute documentary called EMIC, made in promotion for/and inspired by the sci-fi movie Interstellar and the idea of one day leaving Earth. Google has been working with Paramount on promoting Christopher Nolan's big epic sci-fi movie all along, with virtual websites for screenings during its release last year. Now it's about to hit Blu-ray soon and is out on iTunes now, so Google is putting out its centerpiece video, the final "culmination" of everything they've worked together on. Similar to Life in a Day, it's a doc that explores what life is like on Earth, to create a time capsule-like video to save and take with us when we one day leave Earth. It's actually quite beautifully made from wonderful footage. "This film is intended to go wherever mankind goes next."
"By the early 22nd century mankind had colonized many worlds…" This is awesome. We've been following Irish director Ruairi Robinson for quite some time, as he was once attached to the Akira movie (see his concept art), made that fantastic robot short Blinky, and his first feature was the sci-fi Last Days on Mars (which I wasn't a big fan of, but oh well). His latest project, or at least one of them in the works, is called The Leviathan and a proof-of-concept short teaser has just debuted online. It has kind of a Dune meets Pacific Rim vibe, with a group of "involuntary" hunters out capturing a giant flying alien beast to harvest its eggs. I love the camera work in this, and I really want to see the rest of the movie right away. Join the hunt.
Before Jemaine Clement became the star of films like Gentleman Broncos and this year's Sundance selected People, Places & Things and director of What We Do in the Shadows, and before Bret McKenzie became an Oscar-winning songwriter and part of Middle-Earth for Peter Jackson, the duo became famous as the humorous folk duo Flight of the Conchords. And one year before they had their hit show on HBO, they were playing shows at SXSW, and while on their Texas trip, they shot a 45-minute documentary. Of course, it's hilarious, but it's also fascinating to see them with fans before they made it big. Watch now!
"I'm going to fight my way out of this world!" There seems to be an oncoming trend with sci-fi involving virtual worlds, e.g. Second Life, most likely thanks to growing interest in virtual reality via Oculus Rift. A new short film called Immersion, written & directed by Raphael Rogers, has debuted online and it's a techno-thriller (though I probably shouldn't call it that) kind of inspired by The Matrix and Tron, about a virtual gaming platform called "Immersion". This 7 minute sci-fi short starts out pretty good, then gets a little choppy in the second half, almost as if he's trying to give us hints at a bigger story in the full-length feature. Which may be what's really going on anyway, another unique short hinting at the potential of more. It looks pretty cool and I'm intrigued by the premise, though I wish the story in the short was a bit clearer.
At the Academy Awards last weekend, a couple of little Sundance indie sensations won big awards. One of them was Whiplash (the other was Boyhood), written and directed by Damien Chazelle who was named multiple times by winners including J.K. Simmons (Best Supporting Actor) & Tom Cross (Best Editing). The film also won Best Sound Mixing, taking home a total of three Oscars. It has been a long journey for Chazelle, as he first premiered Whiplash as a short film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. That short got him the financing to make the feature, and the rest is history. Whiplash was one of my favorite films of 2014 (#2!) so I'm happy it won; it's another excellent indie success story. Luckily, the original short is now online.
Who doesn't want a piranha for a pet? They're so cuddly! This fun new short film called Fish Friend from writer/filmmaker Jordan Blum features a girl and her piranha "goldfish" pet, and it's quite charming and bloody. As explained in the pitch: "Fish Friend is the story of a girl and her murderous pet piranha, inspired by 1950s Americana, Tim Burton, and the shorts of Pixar." There's some excellent stop-motion work in this, and it's just an amusing little short that might just be the perfect way to end your week. I love coming across interesting and unique short filmmaking as a way of showcasing a lot of the fantastic talent out there. And for an extra dose of daily inspiration, plus insight into different storytelling techniques. Don't miss this!
"Well, then I guess we have no choice than to go on an adventure…" Now this is awesome! Comedian/actor DC Pierson wrote a book called The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To, which director Dan Eckman (of Derrick Comedy's Mystery Team) is trying to get turned into a movie, but it needs our support. So he made a quick 5-minute short film proof-of-concept to show how awesome this would be, and it's pretty cool. Tony Revolori of The Grand Budapest Hotel and Dope stars with Jack Quaid of The Hunger Games. They use a line about how this is like a 3D printer for anything from the comic book, which is a cool pitch, and it works well. I really do want to see more, though hopefully as a movie not a TV show.
Previously we've seen a couple of impressive short films from producer Ari Shankar from the comic book universe. Joe Lynch directed Truth in Journalism, a take off on the Spider-Man character Venom, and Mike Pecci directed The Dead Can't Be Distracted, which was a bootleg version of The Punisher. Now Shankar is back with Power/Rangers, a gritty, R-rated, 14-minute short film directed by Joseph Kahn (Torque) that adapts "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers." The film certainly puts an interesting twist on the mythology of the Japanese imported action adventure, and it's much different from the eventual big screen take on the way. Plus, it stars James Van Der Beek and Katie Sackhoff, which is just completely surreal. Watch!
"Don't you dare let me go!" Wow - this is one outstanding, breathtaking animated short film. Cloudrise is a beautiful short animated and directed by Denver Jackson of "DJaxx Studio". The story focuses on Miko and Tenku, who fight off invading pirates on their airship, as this takes place in a "fantasy world above the clouds". The short has a kind of Legend of Korra meets Paperman vibe to it, and I'm really making this comparison in a good way, because those are two of my favorite animated creations in recent years. Aside from the stunning home-made animation, this is an excellent example of innovative storytelling, giving us bits and pieces of the story through creative editing and reveals. This is definitely worth your time to watch.