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.
Tomorrow, today. You may not have heard of this one yet, but get ready. Don Hertzfeldt's mesmerizing new stick figure short film World of Tomorrow won the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2015 this year, and earned some rave reviews as seen with the quotes that show up in this trailer. It's only a teaser trailer, giving us just a glimpse at the "astonishing… dazzling… spectacular…" short which is also playing at SXSW before hitting VOD at the end of March. I don't know what the plot is, but it involves stick figures and a little girl who goes on a "mind-bending tour of the distant future." One of the quotes in this talks about how it has more big ideas than most sci-fi, which is laughably absurd, but just enough to pique my interest.
Time for another interestingly unique short, this one a student film made as part of a 48 hour competition. Cinematographer Ryan Croft, studying at DePaul University, sent in this short titled Pomade. Yes, it's referring to the hair product, but the short is quite unique and only 3 minutes long. I expect some will say "there's not much going on in this!" And that's kinda true, but I like the style, and I like the feel of it. Croft explains in email: "It was part of a 48 hour film competition, and it’s heavily influenced by Strange Color of Your Bodies Tears and Upstream Color", the most recent Shane Carruth film. Give it a watch below.
"He was entirely alien, and hopefully people aren't aware of how he's being operated." This is an exciting year for Star Wars, with a brand new trilogy and the characters we all grew up with. One of everyone's favorite characters is Jabba the Hutt, and we all know he was an impressive puppet creation designed by Phil Tippett, but how exactly did he work? Well, Jabba required three puppeteers inside and three others operating various parts, from the smoke to his breathing. The man behind some fantastic "filmumentaries", Jamie Benning, has put together a new video called Slimy Piece of Worm-Ridden Filth - Life Inside Jabba the Hutt (love this title) and it's an excellent 20-min short doc on the operation of Jabba. Dive in.
"Someone wants to go on a walk…!" If you saw Disney's animated Big Hero 6 in theaters last year, you saw the wonderful short film before it called Feast from director Patrick Osborne. It's a delightful animated short told from the perspective of a dog that one boy adopts, and it's nominated for an Oscar. Well, similar to Feast, another short film has hit the web called Chloe and it's a live-action short film told from the POV of a dog (a golden retriever). This one tells a much more honest, real-life story and is a bit more "adult" we should say, but it's just as good. Made by the same filmmaker who gave us the short The Hatchling. Enjoy!
If you look at the nominations for the 87th Academy Awards, it's clear that there's a strong British presence this year, especially in the acting categories. Vanity Fair recently noticed this trend, and decided to let photographer Jason Bell create an all-UK edition of the magazine’s annual Hollywood portfolio. And since he already had some fantastic talents like Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Keira Knightley and more on set, he used the time to create a three-part short film chronicling the British invasion of Hollywood in the style of an old newsreel. Watch below now!
"The keys are in the car, there's a full tank of gas, and the food is good at the diner. That's Elgin Park." If you're a fan of photography, you may have seen these photos on the internet last year, as they went "viral" everywhere on social media. Michael Paul Smith is an artist who creatures vintage scenes to photograph using miniature models and playing with the optical illusion of perspective. He created an entire 1950's utopia called Elgin Park, "a fantastical world", and this documentary dives into the life of this charming, reclusive artist to reveal the dark inspiration behind his work. It's a fascinating and entertaining 9 minute experience. We're featuring this new short film in hopes that it'll inspire and intrigue as many as possible.
"I'll take my science over your magic any day…" What if! We can dream, right? What if Batman, trying to rescue Superman, had to fight Darth Vader on the Death Star. This would make many movie geeks cream their pants if it actually existed, and guess what it, kind of does. Well, a few die-fans made a short film on YouTube that pits Batman vs Darth Vader and it's kind of awesome. This was posted last November and has already racked up 3 million views, but if you haven't seen it yet now is the time. There's a kick ass lightsaber battle, great costume and special FX work, and a solid score to top it off. I'm shocked how good this is, and how much I enjoyed watching it. This is the kind of amazing creation the internet has gifted us.
"Do you call the police, or do you mind your business?" One of the most subversive films of 2014 is A Most Violent Year, written & directed by J.C. Chandor and starring Oscar Isaac as a humble businessman trying to keep his company clean in the tough times of 1981. The title of the film refers to "one of the most dangerous years on record for New York City", and to help provide some background on that time, A24 has created a must-see short doc. Featuring Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, performance artist Penny Arcade, and Harlem street-style legend Dapper Dan, this short doc dives into New York City in 1981 and how tough it was to work and live then. It's a fascinating promo for a great film that I recommending seeing.
Almost a year ago we featured a trailer for a short film called Confusion Through Sand, which was set to premiere at the SXSW Film Festival. The short is hand-drawn on recycled paper, and looks nothing like anything we've ever seen before. Not only that, but the camera movements are amazing. It tells the story of a young soldier "in a hostile desert, scared as hell and trained to react," no doubt referencing the Iraq war. The director tipped me to let me know the short is now available online in full. Suffice it to say, it's a must watch, well worth the wait. One last warning: "this gets loud and intense and may be hard for some people."