"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."
"Some days you wake up, and life just kicks you in the bollocks." Yep. It's Monday, no ones wants to be at work, it's cold out there, the office probably has pranks planned. It's not going to be a fun day. Or is it? The short film Bad Day at the Office from director Nick Scott tries to put a spin on the old fashioned idea of a "bad day at the office". I won't even make the obvious Office Space comparison, because this is much more like Wes Anderson meets Lars von Trier than anything from Mike Judge, but whatever it takes to convince you this is worth 10 mins of your time. There's a polished, professional feel to this and the FX (including all the make-up) look great. It's not the best film I've ever watched, but it's the perfect short to start the week.
"'Is this what you want,' he asked. And I said 'yes.' So he took his skin off for me." Get ready for this. Ben Aston has premiered his short He Took His Skin Off For Me on Vimeo, after its debut at Fantastic Fest and Toronto After Dark Film Festival last year. Aston and his short films were recently profiled at SlashFilm (with a great interview), reminding me that I had been meaning to watch this short, one of his latest and it's so crazy, disgustingly good. Aston's other short, Russian Roulette, is playing at the Sundance Film Festival coming up. But before that, this is the must see - practical SFX make this one extraordinary "fairytale" of sorts. It's a perfect kind of unsettling yet seductively sweet one-of-a-kind creation. Have fun and turn it up.
You may not realize it, but despite working with director Martin Scorsese several times each, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio have never starred in the same project with the Oscar winner at the helm (though they did both appear together in Marvin's Room back in 1996). But that ends today with a set of commercials that Scorsese has directed for City of Dreams Manila, a new casino in Manila Bay, Philippines. The casino decided to go all out and spend a rumored $70 million on some kind of short film project with Scorsese, De Niro and DiCaprio, and now we get to see at least the beginning of the results. Watch below!
"38 days ago your beacon disappeared from radar." Wow. Here's a fantastic space adventure sci-fi short to kick off the new year. From director Eli Sasich & writer Clay Tolbert comes a 9-min short called Atropa, about an "off-world detective" who investigates a missing research vessel adrift in deep space. It's described as a concept short, for a feature or series, inspired by "'70s and '80s sci-fi classics like Alien and Blade Runner." There's some excellent VFX work in this, and some great sci-fi concepts that do really show the potential of these filmmakers. I would definitely like to see more, it almost ends too short, right when I was really getting into it and things were getting interesting. But I will still say - this is one short not to miss.
Holy crap, zombies everywhere! Another fun short film to wrap up the week, this one a point-of-view (POV) film based on the upcoming zombie video game Dying Light. Directed by Scott Bass, the short follows one parkour runner as he escapes a zombie attack on rooftops (they filmed in Cambridge, England). The game is also first person, so that experience extends to this short in order to introduce gamers to a ravaged world where they'll fight off "hordes of mindless, flesh-hungry enemies". It's another solid example of how much can be done with just a camera and a good idea, since filmmaking technology is readily available. Fun times.
It's not often that Death is this entertaining to watch, but here we have a film that will throw you for a loop and make you believe in the magic of filmmaking. After posting new shorts to the Short Films section all the time, I constantly receive emails from filmmakers sharing their new short to be featured. Not many of them will make the cut, but some of them do, and I try to give each one a good look before I decide. This one stood out, and really left a good impression on me, even though it's technically a year old (or so the Vimeo upload date says). It's called Death and the Robot from animator/director Austin Taylor, and it's about Death in this case personified by a woman, as well as an adorable Wall-E-esque robot character. Take a look below.
"I think we got lost. Maybe… we've always been lost. We've become strangers to ourselves, to each other." One more short film, even though it's hardly short, to feature at the end of the year just before 2015 rolls in. This one is an ambitious experience called Anomaly from a filmmaker named Salomon Ligthelm, and it's actually a 37-minute film that was apparently inspired by "the traditional Christmas Nativity", though it's set against the space race of the 60s. After making many promo videos, this is Ligthelm's big debut, so to say, and it's a mesmerizing trip into the cosmos and uh, some other deep, emotional places. It reminds me a bit of the films of Shane Carruth, if you've seen Upstream Color or Primer. Take a look and let us know.
"Ain't no war without a real enemy, is it?" Wow. This a great short film to end the year with. Titled The Landing, this sci-fi thriller is about a father and his son who encounter something mysterious one night on the farm. As usual, the premise may not sound like much but this film just pulls you in and delivers a thrill with quite a big twist, which I won't dare spoil – you've got to watch this. The style is what makes this particularly impressive, it almost has an old Amblin/Spielberg feel to it, which is probably what they were going for and it works very well. Even the VFX are nice for a short film. Take a few minutes and fire this up.
"I don't think it was a toy… it was something else, something special." After posting the short for The Grey Matter, I was emailed by a reader named JJ who recommended I watch another short that he "loved" called The Hatchling about a boy and his dinosaur egg. Indeed it's a fantastic short that has a touch of Spielberg by way of Jurassic Park. Instead of going dark or violent and down the horror path with this one, the short plays on the magic of childhood and our imaginations, and the possibility of anything. It's a charming short that ends in a way that should make you smile, while lighting up your own imagination. View in full below.
"What were you expecting, a grasshopper with a top hat?" Take a moment to watch this short film if you're in the mood for a darkly humorous laugh. The Grey Matter is a dark horror comedy directed by Peter and Luke McCoubrey, known as the "McCoubrey Brothers", who explained via e-mail this week that they started making music videos for a friend's band and eventually challenged themselves to make a narrative short. After premiering at film festivals throughout the year, including Brooklyn, Show Me Shorts and the Nitehawk Shorts Festival, it's now online earning a recent Short of the Week feature. There are some solid practical FX in it, and the dialogue is fun which helps keep the film interesting. It's a great short, have fun.