Ready player one? Insert coin to play. This two-minute short film Tank is an exciting, nerdy throwback to 80's arcade games and it's a must watch for geeks everywhere. Tank is made by Red Giant's Chief Creative Officer, Stu Maschwitz (@5tu), who wanted to make something to pay homage to vector arcade games of the 80's - specifically Battlezone and Star Wars, though this definitely has a Tron vibe. This also features a totally rad electro score created by Ben Worley. This isn't just all about the visuals - there's a cool story to follow as well. Tank is a fun, homemade short film that is super geeky and yet isn't worthless entertainment. This is why I love short films - they're always so creatively unique and have something to say. Watch below.
"Today's my birthday, and I'm treating myself to a trip to the seaside, as I do every year." In honor of the Annecy Film Festival for animation this week, I'm featuring a few good animated short films that are worth watching. This one actually won Best Short Film at Annecy back in 2016, and it's finally available online for viewing. The Head Vanishes is the latest short made by award-winning animation filmmaker Franck Dion, inspired by his great-grandmother, and the challenges of dementia. "The Head Vanishes is about the imagination of someone who is interpreting the world around her. It's an evanescent vision of things, just like Jacqueline's memory." The animation style is a bit clunky, but it's a heartfelt story. Watch in full below.
"All these camera moves are really scrambling my eggs!" Pow! Zam! Boom! In honor of the Annecy Film Festival for animation this week, I'm featuring a few animated short films that are worth watching. Next up is a fun one titled Rebooted, a 3D animated short film made by Sagar Arun and Rachel Kral from Ringling College of Art and Design. The concept of this involves a retro comic book superhero being introduced to the gritty, dark "rebooted" version of himself. It's an amusing riff on Batman and all the current DC superhero movies with dark, brooding characters. It's not the best short ever, but it's a very clever idea executed well.
"What makes you think I can do this?!" In honor of the Annecy Film Festival for animation this week, I'm featuring a few animated short films that are worth watching. This one is titled Spell of the West, made by CalArts student Sam Lane. She made this as her third year film in the Experimental Animation program, and it's a fun film that's really about saving our environment and our planet. This is a super weird short, yet oddly enchanting and mysterious. I dig her visual style and the backdrops are exceptional. The voices could be improved, but considering this is a student short it's quite impressive. Watch when you have a moment.
"What did you do this time, Samantha?" Those pesky computer viruses! Always causing chaos. But not like this, never like this! Eldritch Code is an excellent, nerdy, Lovecraftian short film made by filmmaker Ivan Radovic, based on a story by Glen Cadigan & Chee from the Cthulhu Tales comic books. The story is about an IT guy who has to stop a computer virus before it gets out of hand and unleashes hell, but this ain't your regular virus. You'll see what I mean when you watch it. Eldritch Code stars Martin Hendrikse and Lisa Bearpark. I really dig the uber-geeky 90s vibe, the synth score, and real computer code, which all makes this massively entertaining to watch in a nice 10 minute package. Just don't download anything suspicious.
"I was born in the attic / because Mother claimed / brown the more honest name / for beige. They hit her––" This is a short film with a purpose - to help spread awareness and bring attention to the adversity and challenges different people face in society. Every Day is a simple but meaningful short film inspired by a lovely poem by Robin Coste Lewis, first published in the NY Times in 2017. Motionpoems is a non-profit organization that is bringing poems to life, and this short film is their latest offering to the world - directed by up-and-coming filmmaker Ryan Simon. The full poem can be found on their website, and the short film is just a scene set to an impassioned recitation of the poem. It might stir up some feelings inside of you. If you enjoy this short, they have plenty more and are always putting out new poetry-inspired shorts.
Well, this is wonderful. Polaris is an animated short film made by Japanese filmmaker Hikari Toriumi, finishing his 4th year of study at CalArts. This is his 4th year short film in the character animation program, and it's an adorable, heartwarming film about a young polar bear leaving home for the first time, having trouble letting go of her mother. The animation style is unique and simple, but still meaningful and elegant. And the story perfectly captures that feeling of leaving home for college, or wherever, and how much you miss your parents. This film really moved me and made me sad at first, then happy by the end. Watch below.
"If we don't act now…" Take a moment to watch this and think about your own life. This sobering animated short film is about how our daily and weekly routines are the same thing over and over (and over). And yet nothing changes? Only if we can change it ourselves. Life Cycles is a 4-minute animated short directed by Ross Hogg, that won the BAFTA Scotland award for Best Animation in 2017. This short is so effective at making us all see how mundane and repetitive everything in our lives is, and how important it is to shake up that routine. This idea started out as an animated diary, and it eventually became this film which hopefully connects with each viewer in its own way. And maybe, just maybe, it will get you to try something different.
"Do not let your spirit be influenced by your body, or your body be influenced by your spirit." A superb documentary short titled Two Heavens As One, or 二天一, has debuted online and it's a must watch. This is the latest short film made by filmmaker Ryan Freeman, who also made the fantastic doc short Being Batman previously. The short introduces us to a "modern-day samurai" named Jason Nip, who is among the 12th generation of students to train in the ways of Miyamoto Musashi, a famous swordsmen and martial artist in Japanese history. Nip is also the Sensei of the only Dojo in North America to train and teach Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, the sword fighting style developed by Musashi using one short and one long sword. This has a beautiful score, excellent cinematography, and inspiring poetic simplicity in its storytelling. Watch below.
"If we landed with them, that means we should've ejected." You have to see this impressive sci-fi short film titled Hyperlight, about two astronauts on a cool space ship traveling far to another place in the galaxy in another star system. Set at a time when humans have just achieved faster-than-light travel, this short has an ambitious concept but director Nguyen-Anh Nguyen pulls it off so amazingly well, with some slick VFX work and captivating sci-fi story. Hyperlight stars Jeananne Goossen, Peter Shinkoda, and Caroline Dhavernas. There's a few big twists in this and lots to process, but it's another must watch sci-fi short film.
"There's a shadow hanging over us, but there's a light that always guides us home… A light that may go out…" Wow, this is a gorgeous 2-minute short documentary. Land of Steel is from UK-based filmmaker Chris Thomas (also behind Cropped a few years ago) who made this film as a passion project. The short doc follows 70-year-old Port Talbot resident John, a retired worker and life long resident of Port Talbot as "he runs familiar paths, contemplating the shadows of uncertainty as the future of Welsh steel hangs in a precarious balance." There's a moment in this where it has that Blade Runner feel with a Vangelis-like score and vibrant shots of the industrial landscape. Shows how much you can achieve in only two minutes of time.
Here's another outstanding short film, featuring two of the most talented up-and-coming actresses around. Tatiana Maslany (from "Heartland", "Orphan Black", Two Lovers and a Bear, Stronger) plays a woman that has been gone for two years, including a stint in rehab, who returns to "face the emotional fallout of her disappearance and make amends with the girlfriend", and her brother. The cast includes Tattiawna Jones and Sergio DiZio. The short film is inspired by J.D. Salinger's story Franny and Zooey, it's an homage that becomes something of its own that speaks volumes about the trials and tribulations of love in today's world. It's enlivening to see Maslany continue to push herself with even deeper, and more complex performances.