"They are the egg men. I am the walrus." This is something you don't see everyday. Listen to Me Sing is a fascinating stop-motion animated short film made by a Welsh animation filmmaker named Isabel Garrett. After playing on the festival circuit and picking up a few awards, it's now online to watch. "Set in an isolated, rundown hotel, the story follows entertainer Sophie as she struggles to find her place in a confusing world. That is until a walrus mysteriously appears in her bathtub one night and she forms an unexpected bond with it." This is easily one of the strangest, wackiest short films we've featured all year. Not only is there a pink walrus in it, but the entire story and the way it plays out is especially kooky. This reminds me of The Shape of Water in many ways, but it also ventures down its own path in many other ways. Meet the walrus below.
"Pretty, pretty, pretty…" Who's up for something creepy? Stay Pretty, No Pity is a horror short made by filmmaker Wilco C. Rullens, starring Maria Ozawa as a young woman haunted by a strange Japanese ghost. The 11-minute short is a proof of concept for a full feature, if enough people are excited about it. "If a ghost shows herself to you in the mirror and asks: 'Do you want to stay pretty?' What would your answer be?" The short is based on the Japanese folklore of Oiwa Yotsuya (Yotsuya Kaidan). A true story from the Edo period, it told of a samurai that had his beautiful wife killed because she became deformed, only to be haunted by her vision until he went insane and killed himself. Now hundreds of years later, Yotsuya is back! Out to punish more ugly characters by recruiting the pretty. Scary. And also a cautionary tale about beauty, but strangely this short doesn't seem to deal with that at all. Does she learn any lessons? Not really… This plays a bit like Ringu meets any other urban legend involving a mirror, featuring one freaky Japanese ghost.
"We're going to kick off with an ice-breaker!" Time to gather everyone and learn some improv techniques! Doughnut is a cunning, awkward, dark comedy short from Manchester about an improv lesson that… goes off the rails. Made by filmmakers Larry Ketang & Liam White. An amateur improv class gather for the first time. During a friendly ice-breaker, one of the members does something that the rest of the group struggle to move beyond. Starring Nadia Emam, Lee Fenwick, and Corin Silva. The director's add: "Doughnut is a darkly comedic short about the power of words, about how the image others have of you is shaped so much by what you say and how this can be manipulated if you really wanted to. It also asks questions about the nature of atonement, and whether some acts are unforgivable, regardless of how much time has passed." This is a clever short that isn't that funny, but will leave you with plenty to think about. Watch in full below.
With their home melting away, where do they go? Migrants is a wonderful 3D animated short film made by students studying at the PÔLE 3D animation school in France. Two polar bears are driven into exile due to global warming. They will encounter brown bears along their journey away from home, with whom they will try to cohabitate. But the brown bears don't like them there… The film offers a clever dual narrative - focusing on both climate change and refugees, by integrating both stories into one superb film about polar bears being forced to leave their natural habitat. Most of all, I'm most impressed by the choice to create all the bears with cloth - despite this being a CG short made on computers. The meaning of which is even more potent with that shot at the end, too. This 8-minute animated film is worth your time - watch in full below.
"You don't want to be labeled a crazy guy that's got a relationship with a shark!" Who wants to meet some sharks? And hang out with them? Tiger (Shark) King is an enjoyable and quite inspiring 7-minute short documentary film about a conservationist and diver named Jim Abernethy. The title is a play on Netflix's uber-popular "Tiger King" series, but it's about a shark-loving fanatic who lives in the Bahamas. Filmmaker Clayton Conn spent time filming Jim (underwater) and talking to him about his love of sharks and how he has been developing programs for years to educate & train people to treat sharks with respect & affection. I love his comparison to dogs, and how much sharks can act like underwater doggies. This wonderful little doc will play perfectly as an opener with the fantastic Playing with Sharks also out this year. Dive in below.
"Maybe it's harder to hunt when you're older?" Meet Snowy! A cozy lil' turtle that has been neglected after so many years alone in a basement… Snowy is an extremely awkward, adorable, strange 12-minute short documentary film made by filmmakers Kaitlyn Schwalje & Alex Wolf Lewis. This originally premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and after playing on the festival circuit all year, it was picked up by Time and released online for everyone to enjoy. "Snowy, a 4-inch-long pet turtle, has lived an isolated life in the family basement. With help from a team of experts and his caretaker, Uncle Larry, we ask: Can Snowy be happy and what would it take?" It's honestly a bit sad to see how little they cared about him, and how lonely and discontent he seemed. But I'm glad these filmmakers came in and pushed the owners to find out what's going on and help Snowy get better. And find happiness again! Watch the story of Snowy below.
"Remember the sky you were born under. Know each of the star's stories…" This is a must watch 3-minute visual poem short film from the Sun Valley Writers' Conference 2021. They commissioned a set of three visual poems for the event this year, and this is one - now online. Remember is based on the words of the first Native American US poet laureate Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. It's directed by award-winning filmmaker Jessica Sanders. It's a really lovely, calming three minute visual experience and I highly recommend watching at the end of your day. Maybe every day. "Featured in the film is Navajo contemporary artist Tony Abeyta, and Navajo friends Owee Rae and her son Kier, and Crickett Tiger and Santiago Romero. Tapping into the theme of interconnectedness, Sanders also included three generations of her own family, whose origins are from China, Turkey, Spain, and Germany." It's not just about visuals and words in harmony, there's a narrative as well connecting these people. And it's especially uplifting to watch.
Pixar is getting even more experimental with something entirely different. Automaton is a 4-minute short film from the Pixar Effects team, using some of their own tools and Houdini 3D to make this mesmerizing creation. Pixar describes it as "a poetic interlude between a reality and an abstraction" - which doesn't really explain much. But there's more in an interview with director Krzysztof Rost last year. He says, "I wanted the main character to be a reality, a nature at its purest and seek out the hidden mystery behind its power of never ending process of destruction and creation, thus Automaton." He was also inspired by the filmmaking of Terence Malick & Michelangelo Antonioni: "In their films shots of landscape or a natural phenomena create this transcendental juxtaposition with human protagonists, almost [a] spiritual experience." There's nothing more to add other than you just have to watch this for yourself and see what you make of it. Enjoy.
Who's ready for a mischievous adventure? This fun animated short titled Boys Night in Sidera Institute is worth a quick watch, especially if you're into animation and/or character design. The short is made by the filmmaker Adam Musa Othman - who's studying character animation at the well-known CalArts Institute in California. "It's a film about these two animals in space," is how Adam introduces this. Two scientists roam in the institute they work for, way past space curfew. They go around trying to steal something and make their way through a vast institute which seems to be dedicated to dinosaurs. It's his second film at CalArts, made during his second & third years there. The look of it is a bit rough, mainly just sketches and outlines, but it's still fun to watch and shows how much potential Adam has as an animator and a storyteller.
"This is the story of the people whose ideas are inside the phones that we use every day." There's a new tech doc out to watch if you're curious to learn a cool story about the early origins of the smartphone, just before that was the iPhone. The Verge has released a 30-minute short doc film called Springboard: The Secret History of the First Real Smartphone, taking a look back at a piece of tech called the Visor, made by a company called Handspring. After PDAs and PalmPilots, the next big step ahead was this device which pre-dated modern tech with the ability to video message and play MP3s. The short features interviews with key players at Palm and Handspring: Donna Dubinsky, Jeff Hawkins, Ed Colligan, and more. They had ups and downs, of course, but not many remember them today because we're all focused on the iPhone and Android. It's a clever and captivating short that is worth your time if you're into tech history. It's extensive and covers some fun stories about the late 90s / early 00s tech days. Available via The Verge's app to watch.
"The four of us just belonged together." Meet The Liverbirds! Never heard of them? Now you have! Give this fantastic short documentary film a watch to learn more about them and hear some of their songs ("Peanut Butter" oh yeah!). The latest Almost Famous doc short from the NY Times is all about The Liverbirds, discussing their history with the two surviving members - Mary McGlory and Sylvia Saunders. "It's hard to say what, exactly, was in the water in Liverpool in the early 1960s that wound up producing the Merseybeat sound and hundreds of groups of varying success. Four teenagers caught the scene by surprise and found screaming fans at every turn. Their names were Mary, Sylvia, Pam and Val. It wasn't only their sound that turned heads. They were The Liverbirds, Britain's first all-female rock 'n' roll band." They started because of The Beatles, met The Beatles, went on their own tours and became famous in Europe. Radical! What a story.
"Before doing anything, I always take off my shoes." Oh this is just wonderful! What a delightful short film. Louis' Shoes is an animated short made by a group of four students from the Ecole MoPA, a prestigious animation school in Arles, France. The film was winner of the "Student Academy Awards" (Gold prize) and was their 2020 graduation project - and it's now available to watch online. The 5-minute short, also known as Les Chaussures de Louis, is about a Louis - an 8-and-a-half year old boy who is autistic. He arrives at his new school and is about to introduce himself. This film features one of the best depictions of autism you'll ever see (along with the doc The Reason I Jump), with so much thoughtfulness and understanding for how autistic children experience the world and react to others. Along with a huge heaping of creativity with the animation. And it will definitely bring a smile to your face watching Louis talk about his blue shoes… Enjoy.