Monday, December 12, 2011

Quintessentials: We Found Love ft. Calvin Harris



Rihanna
We Found Love ft. Calvin Harris, 2011
Melina Matsoukas

The most important thing, in my opinion, when viewing any type of art is the emotional response that it creates with the viewer. In terms of this Rihanna's "We Found love", I do not find myself incredibly attached to the lyrics but more so the idea that is portrayed in the video. Being a huge fan of electronic music, Calvin Harris is notable for his lyrics and the emotionality of his songs. This music video juxtaposes two things: drugs and love. Both of these things I am very familiar with especially the ones involved in the video. What is portrayed in the video is "rolling" or the use of molly or ecstasy; this is illustrated with the giant dilated pupil and seemingly inexplicable urge for everyone to dance. When on such drugs, it is very easy to develop feelings of closeness with others very quickly and apparently no reason. I believe that is what is happening in this video. The two fall in love because of their drug use and quickly realize that their relationship is not even real when they are sober.

This idea of "falling in love on drugs", is not something I have ever personally experienced but something I have seen several of my friends experience. Perhaps its their personalities or their own loneliness that causes them to create false relationships with people. In one particular instance, my friend and I were attending a three day music festival called "Bonnaroo" in which there is quite a bit of drug abuse over the three day span. On the first day, my friend, while under the influence, found himself "falling in love" with a girl we had met. By the end of the weekend he had convinced himself that they were in love and that he had never had feelings like that before. Following the festival, the girl made it clear that she did not feel the same way. My friend was crushed. I believe the same thing is happening in this video. The drugs create somewhat of an alternate universe for the user in which things are to good to be true. Often they are.

Though I agree with the original posting on the cinematographic value of this video, being emotionally connected to the events in the video make it that much more powerful for me. Yes, I understand its a Rihanna video and that according to society I shouldn't like it, but well drugs are crazy.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Quintessentials -- Thriller


Michael Jackson
"Thriller"
1983
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOnqjkJTMaA&ob=av3n

This was my first time ever watching the “Thriller” music video.  I will start off by saying that 1983 Michael Jackson is super creepy; perhaps even more so than Neverland Michael Jackson.  I don’t think that many music videos qualify as short films, but this one certainly does in my book.  Morgan outlines the reasons why: there is a narrative and storyline that the viewer can follow, which is why I consider it a short film.

On the other hand, many other much videos don’t meet that same criteria.  There may be a general story told that matches the words of the song, but not enough that warrants the music video receiving the label of short film.  Most music videos are jumpy, sporadic, and cut back-and-forth between the band members and other characters acting out the story.  A storyline is often created to match the lyrics but doesn’t make sense (think Taylor Swift).   That is why I don’t consider many music videos to be short films.

In the case of “Thriller,” all of the elements of a short film are there for me.

Quintessentials: We Were Once A Fairytale

Directed by Spike Jonze, USA

What you need to know: Kanye West is at a club. He's surrounded by adoring, arguably begrudging, "fans" (loose term). He's drunk. He sounds like the cartoon of himself. In the previous post Emily quotes, '"It's my song!" he tells a pair of unimpressed women. "I made all the notes!" Proclamations like these play off the stereotype of West as a puerile, out of control egomaniac. It would seem West is in on the joke, and the tension the self-consciousness creates is a great example of star power importing extra meaning to a film. West's celebrity makes the film something of an inside joke we all feel privy to." In the end West ends up alone, in some sort of dark, twisted, fantasy (album title, I think). It would behoove the audience to view the film at this point.

Fantasy-

I've been stewing over the details of this film all morning. How shall I approach the icon, the ego, the narcissist himself? The beginning of the film plays out to me as fantasy; a very master- slave dynamic or daddy- son, whichever you prefer. West like a dom top. His adoring fans sub bottoms. All of which, seemingly, taking a turn in the circle jerk of his ego. What's worse, his own song is playing in the background. Jonze roots us in the fantasy - this is what it's like to be Kanye West. Or is it? I think it's important to take note of the joke. However, unlike Emily who says, "It would seem West is in on the joke" I'd argue that the joke is on West. I'd be a liar if I didn't say that he makes fantasy look good. To be Kanye for five minutes might fill the coffers of ones ego for years.

Dark-

In the case of West, dark is not dichotomous. It's not so black and white. West actually appears to be in a dark place emotionally. He pummels the audience with his ego. It's a relentless repetition that gets old quick. Throughout the entire film his ego only isolates him from others. People are unsure of how to approach him. He's unsure of how to approach people. He dances alone. In his darkness he's consoled by a woman that he has sex with (an exercise of his ego, further isolating himself), but ultimately he ends up alone. Jonze takes the audience on a ride to a deep dark place that West occupies in an expensive tuxedo jacket and trademark sneakers.

Twisted-

This is where Jonze gives birth to the films metaphor. A drunk, sick West spews pink goo. It's a spectacle and again, he's alone. Out comes something less of a gremlin, something smaller, but with equal parts hair and animation. My interpretation is that this monster represents the monster (West's ego) living inside of West. In a standoff, West acknowledges his dark passenger (thank you, Dexter) and the monster kills himself. The end of West? An end to West's cartoon-like, oversized ego? I doubt it. Just a lot of melodrama and a fascinating short film experience in the way of the id, the ego, and superego (Dark, Twisted, Fantasy) from the brilliant Spike Jonze.


Friday, December 09, 2011

The Quintessentials- She Was The One






She Was The One
Directed by: The Rauch Brothers, USA, 2011.
Source: StoryCorps on YouTube




Ever since I saw this video that Kate posted on the blog a couple months ago, I continue to find myself thinking about it from time to time. The cartoon tells the true story of the relationship between Richie and Karen. In Richie's voice we can hear the raw emotion in every second of the video. From him telling us all about how Karen changed his life for the better to the painful details of how he lost her in the September 11th attacks.


As Kate points out, the animated style of the short really does contrast with the emotional and heavy story. Which actually turned out to be a huge reason why I loved the short so much. Since by this point, we have all seen hundreds of videos and heard the millions of stories of that fateful day and I think this short does a wonderful job of setting itself apart from the rest. While we could've seen the montage of pictures set to Richie's voice with the sad music playing in the background, the lighthearted animation brings a different layer to the sad story and causes it to stand out in our minds. Kate also mentioned that there were parts that reminded her of an old Scooby-Doo cartoon and I think that's the exact light-hearted style the short was trying to accomplish and did quiet well.


Kate also originally posted that the film had a total of 92,718 views on YouTube and when I looked that number had jumped to 408,744 views. For the amount of content that is out there about September 11th, I think this short has really made an impressive impact and gained a lot of buzz for being just under 3 minutes long. With it's simple style but powerful message, this short remains very dear to my heart and I am so glad Kate shared it at the beginning of the year.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Quintessentials: Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?



Why Do You Let Me Stay Here (Version 2)
Directed by Marc Webb, United States, 2009, 4 Minutes.
Source: YouTube
Originally Posted by Haley Schattner (http://shortfilmsblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/she-and-hims-why-do-you-let-me-stay.html#links)


This is a story about a boy and a girl.  They dance in banks.


Haley's original post tries very hard to add some narrative, character interpretation, and purpose to this music video (Is this technically a music video?  A promo bit for 500 Days of Summer?  Both?)  And I say there is nothing here. It is Joseph Gordon-Levitt being his same old dapper self and the always stunning Zooey Deschanel just being a little hipster temptress and shaking her hips.  It is an obvious throwback to the 50s musical, and falls in line with JGL's obsession with being the next Fred Astaire or Donald O'Connor around this time (See his opening monologue when he hosted Saturday Night Live.)  It's shot very wide, with very few cuts, allowing the actors to show off their moves.  It's set design is even 50s, incorporating existing, old school LA architecture from the 30s that still rests in its downtown district (This, too, is an incorporated aspect to 500 Days of Summer.)


I'll lead the topic into this: This isn't a short film.  This is a set piece; something to grab your attention.  Just because it meets the time parameters of a short film, or has an "ending" (he successfully robs the banks in the final 5 seconds, no questions asked.)  This is a test in style from director Marc Webb.  Unless we're just going to go back to the basic definition of a short film, which in the U.S. is any moving image under, what, 45 minutes?  60?


We talked in class about Chapter 2 of Inglourious Basterds; the scene introducing the basterds.  Many in class argued it was a short film, and I argued otherwise.  Something that can simply stand by itself and be short does not qualify it as a short film.  No one goes to the theatre to watch the first act of Glengarry Glen Ross, and if they were to only see that, they'd then think it was a A Death of a Salesman all over again--a statement on the plight of the everyday salesman--and not a story that turns into a mystery.  As filmmakers, critics, historians, or audiences, we have to be critical of this difference between the arc of a scene, and the beginning, middle, and end of an actual story.

The Quintissentials: Bugcrush

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x9ganr_bugcrush-part-3_shortfilms
Bugcrush
Directed by Carter Smith
Jury Selection Winner - Sundance Film Festival 2006
(originally posted by Tyler Christiansen)

As I was perusing the wonderful world of instant netflix awhile ago, I happen across this short in the midst of one the 'Boys Life' compilations. I was astounded. I chose this film because my favorite aspect of film (feature and short alike) is cinematography, and I think this film does brilliantly in that respect. As the main character walks back to the barn in the last part of the film, the dark shadows and moments of blackness spell foreboding. The slow paced shots between the main character and his love interest build the tension and the fear, and the audience knows something is going to happen and waits anxiously. The green ambiance of the background and the tall dark spaces in the intimate shots of the boys faced show us their trepidation, and desire. As the scene begins to go south for the main character the fractured unevenly paced shots of his face show us the 'trippy' experience he is having and he simultaneous relaxation and fear. During the rape ( I think so?) scene, the violence isn't explicit but certainly present. By simply implying the rape with the jangled shots of the creepy crawlers we can sense the main characters confusion and lapsing consciousness. The films abrupt end does nothing to end the tension, and leaves the viewer frustrated but fascinated. Overall the pacing and the shots combine to display a disturbing and chillingly eerie scene, while still showing the main characters emotions throughout.

This film was so interesting to watch because it built the tension so effectively. The innocent beginning to the sinister the viewer can see the main character is walking into a trap, but we see how the trap is so strangely enticing that the film is gripping and raises the hairs on the back of your neck.


Quintessentials: Terry Tate Office Linebacker


Terry Tate Office Linebacker

Dir. Rawson Marshall Thurber

United States, 2003, 3 Minutes


Throughout the course of the semester, our class has continually attempted to try and define what is and isn’t and short film. And although it can generally be stated that MOST youtube videos are not shorts, and MOST TV shows are not shorts, and MOST music videos are not necessarily short films (although this one is a little tougher), commercials like Terry Tate Office Linebacker are what make these sweeping generalizations a very subjective and partially inaccurate statements.


Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, the Reebok commercial documents in mockumentary style the hiring of an office ‘enforcer’ named Terry Tate (an enormous ex-NFL linebacker played by Lester Speight) to increase productivity and eliminate minor problems. Throughout the short, Tate roams the office, solving stereotypical office problems, including drinking the last coffee from the coffee pot, taking too long on breaks, not recycling, etc. He acclimates to the office environment, making office friends, and giving presentations during meetings. Although the commercial doesn’t necessarily provide anything but a snapshot of this strange office reality (the classic short film ‘slice of life formula’), the short is not only a fantastic advertisement, but it served as a precursor for the rise of the hilarious digital short.


The commercials greatest strength lies in the hilarious juxtaposition between football culture and office life, and what happens when those two worlds collide. Terry Tate’s stereotypical football machismo takes the oblivious office (for lack of a better term) douche bags to task, tackling pen-stealers, intimidating wrong-doers, and hurtling obscenities and his victims. Thurber, who also directed the 2004 comedy Dodgeball, expertly inserts the Reebok logo onto the powerful Tate, but leaves out any other unnecessary pandering and advertising that would distract/detract from the short. And like any successful film, Terry Tate is a brilliant and well rounded character who grows to become a part of the office lifestyle. An actual wide range of his emotions are explored in a little more than three minutes, which draws the audience in and helps us easily root for him.


A brilliant commercial, and ultimately one of the reasons why the lines between mediums can be blended and extremely subjective.


Quintessentials: Best Coast 'Our Deal'

Crazy For You

Dir. Drew Barrymore

United States, 2011 11 Minutes


The announcement of a Drew Barrymore-directed Best Coast video was greeted by the ‘greater indie blogosphere’ (or whatever) with sigh-inducing speculation and, in some cases, outright disgust. Bands such as Best Coast (who have oftentimes started out as blog-darlings and, upon receiving greater popularity, been rejected by trendier ‘authentic’ types), can come under more criticism than may be necessary simply because their image has become more co-opted by the more ‘mainstream audiences.’ That being said, they certainly aren’t helping themselves here with the extended cut of the video for the song ‘Our Deal’ (originally posted by Haley Schattner).


In a strange take on West Side Story (not really Romeo and Juliet; there’s a lot of references to ‘rumbling’), Chloe Moretz appropriately of 500 Days of Summer plays the ‘Juliet’ (Veronica) from the Night Creepers gang; Tyler Posey plays Romeo (Lucky) from the Day Trotters. The two gangs duke it out in typical Romeo & Juliet fashion, this time with strange up-dos and tacky denim jackets in an LA aqueduct. Predictably, the blossoming romance between Victoria and Lucky goes terribly wrong when he refuses to run away with her. And during the ensuing gang war, he attempts to hug her and she punches him over the side of the aqueduct, killing him. The end.

There are several glaringly obvious flaws with the video. Admittedly, it’s clear who the target demographic for the ‘Crazy For You’ short is, and I am not it. However, the cuteso dialogue that all takes place via middle-school-esque notes on scrawled on hands, when combined with the pseudo-dramatic acting and a playfully stereotypical cinematic style comes off much less as genre-bending and far more as genre-confused. And while only a minor annoyance, the casting of sensitive-teen-friendly actress Moretz and sensitive-teen-friendly rapper/actor Childish Gambino/Donald Glover comes off as gimmicky and manipulative. ‘Crazy For You’ is a strange hybrid of West Side Story, Grease, and the Step-Up movie franchise, featuring stylized dance-fighting, greaser-haircuts, and poor overdramatic acting that begs the question: how much of this is meant to be taken seriously?


Finally, the music rarely fits the mood or atmosphere of the video. I understand where the regular cut of the video is supposed to end, but even at that point it comes off as forced, as if it were simply an excuse for Barrymore to make this bizarre adaptation of West Side Story.


‘When I’m With You’ was a fairly perfect Best Coast video. The colors were grainy and over-saturated, the cuts were lazy and slow, there were the appropriate doses of California homages and sunshine, and it appropriately utilized Bethany Cosentino’s charm. And while I hate to be a music fan who disassociates a band not only because of a decline in the music (Best Coast’s debut was admittedly good but bland), but because of public image, I can’t help but wonder if Best Coast has begun to dig it’s own grave and embrace a demographic with the attention span and memory the size of a pin.

Quintessential: Prop 8 - The Musical


PROP 8: THE MUSICAL
Directed by: Adam Shankman
United States, 3 minutes

Proposition 8 was a ballot proposition that eliminated rights for gay couples to marry. It passed in 2008 and was a personal event for me which I think skews my viewing of this video (in a positive way). I remember protesting in my town for people to vote No and getting bumper stickers for my car, etc etc. I couldn't vote at the time but I was doing all that I could in order to encourage people to read more about the Proposition and think about the vote. Gay rights are something that I've always been passionate about and I remember when I first saw this musical, I was amused by it but it also had this underlying tone of sadness, especially once the Proposition passed.

The musical makes a lot of sense for me. As much as this musical is about Proposition 8, I always found its religious message to be one of the most interesting aspects of the video. As an Atheist, I find its blatant calling out of hypocrisy and hyperbolic tendencies rather refreshing.

However, this short really is driven by its stars. It is one of the most star-studded internet-based videos out there. One of the most interesting theories I think this video speaks about is the Liberal Hollywood. There's a lot of generalization that Hollywood is full of liberals and people who live these fanciful lives doing scandalous and liberal things. To an extent this may be true as every star in this musical consciously knows what the musical is expressing and the point it's getting across. Not to mention speaking of who stars are and what their personal lives mean once they're on screen. The director of this musical, Adam Shankman, is openly gay, as is Neil Patrick Harris who appears near the end of the musical.

Allison Janney's role in the video is rather enlightening for West Wing fans when you realize the musical recalls a specific scene from the show where Jed Bartlet calls out some of the language in the Bible.

Besides some of the names that are openly gay, you have stars like Rashida Jones who's known for philanthropic work and Maya Rudolph who's gotten her name known in the world of comedy. As someone who agrees entirely with what the musical is trying to express, its politics are very clear to me and therefore a little less interesting than what the stars mean in the context of the film. I think that's a really fascinating subject to discuss in regards to this video.

Quintessentials: Hotel Chevalier

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0Z4Vzw0yo8I
Hotel Chevalier, 2007, 13 minutes
Directed by Wes Anderson

Hotel Chevalier depicts Jason Schwartzman's character obviously still not over his ex-girlfriend, played by Natalie Portman. She insists on visiting him in the hotel, which does not help his attempt at getting over her.

I had heard about this short awhile ago, but I only just saw it at the end of Summer. I love Anderson's features, and I thought this short captured the character's emotions much like his other features do. I thought the colors of the sets made the short aesthetically pleasing to the audience, and made me appreciate the detail that went into creating the set. I thought the chemistry between Schwartzman and Portman was believable and they did a great job acting in this short. (If only I'd known about the iTunes free download!)

As Kelly predicted about other viewers, I, too, was interested in watching this mainly because I was on a Natalie Portman binge and was attempting to watch her filmography. While this film was posted during the Potpourri week, I think it would've worked as a film for the week on star-driven shorts. It's true, most people do want to watch this either because they love Anderson, Portman, Schwartzman, or all three. (I'm assuming if you like Anderson you're probably used to seeing Schwartzman's face.)

Earlier in this post I mentioned the set. To me, I don't think the class has really focused on the aesthetics of the shorts we've looked at very much. While the acting, cinematography, etc. of a short are important. I find it very interesting to look at the tiny details within a movie's atmosphere. Granted, we don't have all the time in the world to examine things that most viewers would miss, I think looking at set design is also important in getting something from a film.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Quintessentials: THE CRUSH



THE CRUSH
Directed and written by Michael Creagh
Ireland, 2010, 15 minutes

"The Crush" is a short about an elementary school (or "primm'ry school lad," as this is an Irish film) boy named Ardal who has a crush on his teacher. He buys her a ring, which she accepts, patronizing him kindly enough that he doesn't realize it. Later, we discover that Ardal's teacher has become engaged to her boyfriend who is something of a deadbeat who mistreats her (or at least doesn't treat her as well as Ardal thinks he could). Ardal pulls a gun on him and lets the teacher see her fiance's true colors, at which point the teacher thanks Ardal and Ardal decides he is over his crush.

Like Anastasia, who wrote the original post for "The Crush" on September 7, I first saw the film as part of a collection of Oscar nominated shorts at the E Street Cinema. I liked it at the time because I wasn't too impressed with the other four shorts. I liked two but disliked the others; this short was sandwiched between the two that I didn't like, and anything with some charm was going to win me over in that context. If you don't believe in the power of a well thought out curated sequence, watch shorts you've seen in a festival setting on their own.

I don't like it as much this time because the short is too invested in me agreeing with Ardal. I can't-- he pulls a real-looking weapon on a man because he doesn't deem him worthy of dating Ardal's teacher. And the teacher loves him for it. The short endorses Ardal. In this class we've watched one or two movies where the protagonist engages in questionable activities (i.e. Talk To Her), but the movie doesn't endorse the protagonist. In "The Crush," I can't help but feel like I'm being manipulated into liking it's young, psychopathic center, and for that reason I'm hesitant to like it.

The Quintessentials - Meshes of the Afternoon



Meshes of the Afternoon. Maya Dern and Alexander Hammil.
USA. 13:30. 1943.


Meshes of the Afternoon is a formative experimental short film directed by husband/wife duo Maya Deren and Alexander Hammil. The plot vaguely follows the meanderings of a woman and splices shots of her with recurring thematic motifs- a loaf of bread, a flower, a key, and a hooded figure with a mirror where his face should be all make regular appearances. This all creates a feeling, as the title strongly suggests, of dreamy, hazy suggestion. The surreal quality of the images is enhanced by a stark and haunting soundtrack of what sounds like traditional Japanese music.

The film's obsessive focus on its woman protaganist in tandem with its surreal repeating imagery is obviously suggestive of a psychologically dense dream. Countless interpretations can be read here. Perhaps the falling flower is meant to symbolize the woman's perceived loss of agency of her sexual identity as a woman? Perhaps it's meant to symbolize her fear of aging? Death? If it does indeed symbolize death, then that idea is certainly bolstered by the presence of the mirrored grim reaper figure. What seems important here too is the fact that the images can be read so many ways. Their very vagueness seems to be central to the film, and allows it to defy a simply reading, choosing instead to favor something just a bit more mysterious.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Quintessentials: The Cat Piano



Quintessentials: The Cat Piano

Directed by Eddie White and Ari Gibson, Australia, 2009, 8 minutes.

Source: Vimeo

Just as a quick recap, The Cat Piano follows a beat poet in a city of singing cats. However, a darkness falls over the city as the city’s best singing cats are catnapped to be used in a cat piano. This musical instrument tortures the cats to make them scream certain notes and as the main character discovers this horrendous machine, he gathers an army. The army subsequently attacks the machine and the human operating it to free their fellow cats.

This short which was originally posted here by Marco Zamora discussed how this award winning short uses blank dark space and limited colors to emphasize different points and to set the mood tones throughout the movie. As video editor, I completely fell in love with this short the moment I saw it because of it’s amazing use of color to emphasize a already amazing story. The best example of this emphasis is the use of the color blue throughout the entire movie. The beat poet, who is the main character throughout the story, narrates the story through a poem. However, by making almost anything blue not only to you instantly give the viewer a much more relaxed feeling but it allows the animators to focus on important objects by simply changing the color of it. This can be seen as the female cat who the beat poet is interested in is white and stands out and draws attention to her.

Also, the use of green to show the beat poet when he is sick after he learns about the cat piano and finally the red overtone to express the anger towards the piano. Simply put, color allows for the narrator to continue his poet and to emphasize his slight changes in narration to fully express the mood.

However, the only thing that I did not like about this short film is this fat cat who is colored white. Simply put, when I watch the film, it distracted me and suggested to me that he was of some importance when really he isn’t. If he had just been some light blue I think that more emphasis would be geared toward the pure white songstress. But this doesn’t change my opinion that this is a very well put together short that deserves all of the awards that it has won.

Quintessentials: The Millionaire


The Millionaire
Directed by V. Bordzilovski, Soviet Union, 1963, 10 minutes 18 seconds


The original post on this short discusses the film within the context of the Soviet Union and addresses it as a piece of anti-Capitalist propaganda. I think that for the purpose of this class, I think it would be much more interesting to look at this film within a group of self-aware and sophisticated animated short films. Every classic animated short we studied this semester had a very adult twist- from the very obviously politically charged "Private Snafu" to even "Duck Amuck", which has meta undertones and can even function as an experimental short.

This film captures the spirit of these politically and self aware animations that challenge the assumption that animations are simply for kids or that "cartoons" do not have artistic/historical/cultural value. "The Millionaire" has a definite style which might be enjoyable to children but a message that would only be truly meaningful to adults and is only fully understood with a knowledge of the political climate of the time. This film fits within a tradition of animations with an edge and more importantly, with a purpose, that helped to shape the world of short films.

Quintessential: "ARE YOU THE FAVORITE PERSON OF ANYBODY"



Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody
Directed by Miguel Arteta,Written by Miranda July USA, 4 minutes
Original Link to this post is Here

This film is a about a man (John C. Reilly) who is standing on the street waiting for people to walk by. He is not an innocent bystander, but a man geared with paper and pencil and looking for answers in life--in this case, specifically the answers to the question "Are you anybody's favorite person?" Though we are given little character development as far as why the man is standing on the street waiting for strangers to walk by and take his survey, we learn a lot about the man's personality through his reactions to people's responses.

We are introduced to three strangers, each different in both their sex, race, and comprehension of the question. The first stranger is a woman (the film's writer, Miranda July). She hesitates to answer the question, but due to vanity, she immediately finds an answer when she gazes at the man's mildly judging look. The second stranger to walk past is a man (Mike White), who, when bombarded by the question, answers immediately with a 'no'. After further questioning, the male stranger holds firmly to his beliefs that no one considers him their favorite person and, in return, receives three oranges from Reilly's character. It is at this point that we learn more about Reilly's character--that he has a wife, owns three fertile orange trees, and that he is sympathetic towards others. The third and final stranger to pass by is an immigrant man (Chuy Chavez) who does not have any interest in taking the survey, believing it to be a political vote. This passing character is important to the story line because he questions Reilly's character's existence. As Reilly's character tries to explain to the man that it is not an election vote, he exclaims, "No, that's not what it is about", to which the stranger replies "Yeah, but I don't want to be involved with this, sorry". What is this film about? And should we as viewers be involved? The film successfully makes us want to answer the man's question. Does someone favor me above all others?

I think the setting of this film is very important to the story. As Tyler mentions in his original post, this film is "an experiment in psychology", as the question the man poses is not an everyday question and might be right up there with "Why are we here?" That said, the street is an interesting location for the man to choose as his questioning location. Besides for the three strangers we meet, the street is empty and can be compared to a black hole. When we are introduced to Reilly's character, we see the street in the direction left of him, where all of the strangers enter from. We never see the direction the characters take, and the film just ends with the Reilly's character looking down the street in the direction the strangers head after they answer or block his questions. In many ways, the man's question is impossible to answer, and by not showing the street, we do not know where the characters are coming from or going to, just that they exist.

Although this film amazingly tells a story just by the responses of individuals, we still do not understand why Reilly's character is asking these questions, nor why he is standing in the street wearing a nice suit. We get the impression that he is a working man, who might possibly be in a midlife crisis--is he his wife's favorite person?--but we do not know why he has chosen this street or how far away he lives. His questions leave us wanting more answers. Because we learn a lot about his character through his interactions with the strangers, as well as learn about character traits of the three strangers through their responses, I wonder if a fifth character would provide more character development. The three strangers are all assured in their responses, whether it be 'yes', 'no', or 'I don't want any part in this'. It would be interesting to see a character who answers with an 'I don't know. How can one tell?' It would turn the table on Reilly's character.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Quintessentials - Marcel the Shell with Shoes On


"Marcel the Shell with Shoes On" is one of those quirky little films that seem to pop up on the Internet every day, that become an Internet sensation and skyrocket to Youtube-darling status, seemingly overnight.

In her post, Morgan argues that the random story and adorable voice place "Marcel" in a completely new and different category. She essentially says the film is in another league than your typical short film. I think she's correct in that the fact that we can't define what "Marcel" is (is it a comedy? a mockumentary? an animated film?).

The point is that these Internet-based videos, or short films, or whatever you want to call them are challenging the conventions of film and filmmaking. Specifically with short film, they make us question and debate the definition of a short film. I think if Internet-based films did not exist, we wouldn't have had as many debates over what a short film is as we did. Therefore, I think we have little basis on which to determine whether "Marcel" is or is not a short film.

I'm going to play devils' advocate for a moment and take the "Plot Girl" stance: because there is no narrative arc whatsoever, does "Marcel" count as a short film? What is the film trying to achieve with its dry, obscure humor? Are we supposed to feel bad for Marcel? Should we be laughing at or with Marcel? What is the point? According to Jenny Slate, the narrator and co-creator, the film was the brainchild of a voice she used to annoy her friends. The film really isn't about anything except a small slice of life, according to Slate.

Morgan also mentions Jenny Slate several times in her post. I think this says something about how much stardom affects the way we view and perceive film. Would she have mentioned Jenny Slate's name if she wasn't a "Saturday Night Live" cast member? I doubt that the film would have garnered as much attention and praise as it did had Slate's name not been attached to it. I also think that the quirkiness of the story wouldn't be as funny if a known comedian hadn't narrated it. Without Slate, I have no doubt that the film would be dismissed as hipster pretentiousness.





Sunday, December 04, 2011

Quintessentially Sneezing Pandas

The Short Films Blog: Sneezing Panda


Originally Caren makes the point in her blog that 'The Sneezing Baby Panda" is not in fact a short film. I feel it's worthwhile to play devils advocate in this case in defense of home movies as short films.


In reference to home movies I'm going to rope in some features. Short films have been discussed in our course as "experiments", ways to try new things with film without the cost of a full length movie. So in this way, we can expect to see full length movies emulate shorts when shorts prove successful at doing one thing or another. Enter movies like Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, which are filmed to emulate home movies. Part of the reason these films were reportedly scarier than normal was that people were uncertain of their status as fiction. "Home movies" (insert cheesy finger quotes here) make great horror movies because it gives the viewer the unsettling feeling that this happened to someone just like them, someone with a phone or a camera just like they do, who intended to film something for personal use rather than for theaters just like they have in the past. The technique ventured into TV shows too, proving its versatility. This widely successful technique originated  with the use of home media like youtube, and yet the predominant genre on youtube is actually humor at this point.

Here's the thing:

  • If short films are experiments of new ideas or techniques and 
  • 'successful' shorts can impact full length media and
  • the idea of home video and hand recorded footage impacted (at least horror) movies
then aren't home videos short films?


So here's my question-
Why can't the same be said for humor?

For example, in a short I can't seem to find online called "Jack Jack Attack", Pixar character Jack Jack of The Incredibles does lots of funny things and generally terrorizes his babysitter with an array of yet undiscovered super human abilities. (side note: I finally found it online... but it's backwards and in Spanish. Sorry y'all. You get the idea though.) However, in some ways I find these to be funnier baby videos. (I just googled funny baby and this popped up, although after doing some 'research' I would argue this belongs in there too). On the same token, watch this and then watch this and tell me which one makes you crack a smile. Why? These babies actually exist somewhere, and that somehow makes them more amusing. For the same reasons the previously mentioned horror movies were scarier with 'home footage'. So if the youtube babies are funnier than Jack Jack, and the sneezing baby panda is funnier than Kung Fu Panda, how are these not 'successful' home videos and thus short films? Is it possible for the lesser genre to also be the more effective genre, and if so, how is it lesser?

Quintessentials- Drinking Out of Cups

Original Post -> http://shortfilmsblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/drinking-out-of-cups.html


The original post argued that Drinking Out of Cups is an experimental film. I disagree with this categorization. The original argument is that because Drinking Out of Cups has no narrative than it is experimental. I think that this is simplification of what an experimental film is.

If Drinking Out of Cups is experimental, than what is the experiment? An experimental film is trying to do something different with structure, technique or writing. Drinking Out of Cups is certainly not something that we would normally watch in a movie theater, but it is completely within the normal elements of its context.

Drinking Out of Cups is not an experimental film, it is just a meme film. For a youtube video that is intended to be funny, plotlessness is not only not experimental, it is par for the course. I do not find Drinking Out of Cups to be particularly odd for a youtube video. This makes it unexperimental.

Friday, December 02, 2011

School Portrait (2011)

School Portrait (2011) from Michael Berliner on Vimeo.

England, 2:25

An ironic juxtaposition of contexts makes for the main conceit of this little short film. We see painfully adorable faces of British schoolchildren smiling for school pictures while the photographer berates them about the unpleasant realities of adult life (what he calls a "reality check"). The grumpy photographer makes the children repeat phrases like "the banking crisis means I'll never afford a home," and asking them if they've filled out their tax returns. Each time the photographer succeeds in wiping the smile of the children's faces, which appears to be his main objective. He meets his match in a girl with curly red hair who refuses to stop smiling. The photographer becomes visibly annoyed, shaking his head head and telling her, "Look, I'll go on all day," before explaining the painfulness of a divorce. But the girl eventually wins the little stand-off, and continues to smile. The photographer finally concedes defeat and takes the little girl's picture.

The film is adorable and memorable because it takes advantage of the specific pleasures allowed to short film: that a small, obvious conceit can become the subject of the entire film, and function as an effective punch line because of the short film's conciseness. It's impossible to imagine a feature that plays entirely on the tension between the innocent beaming faces of children and the cynicism of an adult with a chip on their shoulder, but here, in the span of two and a half minutes, the joke works. The way the children are shot too, where they are framed by the camera as if in a school photo, adds to the preciousness of their responses to the grouchy photographer.

Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche from Spy Films on Vimeo.


NUIT BLANCHE
Directed by Arev Manoukian, Canada, 2010, 4 Minutes
Source: Vimeo

This film is about a man walking down the street and what happens to him when he sees a woman and instantly feels a connection. Also, this film is about a woman sitting in a cafe drinking wine when she glimpses a man outside and instantly feels a connection. We witness these two lovers as they charge obstacles to reach one another--the woman breaking through glass and reaching the sidewalk unscathed, and the man damaging a car and meeting the woman in the street in one piece. At the end of the film, we learn that the man and woman do not actually push cars or break glass, respectively, but we witness their emotion. We are left to wonder if they act on their promising future.

Once they get past staring at each other, the man and woman have a promising future, due to the events we witness. Both of them overcome obstacles of the same material. Time slows when the man steps into a puddle on the street the minute he decides to walk towards the cafe window where the woman is seated. Similarly, when the woman views the man's actions, she stands and drops her glass of wine, where it shatters elegantly on the pristine white table cloth. Both of them suffer with liquid. The second similar material is glass. The man experiences the shattering of glass when the car explodes around his form, and the woman walks through glass to meet him. These two material elements alert to the viewer that the man and woman have a chance--that they can overcome the same obstacles and come out unharmed.

The technique of this film is both interesting and detrimental to its viewing. Positives first. The formation of the puddle around the man's foot, the wine glass shattering on the table, the window glass shattering around the woman's face, and the car reacting to the man, are well done and enjoyable to watch. That said, the construction of this film is all fake and the man and woman are acting in front of green screens. Because it is more interesting to see then for me to explain, please click here to watch the 'Making Of' video (only requires a few seconds of your time to get the idea). This copy-and-pasting element to the film is what harms the film. When we are introduced to the woman, she is sitting in the cafe minding her own business until she looks up and sees the man. She is a bit too large for the window frame, and it becomes obvious that she does not belong there--that she is separate from her location. Viewing the 'Making of' video, we can see that in fact, she does not belong in the cafe because the cafe is completely constructed from cutouts. This leads to some confusion. If the location is pieced together around her, shouldn't the proportions be better? It is true that she is the dominant character of the shot and we need to see her and only her, because that is what he sees, but, just by sitting front row and center in the window, she is the main focus.

Arguably, this film is not a short, but a portion of a film, a scene more or less. That said, this film cannot be made into a feature, but instead, included in a number of feature film plots. For example, one story can be about a man consistently looking for love and constantly going on unfortunate dates throughout the film. This can be the last scene of the film--the man finally finding the right one. Or, this film can be an additive scene to a film about a woman who is constantly coping with men falling in love with her at first sight. There are a number of possibilities. This film is more of emotion and reaction, than a story. Short films can be emotional, but can they be emotions? This film is about a man and woman meeting and falling in love at first sight and their feelings. If this film had a brief clip of either the man or the woman having bad luck with love, then it would be a short film.

We understand how they are reacting, not necessarily why they are reacting.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

West Coast Report: Fraternity Rush

West Coast Report: Fraternity Rush
Written by: Jimmy Tatro
Filmed by: Jake Broido
Directed by: Jimmy Tatro and Jake Broido
USA 2011 4:49

Essentially, this film is a satire on the entire Fraternity rush process. It is narrated by the brother of one of the fraternities and outlines the various processes of Fraternity Rush such as talking to kids at Rush events and evaluating them afterwards in a closed meeting. It is perhaps one of the most hysterical videos I've ever watched simply because of its accuracy. I cannot speak for other fraternities but in terms of my own, this video closely resembles much of what the rush process is like for my fraternity. From the ridiculous questions asked to what happens behind "closed doors" this video is incredibly accurate in terms of what my fraternity looks for when looking for potential new members. Many of the personalities in the video are very close to those in my own fraternity. There are those who take things far to serious and highlight the fraternities philanthropic endeavors while there are many who view the fraternity as a means to get drunk and "pull" females.

Please watch this video, if not for its comedic value but for its authenticity. If you ever wondered what exactly happens during the fraternity rush process, this is a very accurate depiction. I'm not sure that that is a compliment to my fraternity, but it certainly supports the "frat boy" stereotype.

Heartless Potpourri

HEARTLESS (Cover) by The Fray Official Music Video
Located on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yE21NQckSmc&feature=related
Uploaded September 28, 2009

This music video is an excellent one for potpourri week, I think, because it so effectively blends multiple themes from this class. In a cover of Heartless, originally by Kanye West, this music video provides a glimpse into the life of a young boy in class (algebra, from the look of his notebook) who does not appear very pleased with the course of his love life, particularly as it pertains to one brunette student who looks way too old for him.

The reason I selected this video, besides being such an eclectic blend of animation, online-based media and music videos, is the way animation itself is used. The story line depicted in the animation contains one of the boys' drawings, a little anatomically-accurate heart, trudging along having terrible thing after terrible thing happen to him. I love the effect of what is essentially a short film within a short film, illustrating the sort of corny cliches that we would never accept if they were in live action. If, for instance, the boy were to walk under a cloud and have it rain only on him, we as the audience might be inclined to yell at the screen "OKAY, we get it, he's sad!" However, by using a child's doodles, it seems only fitting.

This also allows for other things that would be difficult on film, such as the 2 cameos by Kanye West where he is shown wearing those ridiculous glasses and bobbing his head, which add to the overall entertainment value of the film. They also, (although perhaps this just reflects how much I am the daughter of an English professor who never let me watch Barney because he plagiarized people's songs), seem to use those cameos as further acknowledgement of the songs' original artist. I appreciated the gesture, whether it was actually meant that way or not.

Ultimately, it's impressive that the secondary character line (the heart) is integrated it so fully that it never strikes a viewer as odd. I think it's important to note that whether for practical reasons, optimal entertainment value, the ability to provide animated in-text citations or just to provide variation and visual interest, the use of a short within a short is just plain cool.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Umbrellas Amuse Me: Observations from One Day in Munich


UMBRELLAS AMUSE ME: OBSERVATIONS FROM ONE DAY IN MUNICH
United States/Germany, 2010, John Green, 3 minutes and 44 seconds

Given that the theme of the previous blog posts and the next several blog posts is potpourri which allows us to talk about any kind of short film, I decided to stretch the definition a little bit. This is a vlog by John Green (yes, that John Green). He and his brother Hank have a YouTube channel called VlogBrothers where they each film a vlog a couple times a week (alternating turns) and start off each vlog by saying "Good Morning ______, it's ______" and then talk about whatever they want to for that day. They're also some of the leaders of the NerdFighter community (DFTBA!).

In this particular vlog, they've created a playlist for certain vlogs they do that are about them being out of the house to film the vlog and giving thoughts/commentary on where they are. This playlist is called Thoughts From Places and in this particular episode, John's greeting us from Munich! In Munich John gets gifts for his wife and son, muses about church bells, and goes to a Children's Literature Festival (which is why he was there in the first place).

We've only vaguely touched upon vidoes such as these, better known as vlogs (and this one can perhaps be categorized under our discussion of home videos) and whether or not they can be considered short films (the dreaded topic). I myself think they can be. They're not particularly stylistic or have a narrative plot or 'characters' but they are short in length and a visual film that is available to all. Not to mention both John and Hank are incredibly hilarious and intelligent. I subscribe to a handful of vloggers on YouTube (VlogBrothers, Nerimon, Charlieissocoollike, etc.) and I find their videos to be a great source of entertainment and relaxation for a period of time out of the day. I'm not sure we want to get into the discussion of whether or not these are short films but given it's potpourri, I wanted to bring something mildly different to the blog and see how people might respond.

GIN & JUICE

Music Video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6TUhx2wX0M

Directed by Dr. Dre, 1994, 4:1

This music video for Gin and Juice is low budget but it helped the song blow up and become known worldwide. The basic story is about a Snoop Dog himself staying home when his parents go out of town. His father in the movie says snoopy doggy doggy, you need to get a jobby job”. His mother then reminds him to not let the dog pound in the house. There is a quick moment where it parodies the feature Home Alone. The text on the screen reads “ Homeboy Alone and snoop dog impersonates Macaulay Culkin by holding his hair and screaming. It is apparent that Snoop will be letting the dog pound in because he calls his friend to get ready for a party. Snoop is pictured riding on the handlebars of his friends bike. This was back in the day before Snoop was an international star. There is another mention of a feature film , as Snoop is rolling down the street smoking indo sippin’ on gin and juice, the camera briefly cuts to a billboard for a drive in theatre and the movie Menace II Society is playing. This was released in 1993 and is a very popular movie in rap culture. As stated in the songs lyrics , Dre brought some “ bitches from the city of Compton”, but as Snoop goes in the bedroom with the ladies it cuts to his parents pulling in the driveway. The videos end is predictable but hilarious. The parents come home and already know there is a party based on the cars lining the street. Everyone runs out because they are scared of the authoritarian parents. The video is very Hip hop, from the liquor, to the baking out of cars, to the rowdy rap house party everything screams rap music. The video reflects how humble Snoop Used to be. This video single helped Snoop dogs first album Doggystyle go quadruple platinum. It is a really funny lighthearted video and reflects the humor that Snoop possesses.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Animal Collective - Peacebone (2007)


Directed by Timothy Saccenti, United States, 2007, 5 minutes 14 seconds

Peacebone is a freak romance about teenage lovers. The music video features a normal(ish) girl who is in love with an alien. He is forced into disguise most of the time, but reveals his true form when his love comes is around. The two run around and cause the typical teenage havoc until they are stopped by the police. If you are really searching for meaning in this video, it can be found. It is a story about being yourself around others and particularly the ones you love.

When I first saw this music video, for the "experimental psychedelic" band, Animal Collective, I hated it. I thought it was disgusting and weird. Even worse than that, I thought it was trying too hard to be disgusting and weird. I was completely turned off. Now, after becoming very well acquainted Animal Collective's music and other video work, I have a different opinion. I find the music video to be very funny, even sweet, but yes, still weird. What is great about this film however, is that it will always provoke a strong opinion, just read the youtube comments.

As a short film, Peacebone has a definite story line, but does not throw it in your face. Between the flashes of images and editing style, the plot does not seem to control the video. The montage of clips, which may appear to be random, serve a clear purpose within the music video. Layering images in this way mirrors the layering of sounds and styles that makes Animal Collective unique. Much of their music is all about energy, which the pacing of a montage flawlessly provides. Peacebone effectively features the strong suit of the artist while still adding another dimension of interpretation through a story line, simultaneously aligning itself as both a music video and a short film.

Lonny Goes Big Time

“Lonny Goes Big Time”

Directed by Lonny

United States, 2011

About 4 minutes

This is an episode of “Next Time on Lonny” which is billed as a reality web series. However, it doesn’t show a whole episode. Instead, we only see the tail end which, in a parody of clich├ęd reality TV show endings, ends in a sweet moment. The turning point comes after the credits where we expect a small teaser of what will happen in the next episode. Instead, we are shown a complete story that is much more comparable to a film than a television show. This episode ends with Lonny making his girlfriend’s friends laugh. After the credits, Lonny completely changes and starts his stand up career in California. Another example includes credits rolling on Lonny on a date, and “next time on Lonny” aliens end up invading the world. The short becomes a comedy once we see this twist in the story.

Much of the humor also comes from the fact that the story after the credits is insanely different from the beginning that the audience can’t even be sure if the second part exists in the same reality as the first part. After all, Lonny becomes famous and kills somebody in order to huff his soul. Yet, we see him by the end of the episode again in front of the confessional camera coming to terms with his actions.

“Next Time On Lonny” begins as any other reality television show and, I know when I first saw an episode, I expected to see a parody of reality TV shows. But, instead what we see is more of a parody of movies.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Volkswagen-"Night Drive"

Volkswagen-"Night Drive"
Noam Murro, United States.  2007.  90 seconds
Formerly available at www.night-driving.com.  Found on www.youtube.com
I find commercials to be a rapidly progressing medium, following the lead of TV series in the efforts to being more "filmic" and meeting audience's expectations for emotional response; a bar set by feature-films.  I could point to a variety of extremely well-made commercials (Everything Wieden+Kennedy produces for Nike, for instance) but I've picked this Volkswagen commercial about driving through the empty streets of a Los Angeles night because it is personal to me.

The commercial is simple: A beautiful minimal song, borrowed from Cliff Martinez's lovely score for Solaris, is overlapped with a recording of Richard Burton reading a Dylan Thomas poem.  These sounds are over images of a neon lit LA, in all its vast loneliness and graphically beautiful grime.  There's no apparent narrative; just driving and the experience.  Which is what the tagline is: "When was the last time you just went for a drive?"

The most effective ad campaigns (or the most memorable ones at least) are the one's that don't just show glossy images, but communicate a very specific message that addresses the belief system of its core audience.  "Just Do It" and "Think Different" come to mind.  Simon Sinek's Golden Circle theory illustrates this: His theory shows three circles, one inside the other.  On the outside is "What," the middle circle is "How," and the inner circle, "Why."  Sinek states that most traditional marketing and advertising goes from outside to inside the circle, but the most effective forms go inside to out.  Like a religion, you hit the audience at what matters to them: What makes them anxious, or happy, or nervous, what racks their brain.  Once you have their attention at their core, you then reveal how to meet their needs, and how your product will do just that.

This commercial is operating under Sinek's Golden Circle theory.  Yes, it features the Volkswagen Golf, but that is a secondary feature.  The first focus of this is what the tagline states: Do you just ever go for a drive?  Explore the landscape and just roam, contemplating your thoughts, dreams, hopes, desires.  The Golf is just a tool that will help you do just that.  And by speaking to a core belief, and trying to inspire emotion, is this commercial then allowed to be more artistic.  (The commercial has the added bonus of being shot in LA at night, which is the core of my high school social life once I got a car.)

That's the sort of beauty of advertising that I'm fascinated with: That with artistic effectiveness also comes commercial success.  Win-win.  It is a medium, similar to TV, where quality work almost seems to reap more rewards than quality work within the realm of feature films does.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

22 SHORT FILMS ABOUT SPRINGFIELD

22 Short Films About Springfield [episode of The Simpsons]
Jim Reardon, United States, 1996, approximately 22 minutes
(not available online, but can be found in The Simpsons Seventh Season DVD box set)

22 Short Films About Springfield is an episode of The Simpsons that eschews a running-time length plot in favor of a series of 'short films' about minor characters in the Simpsons' universe. As some of the shorts are connected and all the episode is book-ended by a discussion between Bart Simpson and Milhouse Van Houten about what the citizens of Springfield are up to, it could be argued that this is not really a pure short film omnibus. Still, that pseudo-omnibus is 22 minutes long, so the whole episode itself qualifies as a short

I count 13 shorts in the episode, whose title is a reference to the film 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould and is not an actual tally of the short's mini-shorts. Many of these are only shorts because of this episode's specific concept-- a sequence in which Reverend Lovejoy instructs his dog to urinate on Ned Flanders' lawn, for example, would just be a joke in any normal episode of The Simpsons. Still, a few of the shorts could be standalone, self-contained pieces if released in a different context. I have trouble pinning down my favorite segment, but it's usually either Principal Skinner's 'steamed hams' fiasco or the Mexican Bumblebee Man's short, in which his personal life resembles his wacky professional life; these segments have full plot arcs, with conflicts and resolutions that are totally independent of any of the other shorts. (Sidenote: I feel horrible that I can't share this with you on the blog, but I will lend my DVDs to anybody who wants them. You can also find the episode online through illegal video streaming websites, but I don't endorse any of those and, I'm assuming, neither does this blog).

The best part of the short is unique to non-Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons-- in the final minutes of 22 Short Films..., Professor Frink directly addresses the camera and begs the director not to end the episode. As the scene fades to credits, Frink explains that he's late because of an incident with a monkey. He holds a title card and sings a theme song, but the episode ends regardless. I've always loved this moment for its ability to break The Simpsons' rules without doing so in an obnoxious way. Later episodes of the show would re-write character histories and replace heart with jokes about Homer falling on his butt, but this scene manages to break the fourth wall without making the audience groan. I think it's because, in this moment, we really want to see Frink's short, "The Tomfoolery of Professor John Frink." At this point in its life, The Simpsons had made even its smallest characters likeable and this episode, specifically this scene, proved that while also creating as strong a half hour of television as I've seen (and I will seriously lend you the DVDs).

Extreme Sheep LED Art

Extreme Sheep LED Art
Wales
Upload by BaaStubs 2009
Wales



This video got me thinking about the amount of talent it takes to produce some of the stupid things on the internet. I think that this video had this effect on me, because it must have taken a monumental amount of ability and practice to create this incredibly silly video. I'm sure that must people could not train dogs to herd sheep in that close coordination with only whistle commands. It probably took these men years of working with dogs and sheep to become this skilled at herding.

And with that experience, they produced this. Which is an undeniably silly, but rather winning video. And I can't think of a better use for this ability. I don't think that raising sheep actually requires this level of precision, and there is not much else you could have done with a bunch of sheep.

I'm sure that people who raise sheep have been doing this in Wales for years. Entertaining themselves by making amusing patterns with sheep. But with the magic of the web, and widely available video cameras, we can now all enjoy the fruits of their extremely specialized labor.

Monday, November 21, 2011

We Found Love ft. Calvin Harris

Rihanna
We Found Love ft. Calvin Harris, 2011
Melina Matsoukas



Rihanna premiered this song in September 2011 and it has been a worldwide hit ever since. The accompanying music video has an experimental feel to it, as there are multiple hip hop montages and quirky aesthetic qualities to it. The scenes with the diluting eye balls, bouncing pills, and rainbow cigarette ash was pretty trippy and reminded me of "Requiem for a Dream." The director of Requiem, Darren Aronofsky, has gained some notoriety for his usage of those hip hop montages -- rapid fire images flashing across the scene. I thought that they were executed very well here and definitely added to the general feel of the video.

From a cinematography angle, the lighting is very natural with little in the way of artificial lighting utilized. This gives the whole video a darker feel -- think David Fincher -- which fit the narrative of back-alley drugs and psychedelic love. I think that all elements of the video, including the imagery, cinematography, and editing, came together quite nicely to perfectly fit the narrative of the song. It's dark, edgy, and operates a bit outside of the box.  This video seemed "different" compared to a lot of other music videos that are coming out these days, and the fact that it stands out from the rest is why I enjoy it so much.

Hotel Chevalier


"Hotel Chevalier," 2007, 13 minutes
Written and Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Jason Schwarztman and Natalie Portman

"Hotel Chevalier" is a companion short and prologue to Wes Anderson's film "The Darjeeling Limited." It was released on the Internet and as a free download on iTunes prior to the film's release (I know, because I'm always one to take advantage of free iTunes downloads).

In this film, we don't know the characters names, nor do we know much about their backstory - everything is in the now. The short follows Schwartzman's character, who is seemingly living out of a Paris hotel. He receives a call from a woman, whom we assume is a girlfriend or ex-girlfriend. He cleans up the room before she arrives, and once she does, his submissiveness makes it clear that she, played by Natalie Portman, is an ex-girlfriend he has has been hiding from. Not much else happens in the short; the two talk about what Schwartzman is doing living in the hotel, they receive room service, engage in a little foreplay while discussing if they've slept with anyone else, etc. The short ends with a slow-motion shot of Schwartzman helping a naked Portman into a yellow robe, and leading her across the room to the balcony. The final shot is of the two staring looking out over the rail, then retreating back into the hotel room. The camera pans to the other building across the way.

I chose this short because I was reminded of it during today's discussion about the difference between a curated collection of shorts and an omnibus film. As stated above, "Hotel Chevalier" is a companion short and a prologue to Anderson's feature "The Darjeeling Limited." However, I think this film is unique in that the viewer does not need to have an understanding of the plot of "The Darjeeling Limited" to understand what is going on the short. I also think the the viewer doesn't feel obligated to watch "The Darjeeling Limited" after viewing the short (in fact, even though I haven't seen the feature, I don't think Portman is even in the film).

I also chose the film because it deals with something we haven't talked too much about: stardom. I will admit that the only reason I downloaded the film was because of Schwartzman and Portman. I think it is safe to assume that many others downloaded the short for that reason as well. We can also bring Anderson into the stardom conversation. He's a successful filmmaker and has a large fan following. Perhaps Anderson himself is a reason that the short was able to make it onto iTunes, which receives a great deal of traffic each day.

Marcel The Shell With Shoes On











Marcel The Shell With Shoes On and Marcel The Shell With Shoes On, Two
Directed by: Dean Fleischer-Camp
Voiced by: Jenny Slate
Written by: Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate

Marcel The Shell With Shoes On tells about the life and stories of a shell that wears shoes named Marcel. From the small blunders of life, the big problems he faces daily, to the positive outlook he has on each and every aspect of his world, the film follows Marcel through it all. The adorable little shell makes us laugh out loud with his innocent quotes like, "Wanna see me lift this? (struggles for a bit trying to lift the crayon) Yeah, no... I can't... I can't lift anything at all," "You have to be pretty easy going to drive a bug because no matter where you want to go, you're going wherever the bug wants to go,", "I like to tie a piece of hair to a ball of lint and drag it around." You also have more serious quotes that do not become overkill because of the innocent nature of Marcel like, "I used to have a sister, but someone asked her to hold a balloon. (Later) I just pretend she's out traveling," "My biggest regret in life is that I'll never own a dog," "You know why I smile so much? Because it's worth it." These quotes and the entire film in general is really a big pick-me-up and refreshing couple of minutes.

I chose to include Marcel The Shell With Shoes On, Two as well because I saw the shorts back to back and felt that I could not talk about one without the other. The first time my friends showed me the video, they were laughing and rambling about how hilarious and great the short was while it loaded on my computer. I could see the shell standing on the couch and I expected myself to really not find it as funny as my friends. Then the video started, and the character voice of Jenny Slate gave the short life. The adorable voice that tells us each random story, comment, or fun fact makes this video stand out above anything else I have seen and catapults it into a category all it's own. Even though there really is no set plot in these films, the audience is still enticed throughout by just listening to Marcel talk to the interviewer (whose purpose is really to only say "what" when Marcel asks, "guess what?"). I think that these films, which have already had success as an AFI Fest Best Animated Short winner and an Official Selection at eight different film festivals including Sundance, are going to not only be great shorts but also have crossed into mainstream culture and will become much larger in the very near future. The happy-go-lucky and refreshing feeling that Marcel leaves the audience with is the last addicting component that will continue the success and demand of the little shell. I for one will absolutely appreciate as much Marcel the Shell as Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate wants to give us and look forward to more of his positive tone in the future.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Welcome to City 17!

Escape from City 17 Part 2

Directed by David and Ian Purchase, United States, 2011, 14 minutes

Source: Youtube

Welcome to city 17! This live action Half Life based short produced by the purchase brothers is the second part of this series of shorts. This series follows a group of soldiers as they partake in the events during the Half Life video game series. The basic story line is that a group of rebels are attempting to escape from the doomed city 17 that is going to blow up. As is typical of these sort of fan films, there is a love story and a lot of unexplained things going on.

The reason I chose this film was because I had stumbled across the episode 1 of the series and noticed they brought out a newer part of the series. If you take the time to look at the other Purchase Brothers films, the company that made the short, most of them are really well done and are full of great special effects. However, most are also not over the five minute mark besides this one and honestly that has helped them. While the special effects in this short are amazing, the story is atrocious and pathetic. While I love the beauty of the entire film the story and the occasional misfire of special effects really irks me to the point that I just can’t enjoy it. While the film was done on a 250 dollar budget if you are going to spend all that time on doing the models and special effects get a story writer and do things right.

However, in the video game world this video started a whole slew of fan based films most of which are going to be released later this year. While I know as a fact that most of these other fan films will probably end up having horrible story lines, this video is still important because of what it did. However this video should have set an example for a stellar story line with great effects so hopefully the purchase brothers can get their act together by part 3.