Saturday, September 24, 2011

Unforgivable #2

Uploaded by HodgeStansson on September 9, 2006

This is the 2nd installment in a 7 part series posted on youtube where in a black man chronicles some selected experiences and thoughts from his life. It is shot with a handheld camera and the footage is very raw and sloppily edited. On a few occasions the cameraman can be heard laughing. Since we have yet to come to a consensus on the exact definition of "short film," I have taken the liberty of labeling this youtube hit as a "short film."
In the film the man tells us about a night he spent over his girlfriends, and in doing so spares the viewer none of the more vulgar details and descriptions. The narrative has the feel of a guy bragging about his escapades to his best friend. The footage plays up to its homemade video billing and that element adds to the brilliance of this clip.
While some people may watch this and think "trash," I think "short film." The "Unforgivable" series is youtube at its best and has brought a smile to the face of millions. I believe that they tell a story and send a message, therefore qualifying them as short films. Unforgivable.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Online Only- Sign Language

Sign Language
Directed by: Oscar Sharp
Source: Palm Springs Shortfest Online Film Festival page on

Sign Language tells the story of Ben, a third-generation advertisement sign holder living in London. Ben's optimistic personality is apparent from the instant his smiling face and wide eyes appear on the screen. Even in a job that most would ordinarily look down upon, Ben finds the beauty in even the smallest everyday happenings on his street. He even talks about a close group of co-workers with high regards, especially one person in particular, Anya, that works across the street. As Ben last shift comes closer and closer to ending, he struggles with the excitement of his promotion and the heartbreak of leaving his familiar street sign family behind.

There is no better word to describe this film than "lighthearted". From beginning to end, we are forced to see the world from Ben's optimistic perspective and instantly feel connected to him. It almost has a quality about it that causes the emotions to sneak up on you. Slowly, you find yourself more and more intrigued about his world and the work that he does. You suddenly realize that you care very much about the relationships he has with the "co-workers" and Anya. There is even the moment of disappointment when he has the heartbreaking feeling that the guys didn't do anything to properly send him off. As soon as the doubt begins to set in that maybe his perception of reality might be different from what is really true, the other signs turn around to give a warm goodbye to their friend and the message of encouragement to finally talk to Anya makes the audience feel sheer happiness. With his face of determination leading to a cut of just the main title on screen, we feel the satisfaction of an ending. However, Ben's voice pops right back on screen and we hear his same optimistic voice answering our lingering questions of "What is his new promotion?" "Is he going to like it?" and "What happened with Anya?". Ben's cheery voice assures us that he still loves Mondays and the director shows us that Anya has taken over his old job while he flies the ever so fitting messenger airplane. This little bit of clip is about twenty seconds long but gives such a full circle ending to such a lighthearted piece of work. Never would I go out and say that this short film changed my life, but I think that it's cliche message of "always look on the bright side of life" is given such an unusual approach and creative delivery that it ultimately does make it stand out. It is definitely a "turn off your brain and smile" film and that is why it is so enjoyable to watch over and over again.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Night On Bald Mountain

NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN (part of Disney’s Fantasia)

Directed by Wilfred Jackson, USA, 1940, 8 minutes

This short, animated and made to Modest Mussorgsky’s classical score, is about dead souls rising from beneath the earth and coming to life. Skeletons and phantoms are called back to life by a gigantic winged demon with glowing eyes, and dance through the dark night sky and on the fiery sides of a mountain. In one part, they dance in the hands of the demon who manipulates their form from fire, to dancing voluptuous ladies to animals and then back to devilish creatures. A slew of disturbing yet gorgeous images continue as the evil spirits cause havoc until finally a bell is rung and dawn comes. Then the demons and ghosts slink back into the earth.

Disney’s Fantasia is a fundamental part of my childhood. I can picture exactly where the VHS is sitting at home and the weird yellow color the white case has turned. While, as a child, I loved all parts of Fantasia, that didn’t stop me from being scared as shit of them. While the possessed broomsticks in the classic “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is the image from Fantasia that haunts most, I think “Night on Bald Mountain” is the most terrifying. The fire surrounding the mountain and the colors that make up the dark night seem straight out of a nightmare. At the same time, it is captivatingly beautiful and a true piece of art. It is Disney at its best, truly visually stimulating. That it was still widely enjoyed by children and adults alike in the 1990’s, fifty years after it’s original release, says to me that it has staying power unlike Disney’s more modern projects. Will my children and grandchildren ever watch Prom, a recent Walt Disney Pictures release? I’m going to go out on a limb and say, no.

What is interesting about this film within the context of the short films world of today is its release and distribution. Fantasia is a collection of short films. Many don’t perceive it as so, considering its feature length and prevailing theme, but it is at its based, a compilation of animated, music based shorts. Shorts are struggling to find their place, especially in regards to finding an audience and in turn, funding. Maybe Disney got it right over fifty years ago. Instead of trying to find a totally unique space for shorts to be successful, maybe the solution, if not temporary solution, should be to just conform to the generally accepted idea of time and film by creating compilations that are feature length and can be more easily sold to audiences. Anyway, most people I know were first exposed to shorts through collections of Oscar Nominated or topical shorts brought to a movie theater.

These days, we can turn our original experiences with Fantasia on their head. When watched individually on the internet, it no longer becomes the marvelous and mystical world of fantasy and music we remember from our childhoods. When I recall watching Fantasia in its entirety, the stories are inseparable and form a big mass of music and animation in my memory. Now, they can be viewed and appreciated as single pieces, a little more manageable and interesting on their own. I definitely recommend looking a few up on Youtube and allowing yourself to get nostalgic and scared. But most importantly, do so being open to a new experience with an old classic.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mobilier Fidèle (The Automatic Moving Company)

Mobilier Fidèle (The Automatic Moving Company)
Directed by Emile Cohl, France, 1910, 4 minutes.

This film is about furniture that moves on its own, and therefore, makes moving into a new home quick and easy because everything knows where it needs to go--pictures go on the wall, mattresses go onto the already assembled bed frames and a broom and dust pan clean up broken dishes. There is arguably no story, but the furniture is given life with its ability to move and arrange itself. We can associate the film with a stage production--the actors and dancers know their places, props and scenes. We view a stage performance when the piano is getting up the stairs when boxes are coming down the stairs, and the boxes immediately go back up the stairs to allow the piano a place to move. I relate this scene to dancers bustling down stairs to get off stage but need to move in order for another actor to enter the next scene.

Emile Cohl is known as one of the first animators. When this film was released, it was a big deal because it used the new concept of stop-motion animation--moving inanimate objects slightly during each frame in order to give them the appearance of moving. This film is remarkable because moving the furniture up and down in place must have been heavy and taken a while. Also, as a new technique, the stop-motion is seamless. There are no unusual jerks in the movement of the furniture--the furniture does not start on the left side of the frame and then cut to the right side of the frame. Furthermore, this film can be argued as a test, not a short film, because it is lacking the narrator we often expect from short films. This film argues that story is not necessary and that testing a technique, in its own right, also creates a short. Or, because I can associate the film to real life, does that mean there is a story? It just may always be different depending on the viewer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


This short educational movie runs for 66 minutes. I really enjoyed the movie and found it funny. Although mostly none of the facts from the movie are based in legitimate the effects of the movie are far reaching. I am impressed with the movies cinematic qualities. One of the opening scenes of the movie depicts blocks of herion being burned in a fire as the narrator reminds the audience that marijuana is more dangerous than heroin...Wait what? This movie is more than the first stoner flick, it actually influenced America so much that to this day its still Reefer Madness in America. Under the controlled substances act Marijuana is schedule 1.

Schedule I is the only category of controlled substances that may not be prescribed by a physician. Drugs must meet three criteria in order to be placed in Schedule I:

  • The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
  • The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  • There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.-(wiki)

    Heroin, LSD , and ecstasy are in the same categorization as marijuana. Never mind the fact that in 2009 there were more Medical marijuana dispensaries in L.A than Starbucks and McDonalds combined. Reality Check: Marijuana is de facto legal in California and many other states for medical use.Back to the story though...

    This is what I got from the plot. Smoking weed will make you hit people with your car and leave them dead in the street. It can also make you hallucinate your girlfriend is cheating on you, when she is really being sexually assaulted , then when you try to serve justice and save your girlfriend ( unaware of this maybe, but the intentions are good), drug dealers will accidentally shoot your girlfriend then swiftly frame you for it.
    And then when your life is in danger and you kill in self defense you will be labeled as a murderous villan. So even though this story acknowledges that the innocent stoner is unjustly jailed , this still parallels for how marijuana is treated today. And dont forget you there is a high probability you will end up in an insane asylum for the " rest of your natural life" if you smoke weed. SO TELL YOUR CHILDREN : AMERICA IS STILL MAD ABOUT REEFER.


  • Start watching at 4:20 to see the scene I "reefer" to.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Red Hot Riding Hood - The most popular videos are a click away

Red Hot Riding Hood
Tex Avery, USA, 1943, approx. 7 mins.

Red Hot Riding Hood is a cartoon that begins as a staid retelling of Little Red Riding Hood before becoming a completely insane version of the same story. The wolf is a lecherous would-be playboy, Red is a nightclub dancer, and Red's grandmother spends most of the short trying to jump the wolf's bones. The wolf successfully fights off Red's grandmother but never gets Red. At the end of the film he swears off dames and then, when Red shows up at the nightclub, he commits suicide by shooting himself in the head with two guns.

This short has aged as well as anything could hope to; the animation is still sharp and the jokes still hit. Episodes of Saturday Night Live feel sluggish and boring, but a cartoon from the early 1940s can make me laugh. This is because Tex Avery invented his own language and logic based on the foundations set by his cartoonist peers.

I've read arguments that cartoons follow dream logic, and that may be true for some cartoons, but this one doesn't subscribe to dream logic. In dreams, characters are faced with strange circumstances, but they generally accept those circumstances as their new reality (somebody tells you people only eat tires and you ask where the closest tire is). In Red Hot Riding Hood, the wolf is faced with strange circumstances, but he fights against them. He knows that he's living in a world where 40% of the doors lead to steep drop-offs, 40% lead to brick walls and 20% lead to new rooms, and he hates it. On top of this, the world mocks him. He opens a door and slams into a brick wall adorned with an "Imagine that NO DOOR!" sign. He falls from a skyscraper's penthouse and the building calls him a "sucker."

I love Looney Tunes shorts, but you generally walk in knowing exactly what you're going to get. It isn't surprising when Sylvester gets screwed over by Tweety. Even when Daffy is at his most unhinged, his world has rules. The rules of Red Hot Riding Hood change on the fly, with the only constant being how the wolf reacts to those changes. As a result, when you watch this short, you can't really predict what's coming, and that makes every second fun. In the end, this isn't even a riff on Little Red Riding Hood. It's just a very good time and an exercise in breaking and reforming the rules every thirty seconds.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Great Train Robbery


Directed by Edwin S. Porter, USA, 1903, 10 minutes

Source: YouTube

“The Great Train Robbery” is probably one of the best known classical cinema shorts of the early nineteen hundreds. Directed by Edwin S. Porter this film depicts a daring train robbery by a group of bandits and the ordeal that follows. While this doesn’t sound like much of a story compared to most modern shorts, the ironic thing is that I chose this film because of its story. This film in my opinion is one of the best classical pieces of story telling out there.

“The Great Train Robbery” is able to tell a story in ten minutes that while simplistic follows my one major rule in film. This rule is that the film should to immerse the audience in a universe without them questioning it or trying to figure it out. For a film that was made in 1903, it does a spectacular job of creating a universe that is believable. Ironically the ability to immerse someone into another universe is one of my biggest complaints against many short films. While some do a great job at doing this, those who simply plop a audience someplace irritate me. Why should the audience have to think about what is going on, that’s the directors job!

Beyond that, for it’s time the movie is fairly typical when it comes to the over exaggerated acting and it’s piano soundtrack. The only really big complaint that I had is when one of the engineer’s attacks a bandit with a shovel and the bandit kills him, they jump cut from the same angle. While I know it’s so they can put the sack man in and try to disguise the switch, they really should have switched camera angles for a better effect. Finally, there were some scenes that really should have been cut out such as the engineer filling up the train with more water. It was unnecessary and removing it would speed things along a bit more. Overall, for its time “The Great Train Robbery” is a solid short film even if it was a feature film in 1903.