Saturday, October 15, 2011


Directed and written by Rodrigo Blaas
Spain, 2009, 5 and a half minutes

I had been planning on talking about Pixar's Geri's Game when this animated short by former Pixar animator Rodrigo Blaas was linked to me. I watched this film and was absolutely blown away. I do want to say that you must watch the film before reading the rest of this entry as it is not a film you want to be spoiled for.

The concept of this film is a rather simple one. A young girl, Alma, is walking through the snow-covered streets of a town when she sees a doll that resembles her in the window of a shop. The door opens on its own and she goes in, her doll seeming to disappear and reappear until she finds it on a shelf. When she touches it, there is a flash of images and suddenly the only sound is her breathing and the view now from the doll's eyes, looking around frantically. Alma has become her doll. The end of the film is another doll slowly coming up in the frame of the window, showing the next victim.

When a friend initially linked this to me, she mentioned it was creepy but I could have never predicted this. This film flows nicely but is entirely incongruous within itself, leaving its ending entirely in the dark and surprising for the ending. It's one of the most satisfying endings I have seen in a film, short or feature-length, because I didn't seen it coming and it was appropriately terrifying in its simplicity and lack of explanation. The start of the film seems humble and charming with its airy, pleasant score to the sight of a young girl walking in the snow. There is nothing ominous at its beginning which gives the audience a false sense of security which, in turn, is what makes the subsequent scenes in the store so much more haunting.

For the animation itself, it is soft in its line and Blaas' past with Pixar is extremely evident. It's very charming in its fantasy-like European setting and wins over the audience from the very start of the film. Blaas does an excellent job at setting up the most simplest of scenarios but still making the scene that comes next unknown to the audience, leaving them in the dark. When Alma becomes the doll, the audience is entirely unsuspecting of it. There was, clearly, something strange about the shop but the audience, like Alma, could not have predicted what.

This animated short is absolutely now one of my favorites and I think it was executed in a very mature and meticulous manner. I highly recommend it to anyone.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Written and Directed by: H5, France, 16 minutes
Released at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival
Source: Vimeo

Logorama is an animated short set in a new Los Angeles. From the street lamps to the main characters, the city is entirely comprised of corporate logos and advertisements. While the film follows the stories of a couple characters, the main focus is that of the police chase between the Michelin Men and the armed fugitive, Ronald McDonald, through the streets of the city.

The first time I came across this film I had no indication that it was anything more than a funny Youtube video. The satiric tone the film takes from the opening scene until the credits roll is what sets this film apart from the rest. The audience almost cannot decide what the film is poking fun at the most. Seeing timeless corporate logos as gun-slinging fugitives, lonely truck drivers, foul-mouthed waitresses, rebel children, and stereotypical police officers is what instantly captures the audience's attention. Then to see these characters engage in the over-the-top action and unimaginative story-line that Hollywood blockbusters are built upon keeps the audience laughing from start to finish. Throughout the entire film the audience is continually asking, "What next?" while watching the car chase ultimately turn into an unbelievable catastrophe.

The other side of this film is trying to locate all the logos creatively making up the entire city. The AOL instant messenger men act as civilians, coffee cups spill into the orange Nickelodeon splat, the E! logo stands as structural support and even holds a place in the LA skyline, Mr. Clean turns into a gay tour guide, and the list continues. Even when the entire city is flooded and the shot zooms out of the world and into outer space, we see that Earth is actually the Universal Studios logo, all the planets are famous logos, and that even the Milky Way is appropriately the Milky Way logo.

What made me ultimately enjoy this film the most was that every single aspect was done completely over-the-top: The language, the action, the story, the logos, and everything in between. The film would not have been the same experience had the characters only been logos or had the car chase been the only action. Obviously the Academy agreed that H5 had created something that stood apart from their competition because they awarded them the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 2010.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Six Shooter: 2006 Live Action Oscar Winner

Six Shooter
Directed by Martin McDonagh, Ireland, 2004, 27 min.
2006 Academy Award Winner for Live Action Short Film
Source: A Collection Of 2005 Academy Award Nominated Short Films (DVD 1328)

Six Shooter takes place in contemporary Ireland and begins with a sequence of a man finding that his wife has died while in hospital.  After seeing her body for the last time he gets on the train and sits across from a rather crude and loud-mouthed teenager who will not stop going on with his opinions and stories whether his audience is interested or not.  In the booth caddy corner to his is a sad looking couple; the kid asked what's wrong with them and the husband reveals that their child has just died.  Apart from the last scene, the rest of the film takes place on the train, depicting the confrontation between the characters as well as grief and sociopathic carelessness.

At first, I found the film disappointing for what I saw as its use of two conceits, one being death of a family member, which we see of course from the opening, and then the death of the child that we learn of on the train.  The other conceit of course is that of the six shooter; the two weapons the young man pulls  when confronted by the police are revolvers that have 6 round chambers.  (This is relevant at the end of the film as well when the man takes one of the weapons of the kids body so that he may commit suicide himself).  Films of course use various conceits all the time and they are a necessary tool.  A conceit used well however is one that is used to enable action, plot, etc. in ways that make meaning.  Six Shooter makes an attempt at this however by drawing upon the well of loss begun from the opening sequence (check which frame), deepens by the exposition of the couples child step from SIDS and then turned violent upon the mother's suicide.  That is to say, what may appear to be a conceit, which short film is often forced to rely upon more, is revealed to be so much more as the film (seemingly) rolls along down the train tracks. 

I think pivotal moment for me was when the mother jumps from the train, or perhaps the moment immediately before when, after the young man squeezes into the seat next to her and glibly accuses her of murdering her own child, she tries to step over him and out of the booth, tearing the picture of the child.  It is here that the conceit of loss is shown to be of real meaning, dietetically and to the audience.  McDonagh shows impressive craft in his treatment of the mother's suicide; it is neither explicitly violent or exploitative, nor does the audience even see much evidence of the act apart from the quick thud heard after she moves through the door connecting the train cabs and a spot of blood on the window. Through neither music, character action nor any change in cinematographic style, the tone changes quietly but sharply and quickly nonetheless. It is in this sequence that Six Shooter shows its greatest strength: giving the audience access to the despair of loss on the torture of survival without lengthy exposition or complex plot development.  And yet the complexity of these meditations is immense; is this not the measure of a successful short film?

For more information, see cinema16.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011



Director Monolo Celi

Film won award from "The Florida Industry Incubator"

The short film was made for the contest that gives team 30 days to shoot and edit a 5-minute short while having a budget of 500 dollars. The film opens with Roberto Lequex , a photographer, sitting having lunch. He sees a family taking pictures and then runs over to help them. He ends up robbing the guy of his really nice DSLR and takes pictures of him as he robs him. I thought that was hilarious the way the actor got so angry and its incredible that Roberto Lequex was actually taking pictures during the filming. I like this film because it is very light hearted and simplistic. Although it has a very linear structure the end is a shot of the gallery with all of the pictures of the shoot! Very cool how the Director and photographer were able to collaborate into making a film and photo shoot into a single piece. I think the filmmakers executed the making of this short effectively and entertainingly.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Terminal Bar

Terminal Bar

Stephan Nadelman

Sundance Film Festival Jury Prize 2003

It’s fairly apparent from the first minute of Stephan Nadelman’s documentary “Terminal Bar” why this film was so well received by juries and audiences on the festival circuit in 2003. The 22 minute feature, told entirely in black and white photographs with minimal live-action footage, is a first hand look into the lives of some of the roughest, slimiest, most interesting characters in New York at a time when the city’s reputation as one of the toughest in the nation was more than deserved.

The film tells the story of Sheldon Nadelman’s ten year bar-tending career at the Terminal Bar, formally located across the street from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown. The short has no dialogue besides narration from a 1982 New York Times article chronicling the bar’s history and ultimately closure, as well as interviews with Sheldon Nadelman (Stephan’s father). Nadelman Sr. took over 2500 photographs during the course of his tenure at the bar, and these photos are edited together stylishly to music to tell the story of the bar’s journey from its Irish working-class roots, to its unintentional rebranding as a predominantly African American gay bar. The short spends the majority of its time focusing on on the portraits that Nadelman took, as he describes the interesting stories of these incredibly eccentric characters, and their lives inside and outside of Terminal.

The strength of the documentary lies in its simplicity, both in delivery and of message. With period-appropriate funk and disco music throbbing in the background, Nadelman Jr. employs fast-paced and editing techniques (panning, tiling, zooms in and out) to keep the montage of gritty, beautiful photographs taken by his father moving at a speed that not only holds the audience’s attention, but reflects the mood and atmosphere of the city and its inhabitants as they passed through the Terminal. The narrator’s vivid anecdotes of the working-class alcoholics, homosexuals, and riff-raff that frequented the bar are as lively as they are depressing, and paint a portrait of the tough, yet fascinating lives of the middle and lower class of New York during the era.

There’s a particularly poignant moment towards the end of the film that serves as a sort of thesis for the short. In the Times article about the closing, Nadelman says “[People] come out there in the morning, step over the bodies, and go to work. And they step over them on the way back. And nobody says nothing. When one person’s lying in the street, everyone’s lying in the street.” The photographs that flash behind these words echo this sentiment, and show the harshness of the time, and help the audience understand why so many of New York’s dejected masses wandered into the bar, to enjoy the moment, and escape.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Directed by Carter Smith
Jury Selection Winner - Sundance Film Festival 2006

Bugcrush follows a young loner's fascination with the new kid in town. The kid just so happens to be every parent's nightmare, typical stuff right? No. It'd be fine if the fascination led him down the path of recreational drug use and teenage rebellion. In Bugcrush the fascination takes him down an unimaginable and frightening path or the new kid's barn where he keeps a bug that he claims made him sexually climax something indescribable.

The narrative, in many respects is typical in its regard to young boy has obsession with school rebel, like having a crush on the bad kid because we're not supposed to-- its an examination of desire and what lengths we'll go to as individuals for a sense of love and belonging. The bugs are what make this narrative singular. The idea that being infected, or being bitten by a poisonous bug in this case, is all part of the induction or the shared affection. In this particular scene notice the manipulation into a false sense of security until finally the loner has fully submitted. I empathize. I think we can all empathize. We've liked people we shouldn't like and this oftentimes has gotten us into precarious situations that we justify because we're in love and they'll never hurt me. Yet, in every way this situation is wrong. The pacing of this film is fantastic. We're led to this dark place and in the space of a short film Carter gets all of the details just right-- shows us the journey of these two boys to the point of climax where we think we're going to see something sweet and cliche and instead we are submitted to scenic dread to this horrifying experience. I'd even categorize this short as a horror film. The psychology is at play with these two characters and very real, human character vulnerability is drawn out in both of them. We fully empathize before we enter the barn and then Smith flips the switch. The cinematography gives rise to the tension and we get a sense of impending doom.