short film

Death of a Shadow (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Death of a Shadow (Dood Van Een Schaduw) (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Tom Van Avermaet, Ellen De Waele).

“Death of a Shadow” is an interesting little short that escapes both time and reality.  A deceased World War I soldier, Nathan Rijckx (Matthias Schoenaerts) works for a man, stuck in a limbo between life and death, and photographs the dying to be displayed in a gallery of shadows.  He works to have a second chance at life and is motivated by a woman he met the day he was killed.   Sarah Winters (Laura Verlinden) tried to save his life.

He hates his work, but he is so close to completing it he can hardly stand it.  He peruses his options and tries to find the least repulsive death to photograph, while still trying to satisfy his employer’s taste in art and composition.  His last picture, however, proves to be very difficult and he must make a decision between his own happiness and that of the woman he is smitten with.

The film is both a period piece and something outside of reality.  It is creative and well shot, although it is a lot of story to put into a short.  The production value of the short is really astounding.  It is very artistic and emotional, however they didn’t completely match the communication of that emotion with the production design.  That is a small complaint, however, for such a well made short.

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Curfew (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Curfew (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Best Live Action Short Subject (Shawn Christensen).
Watched July 22, 2014.

I adored this short film.  In my opinion, it is everything that a short film should be.  There is symbolism, experimental and artistic cinematography, strong story telling, solid acting, and a cohesive whole that definitely deserved to win the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Subject in 2013.

This film does not need to be longer.  It is complete in and of itself.  Sometimes full length features are left too open to sequels, as is all the rage in Hollywood.  Once you find a formula that sells, you just keep selling it.  Curfew stays out of that trap and is phenomenal on its own.  Just the opening shots scream “this is a winner.”

Richie (Shawn Christensen) is in his bathtub, clearly in the middle of committing suicide by razor blade, when his phone rings.  It is Maggie (Kim Allen), and apparently Richie is the last person she would ever call but she needs his help.  Richie gives in, cleans himself up a little, and heads out to meet his niece whom he hasn’t seen in years.  Sophia (Fatima Ptacek) is a force to be reckoned with, just like her mother.  Strong, and independent, she knows how to stick up for herself, which may be because she grew up in New York, or maybe it’s because of her mother’s example.  She thinks very little of her Uncle Richie who supposedly messed up really badly when she was little and has been cut out of their lives since.

He is a mess.  He has huge circles under his eyes, his wrists are bandaged, and a cigarette hangs from his mouth.  He takes Sophia to the only approved place (the bowling alley), where things get a little weird and people start dancing, but it actually works incredibly well with the story line and character arc.  It is night time in new york, therefore the lighting stays pretty dark, but the filmmakers use a strong contrast that works well for the film.  He forms a tentative relationship with Sophia who is slow to let down her guard, but she seems to get the measure of him pretty quickly (which is good since this is a short film).

The short uses the landscape of New York City nightlife very well.  It follows the growth of their one-night relationship and makes you root for everyone, even the mom.  Christensen wrote, directed, and acted in the piece, which surprisingly works out pretty well for him.  Honestly, Curfew is the type of piece I would have adored in my intellectual, artistic filmmaker university days, but at a level that the more consumeristic side of myself can enjoy just as much.  It is a great film.

If you have twenty minutes, or even if you don’t, this is a short I would definitely recommend that you watch.  If you have never really sat down just to watch a short film, I would suggest that you start here.  It is that good.

Helium (2014) Review | Jamie Daily

Helium (2014)
86th Academy Awards
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Best Live Action Short Subject (Anders Walter, Kim Magnusson).
Watched May 5, 2014.

  

I am not surprised that Helium won this year’s Oscar.  It was cute, touching, well written, and used all twenty three minutes of running time very well.  The short film explores the power of imagination (no wonder it won, right?).

 

Alfred (Pelle Falk Krusbæk) is a young boy who is dying.  A new hire at the hospital, the janitor Enzo (Casper Crump) takes a liking to the boy and in seeing his loss of hope and pessimism towards his fate and what happens after death, he creates an imaginary world called Helium that captures more than one heart.  Despite his failing health, Alfred’s fear is eased and his mind opens up to find joy again.

 

The length of the film was perfect.  There was not a minute wasted, and yet if it had been longer it would have lost all of its power.  There is little back story (what is Alfred dying of?  Where did Enzo work before this and why does he have so much compassion for this particular boy?), but its mysteries strengthen its ending.

 

Everything came together to bring home the win for this short.  I definitely recommend it, although don’t expect much humor.

Fresh Guacamole (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Fresh Guacamole (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Short Film-Animated (PES).
Watched January 10, 2014.

  

Fresh Guacamole, the shortest short ever nominated for an Oscar, is a technically sound stop motion film by PES.  A film that once went viral online, somehow, amazingly, garnered recognition from the Academy.

 

PES is well known on YouTube and other internet sites for producing some quality content, and this two minute feast is no different.  It doesn’t make any grand statements, although perhaps it was meant to, but instead practices film techniques and the art of stop motion to a T.

 

If you know how to make guacamole, or if you enjoy eating guacamole, or if art is in your DNA, you will probably enjoy this film.  It takes the simple process of making guacamole but replaces the food items with (mostly) every day objects.  The avocado is a grenade and the pit is a pool ball.  The chips are poker chips and the tomatoes are tomato pin cushions.  The human hands and avocado inards, as well as a few other items are as they should be, but the diced up tomato becomes red dice, the onion (a baseball) becomes dice as well, and so on.

 

The two minute short is slightly entertaining, mostly interesting, and pulls at a curious side of humanity that enjoys every day objects being used other than they should be.  For example, I have always loved The Borrowers (a book and also a movie about tiny little people who live in the walls of houses), partly because of how they use human items in such interesting ways–thimbles as large drinking glasses, and so on.

 

If you have two spare minutes, I would encourage you to watch the video below to see flawless technique and a cute spin on a simple Mexican treat.

Tuba Atlantic (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Tuba Atlantic (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Hallvar Witzo).
Watched October 31, 2012.

 

Out of all the short films I have seen so far from this year, this one is by far my favourite.  Humor, wit, and machine guns–what more can you ask for?

 

In a short film, you have to get to the point pretty quickly–something that Oskar (Edvard Hægstad) and his doctor (Terje Ranes) seem to understand.  Oskar has precisely six days to live.  “Would you like to die at the hospital or at home?” the doctor asks.  Being a stubborn old man stuck in his Norwegian old ways, he refuses all help and returns home where he counts out his last days on the calendar.

 

The next morning, his appointed “death angel” shows up–a young girl who is trying to earn her wings by helping the dying cope with their untimely demise.  Oskar, however, is not someone she had bargained for.  He seamlessly processes through her stages of dying–denial and anger being the first two–but what she didn’t expect was his extracurricular activities.

 

He is waging a war against the seagulls.  Yes, seagulls.  With machine guns, explosives, and even his own two feet.  Although his promise of death has not dulled his hate for the birds, it has softened his heart toward his brother, to whom he hasn’t spoken in a good thirty years.

 

If you aren’t a fan of short films, you will be a fan of this one.  If you are a fan of short films, you will be a fan of this one.  It is perfection, although once I tell you that it features a giant electric tuba built to reach all the way across the Atlantic you might not trust my judgment any more.  The acting is spot on, the timing of the humor is perfect, and despite the possibility of animal activists being incredibly put off by Oskar’s pastime hobbies, I hope that they can see the humor in the completely absurd old man.

 

The ending has just enough cheese with the continued pattern of perfect timing that the 25-minute short is rounded out nicely, with all loose ends tied and fewer seagulls soaring the skies.  If you have never listened to any of my suggestions before, you should definitely start now by watching Tuba Atlantic.

 

Sources: Time EntertainmentIMDB411maniaOpinionlessPaste MagazineSmells Like Screen SpiritThe Independent Critic