Thursday, June 30, 2016

Battery Life



Today's film is called BATTERY LIFE, and it looks like it might be about Stop-Motion robots, which is always pretty cool. I grew up on the many, many films that Ray Harryhausen helped bring to life, from Jason and The Argonauts, to Clash of the Titans, to the old Sinbad films, and on and on, so I'm always down for a little stop-motion. Plus, who doesn't love robots? Not me. The writer/director of this particular film is named Justin Nixon, and this looks like it might be his only credit, so that's about all I can say about him and his film.

Here's what he has to say about his film though: "Battery Life is our introduction. A film to say, “Here we are.” We are a team of people willing and able to work hard for something we believe in, something we think is really cool. And we did just that. On a budget of only $5000 (crowdfunded and out of pocket), we created this ten minute, thirty-five second stop motion film."

Sounds eager and inspiring.

Here's the synopsis: Set in a dystopian desert landscape, a robot family, through the test of tragedy, discovers a dark secret hidden behind the doctrine of a preacher.

Well, all right then, let's get to it...



Nice.

That was good. There were well-defined characters with strong motivations, and a story that brought some real emotion too, which is extra impressive once you consider the fact that the story revolves around little light-up robot dolls. It's even more impressive when you consider that it was made for only $5000. On top of all that, this is also a good example of the type of tightly-focused storytelling that is necessary when making a short film. Get in, tell your tale, get out. You just don't have much room to spread your narrative around, so I appreciate them keeping it close, and then bringing it all back around to the start at the end.

Although, there was one little thing that nagged at me...

I can't help but wonder: What caused the accident? Was it the Dad? Was it just me, or did the story seem to insinuate that the Dad was responsible? And if he wasn't, what happened? I mean, I obviously saw the end result, but upon seeing the rest of their immediate world... what the hell happened to the kid? It doesn't really matter, I guess, because that's not the point of the story, merely the inciting incident, but I just kind of wondered.

A story for another day, maybe.

Until nest time,
Jon

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Let's Not Panic






LET'S NOT PANIC is a short film written and directed by Heather Jack.

Heather Jack has worked on a couple different feature film projects back in the aughts (including G-Force, which... I mean, how the fuck did that film happen?), mostly in Assistant roles. For the past few years though, she has been really busy producing a ton of short films, with other people writing and directing. This one here, however, is the first one she is credited as writing and/or directing herself, and according to her personal page, she's been hitting the festival circuit pretty hard with it.

Here's the synopsis: An apocalyptic short comedy about love and neuroses.

Well... that didn't really tell us shit, did it?


That was entertaining.

A little broad, sure, and more than a little commercial, but that's not a bad thing. It was definitely cute. Did it lack any kind of edge? Yes, but I wasn't really expecting this thing to lean too heavy into the whole "apocalypse" end of things, not after reading the synopsis.

All in all, I'd say this short film is a very marketable piece of work. In fact, judging by this piece, I'd say Heather Jack is perfectly capable of working in sit coms, rom-coms, all the coms. This was smart, quick, and funny. It told its story with clarity and economy. It was fun. She is obviously capable of speaking to the masses in a language they both like and understand, and that's nothing to sneeze at.

This was a good job, and I bet she finds work off it. Of course, what work she does find probably won't be the kind of project I'd personally rush out to see, but hey, work is work.

Until next time,
Jon


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

ECHOS


Naleb, the French animation student, from yesterday's post is back again!

Today's film is called ECHOS. According to Naleb's Tumblr, it is intended to be "a reflection about addictive behaviors," and it was done during a workshop in collaboration with the Hospital Camille Claudel. This is an interesting angle, given what the film is about, so I will be watching for it.

Here's the synopsis: A girl struggles with the attraction generated by portals to other worlds.

Let's check it out.



Hmmm... 

While this one is definitely a little more fast and loose when it comes to delivering on the theme it promised than VESTIGES was, it's still an interesting piece. A lot more impressionistic than narrative, I like the designs and the music. The execution is good, but if I hadn't known that it was supposed to be a kind of statement on addiction, I wouldn't have guessed that it was. However, knowing that, I guess I can see it a little. Maybe not enough for me to applaud the end result. If it were up to me, I definitely wouldn't use that as my main selling point, but then, what do you want, it is only a minute and twenty seconds long.

Not bad, not great. All right.
Jon

Monday, June 27, 2016

Vestiges





Today, I have another animated short film from France.

I've put a few of these up here over the years, but I can't specifically recall what they were, or when I posted them, so I didn't dig up a link for you. You can look around for it, if you want. As far as I can remember, they're mostly kind of the same, they're generally good and interesting, but also usually more about the animation and the emotional tone, than they are the narrative, y'know? I expect this one will probably be along the same lines.

This one is called Vestiges.

I'm not really sure why, not yet. Some ideas occur to me, but they don't quite fit what it appears the short film is about, or don't make a lot of sense, so... who knows? Hopefully we'll find out.

Anyway, Vestiges was created by group of kids with Tumblrs known only as Naleb, Ester, and Thomas. I assume they're all animation students at EMCA. They apparently made this for a French contest called the Espoirs de l'Animation, which looks like it's all about the animated short films, and according to Naleb's Tumblr, they won the Audience Award at this year's contest, so congratulations!

Good on them.

And so, finally, here's the synopsis: A young girl uses the strength of nature to struggle against the growth of a black mud.


That was nice.

Cute animation, nice designs, clear themes, the whole thing was quick and simple, a familiar tale of nature versus toxins, the pure versus the contaminated. It worked well, I think. Plus, as I've said before, I like it when Creators acknowledge the time constraints of this genre. It signals a self-awareness that is important to good story-telling, I think. Now, in both theme and look, this is very obviously a heavily Hayao Miyazaki-influenced piece, but I don't think this is a bad thing, at least not at this level. It's a good start, and for what it is, it's pretty well done.

Good job,
Jon

Friday, June 24, 2016

Sunspring







Okay, so this is a weird one.

This short film is called SUNSPRING, and it was written by an A.I., (both an Artificial Intelligence and a terrible Spielberg movie). The A.I. began its life with the name Jetson, but soon re-named itself, and is now known as Benjamin. He has an IMDB credit. I'm sure you're all familiar with the concept of A.I.s, right? After all, an A.I. was the main bad guy in the classic Matthew Broderick film WarGames.

So, here's the deal... Director Oscar Sharp and New York University A.I. Researcher Ross Goodwin made this film for the Sci-fi London film festival 48 Hour Film Challenge. Benjamin wrote the screenplay after first being fed a ton of sci-fi scripts, and then using a recurrent neural network called long short-term memory, or LSTM for short, kind of like the Predictive Text Function on your phone. You can subscribe to Benjamin's new screenplay updates here and you can like its Facebook here.

Now, I know what you're thinking... "But Jon, you look great, by the way..." (Thanks) "Isn't it dangerous to encourage A.I.s to like... do stuff? I mean, from just looking at all the pop culture stuff out there, when you encourage computers to get smarter, you either end up with all of humanity dead or in chains, or you get a really stupid film."

I hear you. I acknowledge you. This is a valid concern.

Here's the synopsis: A computer generated the screenplay for this short science fiction film.

Uh-huh. Well, all right then. Let's watch the film.



"It's a damn thing scared to say! Nothing is going to be a thing, but I'm the one who got on this rock, with a child, and then I lift the other two."

Powerful. Powerful stuff.

The death knell of Hollywood has been sounded, people. The Age of the A.I. has begun. Soon all of the Oscars will belong to the Machine. Humanity is over. I, for one, welcome our new Robotic Screenplay Masters.

I don't know what you're talking about,
Jon


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

TRIAL







All right!

Today's a new day, and here we are with another Sci-fi Short Film from me to you, so let's get into it, shall we?

SHALL WE?

Today, we have Trial. It is a short film Written and Directed by The Brothers Lynch, otherwise known to their parents as Keith and David T.. This I know: They are brothers, and they are film-makers. However, beyond that, I don't know much, except that I'm reasonably sure David and Keith are in actuality the separate entities that, when they utter their magic phrase, transform and merge, to become a Mighty Director!

Pretty sure. 85% percent, at least.

Other than that, neither one of them has done anything that really jumps out at me. That being said, though, they do seem to have a passion for genre stuff, and are pretty regularly active--as a separate pair--starting out on music videos, and now branching out into their own projects.

So good for them.

Here's the synopsis for today's film: A pioneering mind transfer procedure offers a quadriplegic soldier the chance of a new life... but at a terrible cost. The corporal finds himself in another part of the science facility with no idea how he got there. These time jumps escalate out of control climaxing with a horrific realization...

Tsk, tsk, tsk... There's always a terrible cost with these things, isn't there?

Seriously though. on a more personal preference note, I hate it when a synopsis refers to a character in broad terms first, and then very quickly after throws in a specific designation, no preamble, no explanation, just a sudden blurt of specific character information thrown in your way, because they couldn't figure out an easy way to convey it. Note: Most of the time, I've found that when I come across this, the specific information isn't very important information, and ultimately does not need to be shared here.

Specifically... I.E. They first say "soldier" in the synopsis, and then in the very next sentence, reference "the corporal". Who's "the corporal"? Now, obviously this is supposed to be the previously mentioned "soldier", but that's just an assumption that's not confirmed by the rest of the synopsis. It could be a second character, you don't know. In fact, there's no definite way to be sure, especially since (SPOILER) the main character is rarely referred to as "the corporal" in the film, if at all. It's a nitpick, sure, and you're probably safe in assuming "the soldier" and "the corporal" are one and the same, but the point is... it's clutter in your synopsis, and people trip on clutter. When you're doing one of these things, you need to keep it short, simple, and broad. The point is to entice, not confuse. To propel your audience onward into your story, not bog them down. You want to make them want more, not make them want to consider whether or not to bother.

Now, I'd like to say this kind of inability to see the forest for the trees--however slight--is not indicative of narrative issues that pop up in the film itself.

I'd like to say that.

Let's watch...


Okay...

For the most part, that was all right. It was certainly well made, especially for this level and type of film-making. It looked good. The effects were nice too, and well-integrated. This was a good job, especially on a technical level. That having been said, it really didn't do much for me. I wasn't bothered, or offended. I didn't roll my eyes, but I wasn't drawn in either. I think what it was, for me at least, was that they put much more narrative stock in the dramatic power of the "twist" than was ever actually warranted, so it all fell flat for me.

The whole film revolves around the twist, obviously, that's the point, but honestly, at least for me, when it came time for the big reveal, it just kind of thuds. I hate to say it, but: Who cares? Is this reveal about the body swap process an issue? Why? Just because? How is it worse or better that the body (SPOILER) isn't a clone? Or was that even an issue? Was the reveal simply that there are (SPOILER) two minds warring for dominance in one body? Was that the point? If that was the point of the reveal, then their whole narrative structure was off, and the story was missing its resolution.

It just wasn't clear.

It also wasn't clear enough what the point of the time jumps were, as in what was supposed to actually be happening in the film, while they were actually happening in the film. And when you couple that with the fact that all of the characters were generally too under-developed for the audience to really forge a connection with... the whole thing just ends up feeling too bombastic.

Less "mystery" in general would have been a good thing for this film.

Personally, I think the events surrounding the reveal, the specifics of the reveal itself, and what exactly the process entailed, would have been a hell of a lot more interesting narrative-wise, than this weak Twilight Zone-like nod we got instead. Or maybe they should have made a bigger deal earlier in the film over where exactly the Scientists got the new bodies from, maybe then the reveal might have had more power. I don't know. Maybe "The Trials" would've been more interesting? Show me several attempts, maybe, rather than just showing a single one, you know, show the various successes and failures? Context is what I'm saying, basically.

The film needed less Mystery, and more Context.

This all sounds very critical, of course. And it is, the film has issues, but I don't want to imply that it was bad or anything. It wasn't. The film is good, it just didn't wow me.

Competent. Good looking. Kind of average.

Jon

Friday, June 10, 2016

Night Stalker






Another Horror Short Film? I suppose these things happen...

Night Stalker was Written and Directed by Mike Anderson, Abigail Horton, and Ryan Dickie. Now, normally this is the part where I'd say that I know nothing about these three people, or their work, because that is usually case for me when it comes to Short Films. Usually. But not today. Y'See, Mike Anderson, Abigail Horton, and Ryan Dickie were--respectively--the Property Master, Assistant Camera, and First Assistant Camera on Blue Ruin, one of my favorite films ever (Check out the trailer right here), which is an awesome credit to have. Seriously, if you haven't seen this film, then you need to rectify that as soon as possible, because you're missing out.

Now, who knows if this connection will make any difference in their actual skills as film-makers. It probably won't, but what it will do, in all likelihood, is cause me to be a little more forgiving of them and their project than I might be on any other day.

Just letting you know about my possible bias here...

Anyway, here's the synopsis: THE NIGHT STALKER WILL POISON YOUR TOGO FOOD AND CHANGE YOUR FACE TO PLASTIC ANS DESTROY YOUR LIFE!!! YOU WILL WATCH THIS FILM AND THEN COME HOME AND YOUR DOG WILL BITE YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT THE SAME! NIGHT STALKER!! NIGHT STALKER!! NIGHT STALKER!!!!!!

This synopsis tells us nothing, of course, because it was probably written by some over-paid hipster asshole Social Media Director at SXSW, who most likely couldn't be bothered to even barely watch the film when it screened, because they were too busy combing their beard while texting about vintage t-shirts and/or an after-party where they served PBR. It was obviously written by a stupid person, and is obviously not an official synopsis. However, the fact that I couldn't locate an official synopsis anywhere is... strange and somewhat disconcerting. That might be a bad sign.

Either way, we're on our own here. Let's take a look.



Not bad.

Not great either.

I mean, it didn't really blow my skirt up, as the kids say, but it wasn't too bad. It certainly looked good. I really liked the weird designs of the Monster World, and the use of stop motion I liked the lead actress a lot. I think my main stumbling block, when it comes to really liking this short, is that I can't help but feel like the entire point of the thing was just to use the music of whoever the hell that band was in something. Are they a known band?

I could look it up, but I'm not really that interested.

Okay, so my completely uninformed, and extrapolated purely in my own head, theory is that someone involved with the film, or maybe someone related to, or dating someone, involved in the film, is in that band, and thus... a platform was created specifically to facilitate them. Maybe their social media wasn't taking off. Maybe they're just not finding an audience. Maybe their sound isn't that innovative or good. Who knows, but this is what I think is happening here. In a nutshell: Nepotism. This theory would explain why I couldn't find an official synopsis of the film anywhere, and yet there were plenty of links provided to find the band and their music.

I might have to call Shenanigans.

Because here's the thing, the film's story was very simple and straight-forward, which I appreciate. I'm a big proponent of Short Film Story Economy. Acknowledge the limitations of the genre! But so much time in the film is given over to karaoke of the band's song, to dancing to the band's song, to a triumphant bursting forth climatic moment featuring the band's song, that there's almost zero character moments to speak of. Luckily, the lead actress is talented enough, and emotive enough, to get some much needed information across in more subtle "Actor-y" ways, because otherwise, where's the firm story/character foundation for me to build off of, so that I can even attempt to give a shit about this Suburban whine rock band?

That probably sounded meaner than I actually care, but whatever, point stands.

Anyway, there's definitely ability here, and an eye for capitalizing on the limitations of the short film genre, while at the same time pushing some boundaries, and boldly striding into the area of weird and different ideas. But in the end, it was all undermined by the odd front-and-centering of this band, whoever the hell they were.

Not bad, kinda odd, but ultimately it stumbles.

Jon