Well, this is wonderful. Polaris is an animated short film made by Japanese filmmaker Hikari Toriumi, finishing his 4th year of study at CalArts. This is his 4th year short film in the character animation program, and it's an adorable, heartwarming film about a young polar bear leaving home for the first time, having trouble letting go of her mother. The animation style is unique and simple, but still meaningful and elegant. And the story perfectly captures that feeling of leaving home for college, or wherever, and how much you miss your parents. This film really moved me and made me sad at first, then happy by the end. Watch below.
"If we don't act now…" Take a moment to watch this and think about your own life. This sobering animated short film is about how our daily and weekly routines are the same thing over and over (and over). And yet nothing changes? Only if we can change it ourselves. Life Cycles is a 4-minute animated short directed by Ross Hogg, that won the BAFTA Scotland award for Best Animation in 2017. This short is so effective at making us all see how mundane and repetitive everything in our lives is, and how important it is to shake up that routine. This idea started out as an animated diary, and it eventually became this film which hopefully connects with each viewer in its own way. And maybe, just maybe, it will get you to try something different.
"Do not let your spirit be influenced by your body, or your body be influenced by your spirit." A superb documentary short titled Two Heavens As One, or 二天一, has debuted online and it's a must watch. This is the latest short film made by filmmaker Ryan Freeman, who also made the fantastic doc short Being Batman previously. The short introduces us to a "modern-day samurai" named Jason Nip, who is among the 12th generation of students to train in the ways of Miyamoto Musashi, a famous swordsmen and martial artist in Japanese history. Nip is also the Sensei of the only Dojo in North America to train and teach Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, the sword fighting style developed by Musashi using one short and one long sword. This has a beautiful score, excellent cinematography, and inspiring poetic simplicity in its storytelling. Watch below.
"If we landed with them, that means we should've ejected." You have to see this impressive sci-fi short film titled Hyperlight, about two astronauts on a cool space ship traveling far to another place in the galaxy in another star system. Set at a time when humans have just achieved faster-than-light travel, this short has an ambitious concept but director Nguyen-Anh Nguyen pulls it off so amazingly well, with some slick VFX work and captivating sci-fi story. Hyperlight stars Jeananne Goossen, Peter Shinkoda, and Caroline Dhavernas. There's a few big twists in this and lots to process, but it's another must watch sci-fi short film.
"There's a shadow hanging over us, but there's a light that always guides us home… A light that may go out…" Wow, this is a gorgeous 2-minute short documentary. Land of Steel is from UK-based filmmaker Chris Thomas (also behind Cropped a few years ago) who made this film as a passion project. The short doc follows 70-year-old Port Talbot resident John, a retired worker and life long resident of Port Talbot as "he runs familiar paths, contemplating the shadows of uncertainty as the future of Welsh steel hangs in a precarious balance." There's a moment in this where it has that Blade Runner feel with a Vangelis-like score and vibrant shots of the industrial landscape. Shows how much you can achieve in only two minutes of time.
Here's another outstanding short film, featuring two of the most talented up-and-coming actresses around. Tatiana Maslany (from "Heartland", "Orphan Black", Two Lovers and a Bear, Stronger) plays a woman that has been gone for two years, including a stint in rehab, who returns to "face the emotional fallout of her disappearance and make amends with the girlfriend", and her brother. The cast includes Tattiawna Jones and Sergio DiZio. The short film is inspired by J.D. Salinger's story Franny and Zooey, it's an homage that becomes something of its own that speaks volumes about the trials and tribulations of love in today's world. It's enlivening to see Maslany continue to push herself with even deeper, and more complex performances.
Saddle up, boys! Time to round up the bad guys. Watch this amusing 4-minute animated short film titled Cowboyland, made by filmmaker David Stumpf as his Bachelor Film at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. This animated short played at the Annecy Festival and Animation Festival Hiroshima in 2016, as well as a few other fests, and it's finally available to watch online for free. The film is described by Stumpf as an "anti-dressage" story about a drunken cowboy sheriff, who is "unable to realize the steed he's trying to ride is actually a child's wooden horse." He animated this short by hand, with pencil and paper, and it took 6 months to complete: 4 months animating, 1 month coloring and scanning, and 1 month of post-production.
"This might feel a bit cold." Watch out for what lies below. This short is so good! In honor of International Women's Day, we're featuring this fantastic horror comedy short Smear, written and directed by filmmaker Kate Herron (@iamkateherron), co-written by her writing partner Briony Redman. This short played at numerous festivals throughout 2017, and is now available online to watch for free. Smear is about a woman going for her first pap-smear test. It's a horror comedy inspired by Gremlins, Tremors and Little Shop of Horrors, which should be more than enough references to get you to watch it. Plus, it's just a great short with some honest humor and fun performances from the entire cast. More shorts like this, please! Have fun.
This is cool. Musician/filmmaker Brendon Small created this rad short film music video Galaktikon: Nightmare and it's a throwback to 80's sci-fi and horror. Technically it's only a music video for the song "Nightmare" from the album Galaktikon II: Become the Storm, but it's also a "live-action intergalactic metal short film" about a space pilot who gets captured and must escape. There's some crazy cool, very impressive sci-fi visuals in this, worth watching for them alone. "Practical effects may look fake, but they feel very real. That’s been something that drove us." Small raved to Nerdist about Tobe Hooper and Roger Corman. Even though it is a metal music video, it's worth watching just to see the throwback sci-fi visuals. Fire it up below.
There's only one week to go until the Academy Awards ceremony. One of the nominated Best Documentary Short Films is this one, Knife Skills, from veteran filmmaker/producer Thomas Lennon. Knife Skills is a 40-minute short film profiling the hectic launch of Edwins (visit their official site), a world-class French restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, where most of the staff are just out of prison. Lennon explains his intentions to The New Yorker: "Can I make you think about an issue and care about an issue? Think about the people and care about those people?" It's not just a film about chefs, or prison, or running a restaurant, it's about all of those things and more. If you want to watch the short, it's available below for free only for US viewers.
"I've got no quarrel with a man who's not trying to kill me." Now this is a must see short film. Lorne is a short directed by Australian filmmaker Jesse Leaman of Leaman Films based in Melbourne. Set in some kind of unexplained post-apocalyptic wasteland, actor Guy Pearce plays Lorne, a traveler struggling with the weight of isolation, who is confronted by a mysterious stranger who helps him realize his existential fears. This is a gritty, gripping short about how hard it is to be alone, in more ways than one, and how it can sometimes help to be quiet and listen. The POV filmmaking in this is is crazy cool, opening up a whole other dimension for storytelling and conversing with the audience without entirely breaking the barrier of the cinematic narrative (e.g. the 4th wall). It also helps that Pearce is so captivating telling this tale. See below.
"Maybe you got the dweeb?" Just in time for some Valentine's Day scares, enjoy this new horror short film from filmmakers Todd Spence and Zak White called Your Date is Here. It's nice and short (only 6 minutes!), with a fun premise, and it's effective at building up the suspense. Your Date is Here stars Becca Flinn and Dani Tiernan as a mother and daughter playing a board game one night. Things start to get weird and creepy as they keep playing, and then the pizza shows up. I'm always impressed by how easy it is to take such a simple premise, with only two characters, and create a short film that is actually effectively scary and gripping to watch. The power of great filmmaking! You don't even need a huge budget to make a good film.