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Entries in short films (95)

Sunday
Feb012015

Sundance Award Winners: Slow West and Earl and That Diary Girl

Michael and Nathaniel are both safely back in New York but a few more Sundance reviews are forthcoming as well as an Oscar discussion about the first possibilities for the new film year. The festival closes up tonight for another year and last night, they announced the winners. As with last year when Whiplash one both the Jury and the Audience award, one film took both again this year: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, based on the best seller by Jesse Andrews. Can we expect a similarly Oscar friendly trajectory? 

THE WINNERS

U.S. DRAMATIC

Grand Jury Prize & Audience Award  Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Michael's review coming later today. It's said to be a bit Fault in the Stars-ish young people and terminal illness only better. 

Directing Award The Witch, Robert Eggers 
Michael's rave review. A 1630s set horror film about a religious family in Salem. 

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award The Stanford Prison Experiment, Tim Talbott
Nathaniel's Review. This one is based on the infamous 1971 college psychology experiment that's inspired other movies before it.

Special Jury Award – Excellence in Cinematography Diary of a Teenage Girl, Brandon Trost
Michael's review & Nathaniel's quick take. Michael liked it a bit more but expect a lot of talk about it when it's released. With Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgard, and Kristen Wiig

Special Jury Award – Excellence in Editing Dope, Lee Haugen
Nathaniel's review. The editing has crackerjack timing and is deeply commendable for the first half but why is the second hour so much less taut?  

More after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jan222015

Tim's Toons: World of Hertzfeldt

Tim here. It's such a beautiful day to be animator Don Hertzfeldt, whose newest short, World of Tomorrow, premieres at the Sundance Film Festival tonight - his seventh film to play there, a record. It's an even better day to be a fan of Don Hertzfeldt, for in addition to WoT (which has been popping up on "most anticipated" Sundance lists all over, as well it should), news has come down today that Hertzfeldt is about to beginning working on his second feature, Antarctica. It's going to be the first project of his career made with an actual team of animators, owing to its unprecedented complexity compared to everything he's ever made (besides which, his last feature took over six years to complete, dribbling out in the form of three short films released as they were ready). And let me tell you, the notion of a Hertzfeldt film of unprecedented complexity is exciting on a deep, primal level. The kind of exciting where all movies released between now and then will be disappointing just by virtue of not being Antarctica.

Since I, for one, am not prepared to think of anything but Hertzfeldt today, I've taken the liberty of putting together this little primer of some of his work. For those of you who haven't seen any of it, I can't imagine how you could have gone on this long without your life being complete, and for those of you who have, it's never the wrong time to re-watch his stuff, right?

Billy's Balloon (1998)
Hertzfeldt's fourth short, completed when he was a 21-year-old UCSB student, was his big breakthrough. It bears all the hallmarks of an early work - the limitations of his hand-hewn aesthetic feel more like limitations, and not the secret strengths he'd make them in later projects - but the groundwork for all of his later films can be spotted here. To wit, we live in a universe of capricious cruelty, where everything that seems nice will turn on you, and there's no such thing as finding a human connection to make that cruelty easier to take. All done with surprising, absurd, morbid humor. There's a reason his production company is called Bitter Films.

Hertzfeldt's Oscar nominee, and his first feature below the jump

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jan062015

Whiplash Screenplay Drama (Plus: My Personal Ballot)

This can't be good news for Whiplash by way of splintered votes. Mark Harris, who is married to an Academy Award nominated writer remember, reported on Grantland that on the e-ballot reminder list Whiplash is officially considered an Adapted Screenplay by the Academy. The film's campaign always listed it as an Original Screenplay (see FYC ad left). The confusion, as also detailed on Deadline, stems from the Sundance winning short of the same name, also made by Damien Chazelle and starring J.K. Simmons. The short, according to the team, was made solely to get the feature funded. So if anything the short is an Adaptation of the feature which was made later if you will.

But the Academy rules on this are ever blurry. And technically they aren't "rules". You can vote for anything you'd like after all on your paper ballot (where this isn't a "pulldown menu" of course) but if half of its fans vote for it in Original and half in Adapted it's simple math (if math can ever be simple in preferential ballots) that it's probably not going to get nominated.

[Sidebar: The Writers Guild of America announces its nominees tomorrow but they have such strict rules about who is eligible that many well written films each year are disqualified so it's rarely a very correlative award in terms of the Oscar race. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Better more movies celebrated than fewer.]

This seems as good a time as any to announce my own ballot for Best Screenplay(s) which includes some surefire nominees (like Gone Girl) some absolutely deserving but sure not-to-be Oscar nominated screenplays like Pride, Force Majeure (original) and some oddities like The Babadook (which I put in Adapted even though it's considered Original by many because it is inspired by derived from (whatever) this earlier embryonic short... also by the wonderfully talented Jennifer Kent (who we recently spoke to).

Monster - Jennifer Kent from Jennifer Kent on Vimeo.

 

...unlike the Whiplash situation where it's just the same thing. Only the short is yanked from the future feature. Categories? What are they good for!? ;)

Nomination announcements have now been made in Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Art Direction for this site's annual celebratory jamboree, the Film Bitch Awards. Now in its (gulp) 15th year.

Thursday
Dec182014

National Film Registry Adds 25. How Many Have You Seen?

Ah the National Film Registry inductees! One of the most important December cinematic traditions that I always forget about. I wish it were in March each year -- since it's not any kind of "year in..." since film works aren't eligible for induction until they're ten years old. Placed it March it would also serve as a nice salve to the sometimes wounding notion that the Oscars are the only barometer for American movies that are deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" I wish too that this annual honor were more practical (restoration, anyone?) and less symbolic in nature. 

THE TWENTY-FIVE 2014 INDUCTEES
Which have you seen and which will you be seeking out?(presented in chronological order)

Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day(1913)
The oldest surviving film featuring African-American actors. But no title cards, credits, or script has survived. 

Shoes (1916)
Directed by Lois Weber, a female film pioneer. This one is about a desperate girl trying to support her parents and brothers who sells her body for a pair of shoes!

Unmasked (1917)
Another female silent director Grace Cunard who also acted in the short with co-director Francis Ford

The Dragon Painter (1919)
A US/France coproduction 

More films after the jump filled with Satan-worshipping neighbors, chocolate rivers, and rugs that tie the whole room together...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Nov212014

All The Short Film Oscar Finalists. Plus Sally Hawkins!

With yesterday's announcement of the live action short film finalists we have our finalists in all three of those miniature categories. You can read more about all of them on their Oscar chart. It's exciting to see how many debut filmmakers or people who've never been recognized before are in the running. Some of them are about to have a life-changing experience. Take Shawn Christensen who won the 2012 Live Action Short Oscar for Curfew. He's just taken that all the way to his first feature which is an expansion of that. It's called Before I Disappear and it hits On Demand AND iTunes a week and some theatrical later I believe.

If the nominees don't have a life-changing moment -- it's hard to get a movie made period. Even if you've won awards -- they can at least have a glamorous one in the Dolby with all the movie stars.

As per usual in the live action short film category we have a handful of films about young children (always a favorite Oscar subject in foreign and short categories) but the one I'm most excited about is naturally the one that stars Mike Leigh regulars Sally Hawkins & Jim Broadbent. You can watch that in full right here. Hooray.

After this short trailers for five more of the shorts if you click to continue...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Nov062014

Your 2014 animated Oscar contenders

Readers, an apology. Here I am, the Film Experience's resident animation expert, and I'm late with news twice over. First, on Tuesday, the Academy annouced the full list of 20 contenders for Best Animated Feature. Nathaniel prepared a post discussing this development, but wasn't able to publish it before traveling to California. Here are his thoughts on the subject:

As expected we will have a full five-wide Best Animated Feature category this year. It only takes 16 contenders to trigger that and we have 20. This branch is definitely not the most predictable when it comes to nominees -- or even, sometimes winners (remember how competitive the Brave year was?) --  often opting for a few little seen critical and foreign darlings. The internet seems to be rooting for The Lego Movie which is by a significant margin the most popular animated film of the year in the US. What's interesting is that it's uniquely American appeal means that internationally the numbers are much different and How To Train Your Dragon 2 is, globally, the biggest cartoon of the year. It's also probably the frontrunner for Gold but you never know. It's not as undeniable as Toy Story 3 (a universally acclaimed capper to a hugely beloved trilogy that wasn't able to be honored with the competitive Oscar until then since the category hadn't existed).

Disney's Big Hero 6, opening this week, I can't personally see winning the category but it's a likely nominee and, what's more, the short before it called Feast, which tells the tale of a human's love life through his hungry puppy, is a strong contender for the short film Oscar. It was love at first sight for me and I'm not even a dog person.

THE ELIGIBLE 20 (plus 10 eligible animated shorts after the jump)...

Click to read more ...