short film review

Reviews and news about short films, short film festivals, reviews, links and guides to short films online,images from short films,directors,writers,cinemaphotographers. Copyright 2005, 2006 by Allan Maurer. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Bathtime in Clerkenwell

I love these come'on titles. One of these days, I'll do an entire essay about the way movie-makers have figured out how to suck in festival goers and online viewers with provocative titles. "Bathtime in Clerkenwell." (You may have to look in the short films archive at AOL). I just had to know what THAT was about.

I admit, the resulting 3-minute animation of silouetted clock-cukoos going about their mad takeover of London, surprised me. It reminded me of the classic animations in the first half of the last century (early Disney and Warner's Merry Melodies) where music drove the action and the whole took on the quality of an animated ballet.

I really enjoyed this clever and oddly mood-enhancing piece. It's a rapid tour-de-force. I don't like to read too much into a 3-minute short, but it does have something to say about the mechanization of society and the way mechanical things can take over our lives.

The way the animator includes clocks on the trains the cuckoos drive, the mechanical aspect of things - an animated shower making the water resemble bullets for instance -- adds a subtle layer to this piece.

It's directed by Alex Budovsky, a Russian native who moved to NYC in 1994 and was graduated from Brooklyn College with a BA in film, directed the movie in 2002. It has a bit of that Eastern European look despite his years here.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Dick in Ad Corp

Andy Dick wears a hairdoo even creative types would worry about in "Ad Corp," directed by Marshall Cook, who himself has impressive bit part acting credits in TV shows such as "JAG."

The film is available both at and AOL's

Dick dominates this 12-minute short about a bunch of ad agency types trying to come up with the perfect campaign idea for home depot type store that sells, among other things, trash cans made of chrome. Talk about glorifying garbage and proverbial conspicuous consumption...

Dick, accomplished though he is, can't really save this from draggy lack-of-material syndrome, which he can blame only on himself, since he wrote it. Woody Allen, it's not. Where are the jokes?

Short comedies were the engine that created movies as we know them. Those early shorts by Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd, among others, had a comedic energy that still makes people laugh today. This static, overly verbal piece doesn't come anywhere near the silent comedians in their effective and evocative use of cinema.

You have to applaude Dick for writing and appearing in a short film at all, but he might want to consider more physical comedy for shorts and shorter, quick, one-line jokes for sound. I'm still wondering why more modern comedians do not engage in a bit of physcial comedy. It still works. Think about Kramer bursting through Jerry's apartment door or doing some outrageous body and face reaction in "Seinfeld."

As it is, this only rates...

12 of 24 frames....

When Zombies Attack

We have a guilty pleasure: we love Zombie films. No excuse except early exposure to George Romero's very good "Dawn of the Dead," which manages to be scary, gory, funny, satiric, ironic and a commentary on modern life all at once. "When Zombies Attack" over at is so deriviative of Romero's original "Night of the Living Dead" and sequels that it should maybe acknowledge the inspiration right up front.

Here's a hint about making zombie movies -- the viewer needs a few people to care about, apart from some narrator who's just chief zombie-slayer.

iFilm describes it thus (with some editing)

When Zombies Attack!! is a mock video documentary that follows heroic officer Frank Hadely of the Post Mortem Animation Control as he attempts to protect Burke County residents while trying to rid the community of the threat of zombies.

Despite our criticism, we did like the zombies themselves, the occassional surprising moments (not enough of them) and homage to Romero aspects of this. Still, coherence is a too much dispensed with value in short films and this one suffers from that what-the-hell-is-going-on incoherence so many of them do.

It stars Frank Rydberg and is directed by Chad Waters and Matt Rose. It runs a rather long 25 minutes.

Rating: 12 of 24 frames.

Stephen King Thriller "Strawberry Spring" is Foggy

Stephen King is a poet of horror. You hear his dark poetry in this short film just under 8 minutes based on his story "Straawberry Spring."

"Stawberry Spring is a false spring, a lying spring." It brings a "strange, magical fog," and in this short, multiple murders. The student narrator quotes King's poetic steam-of-consciousness dialog. "Whoever killed her took his head with him." And later, after another serial killing, "When they found her, she was all over the campus..." referring, Kingly, to her body parts.

King's work has not translated all that well to film, long or short. Even in the hands of directors as renowned as Stanley Kubrick, who lensed "The Shining," film adaptions of his novels and stories don't generally have the kick of his books. William Goldman's adaption of "Misery" directed by Rob Reiner and "The Green Mile," and "Stand by Me," fared better than most. The imagination often conjures horror better than visualization.

But the problems with "Strawberry Spring" resemble those of many another short movie we've seen. So many short films we see these days are technically intersting. They feature "frame" shots through mirrors and doors and car windshields ala Fassbinder and many another art house director. I'm all for it, too. Technique adds much visual pleasure to movies and it is all too often pedestrian. But atomosphere, particularly fog, gets in the way of clear exposition in this brief piece. Engagement in a story requires enough clarity to care about someone in the story.

It's a failing of many short films. The elipsis...the cut out parts...the cuts...fades...dissolves all leave us slightly confused rather than informed. Cinema is a language we should understand naturally. It's based on our mind's natural way of perceiving the world. So fog isn't a good thing in exposition. Despite all that, this story is just a little too predictable to have plot surprise.

"When police begin finding bodies on a college campus, all the students are shaken by the murders, except for one who is enchanted by them," says the promo on Ifilm for this short. Even that is more foreshawdowing than we need to figure out this all-too-common plot of the narrator did it.

Let's face it, the unreliable narrator has been around since Poe's "Tell Tale Heart," and Agathe Christie's "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd." Not that stealing plots is any sin. Plots are those repeating human conditions, trouble narratives, or just plain trouble.

Still, despite these reservations, this is a well made short piece, well worth your seven mintues or so. I've watched it several times and it does reward at least a second viewing, which isn't something I'd say about every short film I watch.

Here's the nitty-gritty. Strawberry Spring

Starring: Greg Lock, Morgan Hatch
Directed by: Doveed Linder
Distributed by: IFILM
Run Time: 7:52
Release Year: 2002

Rating: 17.5 of 24 frames.

iFilm Alien Short of Anything New

href="">Alien Museum on is obvious and derivative. It does have some nice animation, but you won't see anything surprising or alien. It was old stuff when Spielberg did it.

It does have a few seconds that remind me of old Warner Brothers cartoons, which is high praise, but otherwise, it could do with a little fresh thinking.

Aliens have become commonplace images in our culture. They've been the subject of "Take me to your leader" cartoons since the 1950s and while they may or may not be here for real, they have certainly found a place in our cultural image bank. The only way to work effectively with these cultural icons is to turn them upside down or inside out. This film, on the other, hand, is merely another instance of the cultural sterotype without exploring beyond it.


Rating: 10 of 24 frames.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Flicka Brings Electrons to Life

"Flicka," a short film over at from the Netherlands, is part of a 21st century genre, the digital-video romance.

Science fiction writer Terry Bisson did a terrific take on this in his short story "Office Romance." It also reminds me a little of the old black and white "Twilight Zone" episode about the man emprisoned on a lonely asteroid who falls in love with his female android (robot) companion.

Robot love. Electron love. Video passion.

The film, directed by Guido van Gennep and Marco Vermaas, has a dystopian look reminiscent of many a sci-fi future, even if this one is already here. I find that interesting, present film that reminds me of past futures. Yesterday's tommorows here today.

On the other hand, the purely virtual/visual romance Victor Low portrays for Helena Reijn as an electronic woman running out of virtual food Low can no longer purchase, is shallow and superficial at a level that questions our image addiction.

I was particularly impressed by the location sets and impression of a world just a bit different from ours suggested in "Flicka." The acting is also solid. All in all a fine piece of work.

Rating: 17.5 of 24 frames.

For the Love of Film

We enjoyed "For the Love of the Film," at the top of Atom Film's drama offerings at the moment. A showing of "Star Wars" falters and the manager tells the audience, they must call upon "The Force." In this case, "The Force" is a metaphor of the power fantasy has to transform reality for us, in particular, "The Force" movies exert. This audience inhabits the movie for a short, joyous participatory moment or three.

It reminds me audience participation at Midnight Movies such as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

Fair warning: not everyone at Atom Films loved it. One reviewer thought it one of the "dumbest offerings" he'd ever seen there. We find those Atom film folks dismissive and somewhat dim at times.

Director and co-producer and writer (with Troy Metcalf, who also heads the cast) Barry Curtis does a good job of pacing this short. I love the theatre setting and the odd memories it evokes. The device of shifting from black and white to color is getting a bit tired, perhaps, but actually does work here. Nice use of the wide screen ratio and good work by David Leopold, director of photography give it a big screen feel at short length.

The cast did a great job, relaxed and having fun with it. They are Troy Metcalf, Gary Curtis, Jackson Curtis, Nate Levy, Teri Jones, Sion Wong, Edward Kelly, Canedy Knowles, Kristian Deluccia, Jason Levenson, Andrea McCormick, Justin Deluccia, Elizabeth Viscusi, Stephanie Smith, Misty Leung, and Karla Mosley.

Rating: 17 of 24 frames.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Perils of Nude Modeling

I caught "The Perils of Nude Modeling," by writer-director Scott Rice at the Riverrun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, in the wonderful studio/theatre complex that looks like a Hollywood backlot.

The ten-minute film pits an art student against a tyranical professor and a seductive nude model who makes a mouthed suggestion that disrupts the hero's focus, to say the least. The model, played by the luscious, yet earthy Estephania LaBaron,
entices the harried art student to break the unwritten but understood no-contact contract between artist and nude model. You see quite a bit of Estphania in this film, but I'm looking forward to seeing more of her. I especially enjoyed her look of pleasure when she sees the art student's final drawing.

You can watch it at Perils of Nude Modeling

I'm impressed by the lush cinematography, tight editing, frenzied pace and perfect climax to this piece, which is also included on the DVD that comes with the "Student International Film Festival" book that includes director interviews and a handful of other worthy short films.

This saw a lot of small film festival play in 2005. Students make these as showcase pieces, and they are just that, although you seldom see one as polished as this one is. You'll feel the pressure as the art student rips his drawing sheet to the next just in time to prevent his professor from casting him out of the class. It's a mini-drama with rising tension and a nicely fulfilling conclusion. The sound, acting, and direction are all as professional as anything Hollywood produces while the concept and execution are rather better than lots of features I see (the perils of movie don't just see the good films).

LaBaron gives the harried artist a downright Chaplinesque look when she sheds her naked beauty and dons studentish glasses at the very end when they connect in a lovely film moment that collects all the movie's tensions and completes the plot arc in a throughly satisfying manner.

Repeated viewings of this short film only increased my admiration for its ability to create the full-fledged movie experience in such a short time-span.

Anyway, "Perils of Nude Modeling" is highly recommended. Give it a look. It's in the running for the first of our Short Attention Span Theatre Awards.

Rice also directed the Atom films hit Pillowfight.

Rating: 18 of 24 frames...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Doggone Good 64 Second Film

We visited 64 and viewed lots of the early entries.

"Inverse Universe," by Chris Chappel of Van Nuys, CA under the film category, picture of the dog -- who also cameos in the short movie-- is our favorite. Entered in the "Waitless" contest that's ongoing at the moment, it uses clever special effects as convinging in DV as Spielberg or Lucas pyrotechnics via Dreamworks or assorted pixel magic.

The film maker says he made it in two days on DV. Very impressive. You'll be asking yourself, "how did he do that?" I sure did.

The scene where he moves his feet when seemingly floating above tile while standing in front of an ordinary kitchen sink is convincing. The weightless movement of bowls adn a dog treat, which grabs the bemused attention of a real dog, is convincing.

All this makes the weightlessnes (waitlessly) convincing.

For a two-day DV production, this short, entertaining film suggests real talent by Chis Chappell.

Rating: 18 of 24 frames. Effects 22 of 24 frames.

Short Film Review

Welcome to the Short Film Review's initial offering.

If you would like to join us as a reviewer of short (65 minutes and under) films, send an email to Editor/short films

There's a movie-making revolution a'coming. I've made much of my living writing about upcoming trends for magazines such as OMNI, Future Life, Next,, and assorted others. I've written about films for newspapers, national magazines, a radio/TV new wire service and city magazines. Here's something comin' down the tracks like Hurrican Katrina -- ultra short films (and maybe short radio plays...just as guess).

They're gonna rule the new melded media rapidly decending upon us via cell phones, iPods, MP3 Players, handheld computers, notebooks, laptops, home theatres, TVs, desktops at work, and . The media everywhere, ubitquitouos Internet, movies in our pocket, a universal encylopedia, push-pull information saturated society is upon us.

Short films of tens of seconds will be in demand. But first we must master many other miniature formats, 15 minutes, 10, 5, 3, 1, 30 seconds -- stealing the devices of commercials and promotional film...

But if you want to experience the films we'll be discussing here, take a look at the offerings at (check out film festival)