Shorts Program: The Dancing Pig (1907)

There’s more TCM Fest stuff to come, including a rundown of the Return of the Dream Machine program, which featured films from 1900-1913 projected with an original 1908 hand-cranked projector – it was a very special evening, and introduced me to one of the most amazing, incredible, and bizarre pieces of early cinema I’ve yet seen. It affected me so much that I feel the need to share it with everyone I know, in every outlet I have. Ladies and gentlemen, behold….The Dancing Pig.

[The most amazing thing about this short is that apparently this vaudeville program was so popular at the time that there were numerous film versions made of it, by almost every studio. This one from Pathe seems to be the main one that’s survived to today.]

TIFF Short Film “NOAH” [last day to view]

Just because you weren’t in Toronto the last couple of weeks doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little of what TIFF has to offer. For example, I stumbled across this short film entitled Noah which takes place entirely on a computer screen (including the closing credits). It’s an interesting look at relationships in the digital age.

It’s only a few minutes long but I actually felt a little anxious for the protagonist while watching. So for me it was what I like to call “quietly intense.” Take a look below and see what you think.

**Today is the last day the video will be available for viewing on YouTube**


Shorts Programme: The Cub

“Hello Wolves, this is my daughter. She is five years old but reads at the level of an eight year old…”

Riley Stearns’ delightfully deadpan short film on bad parenting has a couple literally let their child be raised for a decade by a pack of wolves. The final shot has one hell of a closing beat. The Cub originally premiered at the Toronto short film series, Shorts That Are Not Pants (where I caught it originally), but has popped online today for everyone! Enjoy.

(postscript: according to Vice, Stearns is currently hard at work on a feature film about a man who is reluctant to de-program a girl rescued from a cult, because her family is crazier than said cult. )

Shorts Program: Paperman

Who would’ve guessed that in 2012, Disney Animation’s films would arguably beat out Pixar’s contributions? Many found Wreck-It Ralph‘s retro gamer charm superior to Brave‘s Scottish princess story, and I can certainly say that as charming as I found the Brave-preceding short La Luna, I was much more blown away (pun intended) by Disney’s black and white romance Paperman, which played before Ralph. The Academy agrees, nominating Paperman as Best Animated Short. I’d probably go even further and call it the best animated film, short OR feature, I saw all year. It’s not surprising to learn that director John Kahrs was a Pixar animator in arguably their heyday (1998-2007) before moving over to Disney Animation – perhaps he and other animators are bringing Disney Animation itself into another renaissance.

Paperman is certainly a step in that direction, and Disney has been kind enough to put it online for all of us to enjoy. So, enjoy!

Shorts Program: Happy Birthday, Buster Keaton!

As my classic film buddies on Twitter were so kind to remind me, today would have been Buster Keaton’s 117th birthday, and what better time to break out a classic Keaton short than that? Not that you ever really need an excuse, but hey, when one presents itself…

You might expect the still above, with Buster riding toward the camera on a locomotive’s cowcatcher, to come from his best-known feature, The General – but look closer. He’s not wearing his Johnny Reb Civil War outfit from that film, but his familiar porkpie hat and a regular suit. Nope, this is from the 1921 short film The Goat, a film which has much in common with his well-known short Cops, but for my money, this one is even more hilarious and manic. Here, a down-on-his-luck Buster is mistaken for an escaped criminal and spends the rest of the film on the run from every cop he can find. It doesn’t have the sheer volume of cops in the chase that Cops does, but it’s totally non-stop and has an above average number of both incredible stunts and hilarious sight gags. It’s one of my favorite Keaton shorts, so enjoy and celebrate this man who’s been entertaining us for 95 years.

Shorts Programme: La Jetée @50

Chris Marker’s iconic science fiction short, the direct inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys but the indirect inspiration for countless other films – with time travel as the subject matter, and far beyond that simple box – turns 50 today. We are on the edge of the release of Rian Johnson’s Looper (Kurt’s Review), and it’s always worth a look back on this incredible classic.

Here’s A.O. Scott on the subject.

But I will do you one better. Here is the film in its entirety:

Shorts Program: Ridley Scott Edition

As we mentioned in our Ridley Scott Retrospective earlier this week, Scott started out as a designer and producer/director of commercials before entering the world of cinema with 1977’s The Duellists and cementing his place as a feature film director with 1979’s Alien. And he didn’t stop after he became a big-time film director, but continued making commercials sporadically throughout the 1980s, including one of the most iconic ad spots ever created. So we’ll look at a few of those commercials after the jump.

But before that, he also did one short film while studying at the Royal College of Art in the early 1960s, nearly fifteen years before he made his first feature.

Boy and Bicycle – 27 min. – 1965

Scott shot this film in the early 1960s, then completed it in 1965 thanks to a grant from BFI’s Experimental Film Fund. It follows a teenage boy (played by his younger brother Tony Scott, a very familiar name to film fans as well) as he wakes up, unwanting to face another same-old day of getting up, going to school and all the rest. So he decides to play truant instead and spends the day cycling around the industrial landscape of Northern England (this industrial feel would feature heavily in many of Scott’s later films), all the while narrating in a stream-of-consciousness style reminiscent of James Joyce. The jaunty music theme is by John Barry, already an established composer at the time – Barry liked Scott’s work on the film so much that he agreed to re-record the theme especially for his film. It’s an arty film, clearly made by someone familiar with the tropes and settings of both the French and British New Waves, which would both have been in full swing when he was filming this.

Check under the seats to see some of Scott’s commercial work, including the famous “1984” Macintosh ad.

Would you like to know more…?

Shorts Programme: Jay Cheel’s The Politics of Competitive Board Gaming Amongst Friends

Having played literally hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of The Settlers of Catan, the gate-way drug for German-style boardgames, over the years and foolishly turning down invites from the filmjunk crowd on their gaming nights, I was surprised and delighted that Jay Cheel decided to make a short documentary on the subject. Since this thing stars Reed Farrington, you know it is going to be gold, and it is.

Like any character driven documentary, you need not be versed in the nuances of the subject at hand; think of King of Kong or Fast, Cheap and Out of Control. Nonetheless, any group of folks who play these style games always has someone who takes too long to make up their mind on what to do, and risks the wrath of impatiences and ridicule from the rest of the table. Thus, I would say from personal experience that the doc is 100% accurate in how it notes slight personality shifts (or revealings) when people get too far into the game. The 10 minute short is stunningly gorgeous, as per the filmmaker (Beauty Day, Colore Non Videnti) and well worth your time. At some point, we need a full doc on Karl Pilkington-esque Gerry Eng, as it has been far to long since the Cantankerous podcast has had an episode.

Are we even more excited for How To Build a Time Machine. Hell yea.

Shorts Programme: CAINE’S ARCADE


Want to weep unabashedly? Watch this short film about a boy who transforms a portion of his Dad’s auto-parts shop into a card-board arcade. After sitting around waiting for someone to play, the boy’s efforts seem to yield only a single customer. But that single customer does the little boy a service of absolute joy. Oh, this is why the internet was invented.

Shorts Program: Can We Kiss?

Maybe this would be better saved for Valentine’s day, but as someone recently pointed it out to me, I feel compelled to offer this to you. One of Jandy’s first Finite Focus posts involved Ms. Naomi Watts auditioning for a soapy-TV role within the nightmare that is Mulholland Dr. That scene is pretty special because it is so multi-layered in terms of acting chops. First Watts has to play the bubbly Betty Elms and then she has to play Betty acting how she feels would be best to get the role. In the same spirit, but with markedly less time for character development than a feature film, Pierre-Olivier Mornas’ 16mm short film from 11 years ago, On S’Embrasse? (Can We Kiss?) does this in a similar way. One that, as David Mamet would say, is both inevitable and surprising. It has the romance of a random encounter in a French café, and yet has a particularly acerbic irony to the whole affair. Damn, they should have shoehorned this into Paris Je T’aime despite it preceding that anthology by about a decade.

Have a look.