Musings on Short Films — What are some of your favorites?

Hello all, in light of an upcoming interview with a short film director I met at TCFF, I thought I’d switch the focus from feature films to short films today.

Per Wikipedia, a short film is any film not long enough to be considered a feature film. No consensus exists as to where that boundary is drawn: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a short film as “an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits.”

Historically, shorts were the norm before the 1920s, when longer films were still rare. My mom used to bring Laurel & Hardy films back when I was a wee kid, and along with Charlie Chaplin films, comedy shorts were popular back then before they became feature films. Nowadays, shorts generally rely on various film events to reach a larger audience. Most film festivals have a special category for them, as do the Academy Awards. Of course the Internet is a medium that short films thrive on. There are a plethora of sites dedicated for shorts, i.e. Short of the Week, The Smalls, Atom, etc. and my hubby goes to Vimeo often to watch shorts. I think he watches them more than I do. Judging from the impressive quality of a lot of short films, I really should watch more of them.

For the filmmakers themselves, making short films could lead to a breakthrough in their career when their work gets noticed. I posted this one called The Gift by Carl Rinsch on this post last year which is an impressive sci-fi short about a futuristic robot butler who flees the police. Granted Rinsch already had a successful career as a commercial director, but this short might’ve boosted his career big time and now he’s directing 47 Ronin, a samurai thriller with Keanu Reeves.

Short films I’m most familiar with are those by Pixar as they’re always shown at the beginning of their feature films. My favorite one is For the Birds… I mean it’s just so darn adorable!! It just proves not only the technical prowess of Pixar, but also their keen storytelling ability and in creating such fun characters. A few years ago, I also watched a bunch of those BMW short films, a series of eight shorts called The Hire starring Clive Owen. It’s a very clever way to market their luxury cars, and expensive too I reckon, as all of them are directed by famous directors such as Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai, Alejandro González Iñárritu, etc. Most of them are very impressive, they could almost work as a feature film as well if they’d invest on building the script.

I find that shorts are often more creative than feature films. Perhaps because a lot of them are created without the influence of studios, the purse-strings that dictate what the films are supposed to be. Creative freedom seems rather scarce these days, I mean just look at most of the mainstream offerings at your local cineplex.

So anyway, here are my five favorite shorts that I can think of at the top of my head. I posted Please! a couple of years ago but I watched it again recently and the ending still gave me chills. Some of these are whimsical and some are serious & heart-wrenching stuff, the World Builder one actually made me cry!

The Raven

Pixar’s For The Birds

World Builder

Please! starring Gerry Butler

BMW Films – The Follow starring Clive Owen

,,,


So are you a big fan of short films? Please do share some of your favorite short films you’ve seen.

37 thoughts on “Musings on Short Films — What are some of your favorites?

  1. This is shameless linkage time so apologies but it just so happens that in the mists of time I’ve written about a few of my favourites, so easier for me to link to them there. I tend to go for the animated ones for some reason. Try Oktopodi – (http://www.film-intel.com/2010/07/short-film-watch-oktopodi.html) and definitely The Cat Piano, which is fantastic (http://www.film-intel.com/2009/11/cat-piano-oscar-animated-shorts-2010-1.html).

    I always keep one eye of the longlist of nominees (ten to start with, whittled down to five for the final noms) at Oscar time in the animated category. You can find some real gems just by trawling back through those if you can find them on the web somewhere.

    1. Hey not a problem, how else would I be able to check out your recommendations? 🙂 I like animated ones, too, though there have been some live action ones that are compelling. I’ll check your links shortly, thanks!

  2. PrairieGirl

    I rarely watch shorts, but probably should. Please! has a very strong impact, and Gerard Butler is perfect in it, but I wouldn’t have known about it at all if you hadn’t directed me to it several years ago ;-D

  3. While it’s not quite earth-shattering, I enjoyed Wes Anderson’s HOTEL CHEVALIER. There’s a beautiful Sci-Fi one from Kenya called PUMZI that I loved, and just this week I saw a great one at Toronto After Dark called THE WEIGHT OF EMPTINESS.

    There’s also a great one by Spike Jonze about robots that I can’t remember the title of.

    Took me a while to really get into them

    1. Oh I actually saw Hotel Chevalier. It’s the one w/ Natalie Portman right? I gotta check out the other one on your list, or if you have a link to it that’d be great, too. Thanks Ryan!

  4. I LOVE LOVE LOVE The Follow! I am getting into shorts. I recently judged an online film fest of shorts and went to a shorts screening. They definitely are starting to grow on me.

    There are a lot of great ideas out there and shorts are a good way to get noticed and eventually if the environment allows one to, stretch them into feature lengths.

    I will be posting something along those lines on my blog by the weekend.

    1. Yeah, that’s a good one isn’t it? Who knew Adriana Lima could act, ahah. I love the way Clive Owen looks at her at the bar.

      Hey, I look forward to your post, Iba.

  5. Ted S.

    Those are some cool short movies, my favorite is definitely The Gift. World Builder is great too, funny that it came out around the time Inception was in theater, both films have very similar idea except one cost $160mil to make and it’s over 2 hrs. long and other was very low budget.

    I also love those BMW shorts, all of them were great. Not sure if you knew but one of the creative directors at Fallon is a good friend of David Fincher so he asked Fincher to come on board as a consultant when Fallon did that ad campaign for BMW.

    1. Yo Ted, well thanks to you I got to see The Gift. I heard they’re making a feature film out of that one? I’d be sure to see it.

      Oh I didn’t know about the Fincher trivia. Wow, he’s got friends in high places 🙂

      1. Ted S.

        Yeah The Gift was supposed to be made into a full length feature but since Ridley Scott is busy with the Alien prequel and Carl Rinsch is busy with 47 Ronin, we probably won’t see it on the big screen for a while.

        If I remember correctly, Fincher and the creative director at Fallon went to the same school and that’s how they met. Fincher started out doing commercials and music videos before he became a big time filmmaker.

        1. Bummer! I hope one of them will be free up soon to make that film, should be an interesting sci-fi.

          Ah I see. Lots of big time directors start out as commercial directors, don’t they? Tarsem was one of them. Hey maybe you should write a list of them 🙂

          1. Ted S.

            Yeah that’s a good idea, I’ll have to think of the directors who started out doing commercials and are now big time Hollywood film directors. Tarsem and Fincher are good friends, Fincher was one of the people who helped financed Tarsem’s The Fall.

  6. I’ve just discovered that I haven’t seen many shorts and you’ve caught my interest. I did really enjoy those on the Disney Pixar package Short Film Collection Volume 1, although I haven’t seen them for a while.

    I also enjoyed a short video made by Adam Sager and his young daughter last year called Hallows Eve and the Pumpkin Dream. I featured it on a page about pumpkin-themed gifts for children because it was perfect for children who want to be spooked…

    1. Hi Brenda, Pixar does make great shorts don’t they?

      I’ve checked out the shorts on your site, cute! Btw, looks like IMDb is misspelled on there 😀

  7. Great post. I agree that Short films can often be more creative–both because the studios are taken out of it and because often shorts get made by newer directors. Let’s face it, we already know what we’re getting with a Clint Eastwood film, because we’ve seen it all before, but with a young (or at least unknown) director we’re seeing their vision for the first time.

    But another element making short films seem fresh is that they usually stick to what is really necessary for the story to unfold. They don’t add a lot of filler just to make the run time feature length. And to be honest, sometimes I walk out of feature films thinking that they’d be better if they’d condensed the story down to 20 minutes.

    1. You’ve got a point there. A lot of shorts directors can still experiment with different styles and are often able to carry out their vision. Some famous directors can get predictable, though of course there are great ones who can mix things up.

      And you are absolutely right about the efficiency, I forgot to mention that. Most short films probably don’t ‘overstay their welcome’ so to speak.

  8. Hi, Ruth and company:

    I’ve enjoyed the animated Pixar shorts from the beginning. Especially ‘Snow Globe’ and their very first, featuring the trademarked Pixar lamp. There’s a lighthearted, whimsical humor in their offerings that make them a treat to watch.

    Also get a kick out of the Lego parodies of Spider Man and Solid Gear.

    1. Oh yeah, the trademarked Pixar lamp is adorable!! I love seeing that come on every time.

      Those Lego parodies are fun indeed. Thanks Jack!

  9. There was one with Gabriel Byrne> He wrote and directed it it’s in Irish and if I might add very well done. That is really the only one I can think of off the top of my head

  10. Can’t say I have seen too many shorts, unless you count the 18 in Paris Je T’Aime ahah 😀 I have seen the one before Toy Story 3… Uh that’s about it lol

    1. Yeah I figure a lot of people don’t pay much attention to shorts, but a lot of them are brilliant Cas, I feel like I need to see more of them. Ahah, no I don’t think Paris Je T’Aime counts, you’re too funny!

  11. I’m a fan of short movies, although I should be watching more of them. The Gift was excellent and one I really like, although this one is extremely weird and somewhat disturbing can be found here, it’s just hilarious:

  12. Pingback: Everybody’s Talkin’ 10 – 27 (Chatter from Other Bloggers) | The Matinee | Cinematic Passion & Perspective | The Matinee | Cinematic Passion & Perspective

  13. ackackattack

    Hmmm shorts. Being a surreal/experimental fan: Maya Deren’s – Meshes of the Afternoon, Chris Marker’s – La Jetee (basis for 12 Monkeys), Dali and Bunuel’s – Un Chien Andalou, The Brother’s Quay – Street of Crocodiles, Jan Svankmajer’s – Dimensions of Dialogue and David Lynch’s – The Grandmother.

    Now some normal ones. Sorry for any ads.

    Kiwi – Supposedly this guy was approached by Dreamworks after this went viral.

    Cashback – has lots of female nudity for the demure out there.

    The Appointments of Dennis Jennings – Steven Wright (there’s a link to part 2 after the vid) Saw this at the Boston Film Festival in ’88. He won an Oscar for this.

    The Exam

    Dave

  14. This is really interesting. I like short film (as much as I love short story). Unfortunately my network is not working well,I will visit this post again to see those video.

    Here are the shorts I love the most.

    The Silent City
    No!! it’s not because of Cillian as you might thought but because how well done it was made and wow that blown head is awesome trick!!

    What is that?
    I saw this in Roisin’s blog, recommended by Rona.it was so touching. i really really like it

  15. Aslan

    Thanks for all recommendations. I’ve started watching short movies recently. There are beautiful shorts. You should see this:

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