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

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

Chat-Worthy Actor: Clive Owen

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This past Monday, IMDb homepage featured Clive on its actor spotlight section. As he ranks pretty high up there in my favorite actors list, I thought I’d put him on the spotlight here, too. The dashing Brit is one of those actors who despite a few lousy flicks (i.e. the preposterous Shoot ‘Em Up and the dull Duplicity), still comes out practically unscathed. IMDb’s description of him is quite fitting: Whether performing Shakespeare, driving a speeding BMW, or holding his own against mega-stars, Clive Owen has established himself as one of the most versatile actors in theater, television, and film.

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Looking at his filmography, he’s got some great movies under his belt. Children of Men is destined to be a classic sci-fi drama, which remains my favorite role from the tall Brit. I also enjoyed his performance in Inside Man, King Arthur, Beyond Borders, Gosford Park, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The International. I even enjoyed his brief appearance in the first Bourne film, Bourne Identity. Though his attempt at comedy in Greenfingers didn’t fare as well as his action/dramatic ones. His latest movie The Boys Are Back shows his tender side as a single parent raising two young boys (check out my review). He also played a dad alongside Catherine Keener in the David Schwimmer-directed indie Trust.

The first time I saw Clive might’ve been in those BMW short films The Hire, which I thought is a pretty shrewd marketing campaign that truly flaunt those coveted German automobiles. This series of eight short films (which you can watch on youtube) was released online back in 2001, featuring popular filmmakers such as John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai, etc., and starring Clive as the “Driver.” Sure Jason Statham is cool in The Transporter, but Clive adds a dose of sophistication and class to his ‘cool factor.’ Despite his nonchalant demeanor, he projects a certain brand of pathos with his soulful eyes that I find incredibly attractive.

All that always brings me to this theory: Clive would make a terrific James Bond. Whenever I watched him in action flicks (and there are quite a lot of ’em) or even the way he talks with that deep, raspy voice (always a plus!), I kept thinking how Clive would’ve fit that 007 role like a glove. He not only looks the part (tall, dark and British), he somehow epitomizes what I think the text book super spy ‘model’ is supposed to be. Ok, I know, I know, it’s really a moot point now as the actor himself don’t even want the job. He did do a parody of Bond in The Pink Panther though, which I thought is pretty amusing. On his IMDb trivia, he’s quoted as saying: “Bond was the best thing that never happened to me. I was never in the running but the more I said so, the more people thought I had it in the bag. What’s so funny about it all is my career in Britain was in really bad shape at the time, but my agents pretty much built me a new one in America by playing up all the Bond stories. All I had to do was keep on telling people I was never going to be Bond. I’d like to think I made it on talent, but it’s really just dumb luck. If I hadn’t worn that tux in Croupier, I’d still be begging for the parts Robson Green turned down on cop shows.”

Oh well, at least we have those BMW films to watch Clive looking very Bond-like and wish I could take a ride with him in those ultimate driving machines… well, then again maybe not. Just take a peek at this one called Star and you’ll know what I mean. Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring his own ex-missus Madonna, I bet he’d get a kick out of this one even more now.

Now, this action-packed one called Ticker with Don Cheadle and Ray Liotta is also worth checking out, it’s easily my favorite one of the series:


Updated 10/3:

I hope to see Clive in leading roles again as he’s more versatile than Hollywood gives him credit for. Now that I’ve seen a bit more of his work, I can say that I like him in dramatic roles as much as his more action-packed roles. So here are my top five favorite Clive Owen roles so far:

  • Theo Faron – Children of Men
  • Mac – Shadow Dancer
  • Louis Salinger – The International
  • Sir Walter Raleigh – Elizabeth: The Golden Age
  • Joe Warr – The Boys Are Back

Are you a fan of Clive? What’s your favorite Clive Owen movie(s)?