rawlinson -> The shorts Hall of Fame 2: Round 1 (17/12/2011 2:00:25 AM)
Alma is a short that works best if you go in blind with no idea as to its content. It's also about 6 minutes long, so go watch it. I'll wait.
Done? Good. I'll throw up a spoiler warning just in case though.
Alma is a short that packs more atmosphere and chills into its 6 minute length than most horrors manage in 90. There is no dialogue, just a soundtrack that goes from a jaunty tune that has "kiddy" written all over it, to a more ominous tone, before cutting out altogether. It was worked on by people who had previously had a hand in Pixar, and it shows in the visuals, which may not be the most jaw-dropping and realistic, but instead works on creating mood and tone, changing from charming to creepy without skipping a beat or coming across as forced. Another great thing about the film is that no explanation is offered for the shop. Is it possessed? Some kind of Lovecraftian monster? Just a house that likes to fuck with people? There's no answer, and just as with the best horror films the lack of explanation makes it all the creepier. And there is no happy ending; this is an animated short with the balls to end with no closure, Alma becoming just another victim.
The end result looks and feels like the opening scenes of a horror film made by Pixar. There is no higher praise I can bestow on it, this short is THAT good.
Filmed almost entirely without dialogue, The Red Balloon is a stunningly touching film that rests on the visual double whammy of the architectural beauty of the streets of Paris and a superb use of colour detail. It is in many ways a perfect depiction of innocence, friendship, mischief and loyalty, coupled with a dose of magic; in short everything one wants childhood to be. Moving, without descending into smaltz and enjoyable at any age; it was a clearly labour of love for Lamorisse, whose own children feature and if ever there were a film to best describe the term 'family film' then there would be few that could out do Red Balloon in this case.
Nominated for an Academy award for Best Animated Short Film in 1942, and losing out to the not quite as good propaganda film Der Fuehrer’s Face, is Tex Avery’s war themed retelling of the 3 little pigs story. The film follows the usual story format of the story as the 3 little pigs build their houses out of Straw and Wood, even keeping their usual innocence intact, with the third pig being even more prepared than normal. The other pigs even make a point of mocking him for digging a ditch, before pausing so that the viewer can realise just how naive the comment is. Straight after this though, all of the innocence is lost from the 2 pigs with their treaty being ignored (a nice touch) and the propaganda starting with the third pig telling how the viewers should be buying Bonds for defence (something which continues throughout the film). The small jokes are what makes the film stand above Avery’s other films for me, with things like the newspaper having the Nazi symbol replaced with 2 sausages, or the wolfs tank which has the motto ‘Der Fewer, Der Better’ written on the side. Also, the characterisation of the Wolf as Hitler is excellent with special care given to mocking the Goose step and just how sneaky and underhand he is throughout. Tex makes a point of not apologising for this likeness, despite apparently being warned by the films producer Quimby not to make the likeness too real because “After all, we don't know who's going to win the war".
Blitz wolf is just a brilliant piece of propaganda and shows just how desperate the US were at this stage to make sure the public realised exactly what they were up against.
If I was taught anything from the recent collaboration album by Kanye West and Jay-Z, it was that something doesn’t have to make sense for it to be dope as hell; In the song “Ni**as in Paris” that is brought to our attention by samples of Jon Heder and Will Ferrell from Blades of Glory. Of course, Un Chien Andalou has nothing to do with “Ni**as in Paris goin’ gorillas,” but it has nothing to do with much of anything. There is ants crawling on people, there is an eye being sliced open. It’s all disgusting beauty. That paradox is what makes Un Chien Andalou so brilliant. It is showing you that beauty can be seen in the most abhorrent of visuals. I don’t think that’s what Bunuel intended, because I think his only intentions were to offend people, while at the same time showing what he/cinema was capable of. He did a fine job with both. I won’t try to analyze it, because I think it’s impossible to analyze it as a whole, and I don’t have enough space here to analyze scene by scene.
It truly is a film that will mean something completely different to everybody that sees it. That diversity is why it belongs in the Hall of Fame. I just really hope that because of my nomination someone will see Un Chien Andalou for the first time. That person will be in for an experience they won’t soon forget.
Bugs might be cooler, might always win at the end of his cartoons and might be the face of Warner Brothers, but the pay off to this is that Daffy Duck, the perennial loser, gets all the best cartoons. As a kid, certainly, I was more drawn to the lisping, down-on-his-luck duck than I was on the supersmart wabbit. And top of the pile was always Duck Dodgers, a masterpiece even among Chuck Jones considerable back catalogue of masterpieces. Duck Dodgers throws Daffy into a science fiction setting – hence the Buck Rodgers parodying title – in which he has to go to the mysterious Planet X to get some of the super rare Shaving Foam Atom. Unfortunatly, Mars is also running low at the same time and sends Marvin the Martian to do the same job, resulting in some classic Looney Tunes one-upmanship. This isn’t Marvin’s first appearance in a Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies film, he had previously starred alongside Bugs, but he is more suited to the hyper-one-upmanship of Daffy than he is with Bugs, and he is utilized absolutely brilliantly here. Unlike the usual LT bad guy, Marvin is quite quiet, not stupid, and genuinely a bit psychotic. He doesn’t just want to outsmart the wabbit, he wants to blow up the entire planet. Also here is Porky Pig, as Daffy’s sidekick. I’m not a great fan of Porky in general, but when he is paired with Daffy, he can be an brilliant creation. Certainly that is true here, where he is the smarter sidekick to Daffy’s brilliantly idiotic captain. I’m pretty sure that the writers of Futurama were big fans of this cartoon – there are shades of Kif’s relationship with Zapp all the way through the cartoon. I won’t say too much about the actual jokes, so as to spoil them, but I will say that I laugh out loud every single time I sit and watch this cartoon, something that has bought me great joy for such a long time in my life, and it is a mere seven minutes in length. Chuck Jones was an incredible genius, and deserves a film in the Hall of Fame.
As with most of Pixar’s work, For the Birds’ brilliance lies in its simplicity. The plot is simple – a gang of bickering birds are sitting on a telephone wire when they spy a larger, gangly bird. His attempts at making friends are cruelly mocked, but soon the little birds get their comeuppance. A simple morality tale, you may think, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a work of comic genius. The animation is fantastic with the expressions and mannerisms of the little birds being absolutely perfect – the look of pure maliciousness in their eyes is so well captured. Pixar prove just how good they are by not using dialogue; the angry squeaks and squawks of the small birds and the goofy honk of the larger bird tell the story perfectly, as well as providing a lot of laughs. It’s funny to the very end (the bird crap “The End” card always makes me chuckle) and the background music is great too. It’s a short I can come back to again and again, with the jokes never getting old.
Best moment: the moment of realisation as the telephone wire reaches the ground. Perfect.
Shot as a parody of 70s training videos/pifs for safety in the workplace, the film introduces us to Klaus, a German worker who has just qualified to drive forklifts. We follow his first day on the job in a warehouse, learning about the potential safety hazards along the way. Starting off fairly straight-faced, the short gets funnier and gorier with each new accident, leading up to a hilarious prolonged sequence that features the best use of a chainsaw in a film since the Evil Dead trilogy. Give this brilliant little piece of splatter/slapstick (splatstick, if you will) its deserving place in the Hall of Fame.
A landmark in the history of animation, Gertie the Dinosaur wasn’t, as is often believed, the first animated film, but it did feature the first animated character with a personality. Previous animations, such as Fantasmagorie (watch it, it’s great) showed the novelty of moving drawings, but Gertie gave us a proper character.
Originally the animation was created for director Winsor McCay’s vaudeville show, in which McCay would stand next to the screen and interact with the dinosaur, another animation first. (Almost 80 years later, another dinosaur film would feature interaction between a real-life and an on screen character, surely some form of homage). The success of this idea led to the creation of a short film to be played in theatres, in which a live-action sequence was created to introduce the cartoon, and title cards replacing the on-stage dialogue.
The preamble is only interesting, but the animated sequence of the film is genuinely fun to watch, and Gertie is an extremely likeable, dimensional presence, years before Disney and Warner Bros turned their animated characters into beloved worldwide icons. She’s both shy and headstrong and, in one tremendous sequence, starts to cry when she’s criticised by of the off screen McCay. There’s brilliant inventiveness here, such as when an apple is thrown into the animation for Gertie to eat, or when she drinks an entire lake dry and her extra weight cause the ground to give way. It’s a startling great piece of cinema from the medium’s early years, and a film that anyone with even a passing interest in animation should watch.
In the spirit of the thread I'll keep this short. A wonderfully aggressive animation style, this psycho-sexual take on Alice in Wonderland is far from award winning, but is a great audio visual curio. Great backdrop for a party.
Kirsanoff’s melodramatic 1926 film, “Menilmontant”, tells the story of a young girl (Nadia Sibirskaia) who meets a young man and is forced into a sexual affair with him. She later gives birth to a child, but when the man enters into a romance with the first girl’s best friend, she’s torn to pieces. The virtues of “Menilmontant” do not lie in its plot, which as actually quite obvious, overly melodramatic, and a little bit turgid, but instead in its performances, its influence, and its aesthetical and directional flair. Let’s start with Kirsanoff, who captures Paris wonderfully, swirling and panning to create a montage-esque, dizzying feel. Kirsanoff uses this technique to heighten our emotional involvement, particularly when Sibirskaia finds herself alone in a busy, swirling town, and it works wonderfully. I was told before watching this film that it was reminiscent of (or I guess I should say foreshadowing of) Jean Vigo and the directors of the New Wave, and that really is true. The camera frames the town in a swirl of dizzying movement which would be used time and time again by the likes of Truffaut and Godard, and it certainly foreshadows Vigo in the fact that it can be both violently brutal yet lyrical at the same time. Kirsanoff’s use of close-ups, particularly of Sibirskaia in a manner that Godard would re-use time and time again with Anna Karina three decades later, is also astounding, really heightening the emotion. Each time we return to Sibirskaia’s face, a little bit more of the colour, the beauty, and the life has seemingly been drained out of it, and that’s partly due to Kirsanoff’s wonderful direction but also thanks to the actress herself, who saves the film from drifting off into vaudevillian melodrama territory. There’s also some beautiful moments, particularly the park sequence in its entirety, where an image of the gaunt, ghoulish looking man fades away to be replaced by Sibirskaia, highlighting their linked fates but also their separation and alienation from one another. And of course, there’s the image of an old tramp sharing food with the young girl, child in tow. Although Kirsanoff’s film can sometimes be quite damning of humanity and our tendency to violence towards one another, it’s the little moments like these, moments which affirm the beauty that can stem from chance meetings between lost souls that make “Menilmontant” a must-see short.
If you don't like this film, you're a Nazi. I know Krav Maga and I'll come after you
Blurb to come
Spoilerish slightly. I shouldn't really love this short as much as I do given what happens to the bunny. Six-Shooter is the first film from Irish playwright Martin McDonagh and gave viewers who've been unable to see his theatre work an idea of the talent that had drawn so much praise (and which was shortly to result in a feature film that was, by gum, worth the wait!).
Donnelly (Gleeson) heads home by train after his wife dies in a busy hospital. On this journey the countryside drags by, unlike most scenes on trains. It's as if the world is slowing down and the trip will last forever stuck on a train with a foul-mouthed youth, manic and quite out of control surrounded by people shocked and bereaved from just losing loved ones – the humour couldn't get much blacker.
Ruadhri Conroy is an impressive young actor. Here and in teaching drama Clockwork Mice he gives two very powerful performances playing two quite different but equally messed up young men. Facing off against a bereaved man, deep in shock, Conroy rambles off into non-sequiturs from mixing up Tony Curtis and Rod Steiger to 'aww, sheep'. Gleeson's Donnelly is clearly drifting in and out of what's going on, and while recognising the kid has a problem finds him engaging enough to try and forget what has just happened. Riffing on the western theme and steeped in faith, death and black humour Six-Shooter gives god his six shots, no reload and McDonagh gives us a powerfully written and performed film debut that deservedly took home an Oscar.