Short Film Spotlight – Animal Behaviour (2018)

ab2Okay, I know I said I was going to be posting a follow-up to Thursday’s column on the Public Domain status of the John Wayne movie McLintock! today, but to be honest, it’s more complex than you might think, and since part of the reason for shifting things around here was to give myself the time to go as in-depth as I really want to on some of these issues rather than simply post something because it’s time to, I’ve decided to put that off for a couple of days so I can do it properly.

However, rather than not give you anything today, I’ve decided to go ahead start up one of the new “occasional” features that I’m bringing to the blog.

Short films, when they’re done right, can truly be some of the most interesting works out there. The key to that sentence, though, is “when they’re done right”. All too often, however, it can seem like the film makers behind shorts simply have a scene or two that they have fallen in love with and that they want to put on film, but they forget that no matter the length or limitations they are working within, they still need to tell a full story with a beginning, a middle and an end. Otherwise, well, you haven’t really made a film, have you? You’ve just shot a scene or a series of images.

(Unless, I suppose, you’re trying to go for a surrealist vibe or something like that, but those films are a case unto themselves.)

So what I want to do here is spotlight some of those films that I think do get it right, and that, since most theaters don’t show shorts ahead of features anymore, unless you’re specifically looking for them, you most likely won’t see.

ab1Now, I’ll admit that you could accuse me of stacking the deck by starting off with this one, since not only is it animated (which actually, I think, lends itself just a bit more to the short film), but it was nominated for an Academy Award (yes, there are actually three short-film categories that receive Oscars – Animated, Live-Action, and Documentary – and, even more interestingly, they are one of the few categories that allow international entries, which, given the fact that Hollywood has forgotten how to make a movie under 3 hours and 47 minutes is probably a necessity), but even given that, I’m still willing to bet that most of you out there haven’t seem it.

Animal Behaviour is a 2018 short film from Canada, written and directed by directed by Alison Snowden and David Fine. Its cast includes Ryan Beil as Dr. Clement, Taz VanRassel as Victor the ape, Leah Juel as Lorraine the leech, Andrea Libman as Cheryl the mantis, Toby Berner as Todd the pig, James Kirk as Jeffrey the bird, and Snowden herself as Linda the cat. It has a total run time of just over 14 minutes.

Which means, you can watch the whole thing below in probably less time that it took you to read this blathery introduction.



They May Actually Be Somewhere In This Five Minute Short – All Your Favorite Shows (2015)

ayfs1I’ve said it here many times before, and I’ll say it again: short films are not easy. Not only do you have to set up the story that you want to tell and establish your characters, but then you also have to carry that premise through to a (hopefully) satisfying conclusion. Of course, from a personal perspective it makes it even harder for me to really enjoy a short film that is simply trying to “depict a moment”, rather than actually tell a narrative story, but that’s simply my own bias. Since I am a story-teller, I prefer films that have an actual narrative to share.

As an added obstacle, the short film maker then has to try to do something to really set his film apart in a way that often times those making longer movies don’t. Because so many beginning film makers think of short films as a gateway to bigger things, and especially with the cost of entry into creating your own film being so much lower today than it ever has been in the past, the number of short movies being made today is exponentially larger than ever before.

That’s why I’m always thrilled to run across a short film like All Your Favorite Shows. Created by Ornana Films, this short is a triumph not only of story telling, but especially of editing as during its 5 minute running time it uses clips from roughly 160 movies to move its story along at an extremely wild pace and yet never gets lost, and it really is a showcase of just how much can be done working with so little. I highly recommend giving this one a look, and if you like what you see, you can check out some of their other shorts at

It’s True, Eli Roth Always Did Want To Be Quentin Tarantino – Here’s One Of His Student Films, Restaurant Dogs (1994)

er1I have to admit I’m not a very big fan of Eli Roth. His films really tend to be more graphically gory than I prefer. Not that I don’t like a bit of gore in my horror films when it’s appropriate, but I tend to prefer when the movie takes a bit of a step back and remembers that its purpose is to entertain rather than to simply – as Ross seems to have a tendency to do – revel in the most realistic portrayal of gore and body torture that it possibly can muster.

Nonetheless, one thing that I always find interesting is to look back and see just what today’s film makers – or really, film makers from any era, but it’s a much easier task today with the proliferation of this kind of thing to be found all over the internet – were doing in their early years.

That’s one reason I found this film from Roth’s film school days so fascinating. Another is the sheer creativity on exhibit, especially considering what must have been an extremely limited budget that he was obviously working with. Of course, again, that’s another thing that usually sets this kind of short film apart. The fact that during these early years these creators didn’t have a lot of money to work with, nor did they have access to the latest technology or effects houses such as ILM to create their effects, so they had to come up with some kind of work around or other way to get their vision to the screen, and since, as the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, I’m always curious to see just what kind of inventiveness they come up with.

Anyway, it’s in that spirit that I thought I’d share with you this video, complete with an introduction by Mr. Roth himself explaining not just the origins of the film, but its rather disastrous reception, of Restaurant Dogs from all the way back in 1994.

(Y’know, in a way I almost feel it’s a shame he ever did get a big budget to work with. There’s actually a lot more thought and inventiveness going on here than in a lot of his full-length efforts. At least that’s my opinion anyway)

Here’s A Good Reason Not To Bring Your Work Home With You – Alice Jacobs Is Dead (2009)

ajSo what happens after you’ve found a way to stop the zombie virus, but haven’t actually found a cure for those who were already infected? How far do you go in the name of love? These are the questions that face Doctor Ben Jacobs in this very effective and evocative short film from Strange Case productions.

Alice Jacobs is Dead stars John LaZar as Dr. Jacobs, and Adrienne Barbeau (yes, Adrienne Barbeau!) as his wife Alice. It was written and directed by Alex Horwitz.

The film runs around twenty-one minutes, and like the best short films, does a good job of getting in, setting things up, taking the time it needs to tell the story it wants to, and then getting out, without being overblown or overstaying its welcome.

Give it a look:

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Take A Harrowing Ride On Bus 44 (2001)

bus-poster-thumb2Bus 44 is a Chinese Short film that was written, produced, and directed by Dayyan Eng. It stars Gong Beibi and Wu Chao.

Released to the festival circuit back in 2001, this unfortunately little-seen short does everything a film needs to do in under twelve minutes. It sets up its characters and situation well, it puts them into a very intense and harrowing situation, and it provides a satisfying (if perhaps a bit predictable) conclusion. It also won a number of awards back in its day, including a Special Jury Award at the 2001 Venice Film Festival, a Jury Honorable Mention at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, and the Grand Jury Award at the 2002 Florida Film Festival.The director of the film, Dayan Eng has said about it

I have always been interested in social psychology and wanted to do a film about how people react under certain stressful circumstances. The story attracts me not only because it has an interesting plot with a twist, but mostly because the underlying theme is even more haunting than the events that take place. I intentionally made this film with a certain ambiguity of time and place — this story could have taken place anywhere in the world. Making films about people and human nature attracts me because I feel that people around the world have much more in common than they do differences. “Bus 44” carries a universal theme that travels across all boundaries and societies, trespassing the dark side and bright side of human behavior.

Fair warning: the film is not easy viewing (as I mentioned above, it is quite harrowing and intense) and is definitely NSFW, however, for those of you willing to give it a try, I do think you’ll find it well worth the time invested.

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Two Early Shorts By Adam Wingard – 1000 Year Sleep (2007) And Laura Panic (2009)

Like many directors, Adam Wingard, whose film You’re Next I actually found myself liking more than I had thought I would once I recognized it as the 80s throwback (some say parody, though I never felt it went that far) stalker/slasher movie that it was, started out his career making short films. Here are two of them.

The first, 1000 Year Sleep actually has a pretty amusing payoff at the end

and the second, Laura Panic packs just enough story into its 3:15 running time to show that the burgeoning director knew just when to get in and get out of his film.

So what do you think? Based on these would you be willing to put Wingard behind the camera for a feature-length film? and if you saw You’re Next what did you think about it? Let me know in the comments.

Sometimes Even The Most Dangerous Game Has To Be Re-Rigged – Proximity (2013)

Proximity_WEB_1024x1024I’ve written before about how hard it can be to make a satisfying short film considering how much has to be done not only in a short amount of onscreen time, but often with a very limited budget.

Ryan Connolly (known to some as the personality and presenter of the generally genuinely amusing Film Riot) has done exactly that with his engagingly action-packed new short  Proximity. The film which was  shot over a period of ten days (including pre-production time) and using equipment and actors that he had on hand for use on another project that ran into financial difficulties, overcomes a lot of those issues by using as its basis a trope that goes almost back to the very beginning of cinema – that of man hunting man for sport or other reasons. In doing so, he manages to forgo a lot of the necessary set-up of character motivation and establishing of context and neatly and effectively get on to the “twist” that is necessary if  one wants to stand out from those other takes on the same theme and to how his characters deal with the situation that they find themselves in.

Here’s Connolly’s take on the motivation for the project:

“Just days before principle photography began on our short film ‘Outsiders’ — our most ambitious film yet — a large portion of our funding didn’t come through. We were forced to postpone ‘Outsiders’ and go on a 6-8 month hiatus. Problem was, we already had the gear ready to go and people who flew in just for the film! So we had two choices: feel sorry for ourselves, or MAKE A MOVIE! So we made a movie!”

The results? Well, here ya go:

Connolly has also released a behind the scenes video (which actually lasts longer than the film itself) in which he not only talks about the making of the film, but the equipment that was used, his collaboration with fellow indie film maker Seth Worley, and the techniques he used to get the most out of not only the limited budget and time, but his actors, who were put through quite a lot as you will see:

All-in-all, while the film may not be perfect, it definitely rises above its “What the hell” origins to be a very effective take on a quite familiar theme. Kudos to Connally and everyone else involved in the project!

For more info on Proximity, and on other work that Connolly has done through his Triune Films production company, be sure to check out their page which can be found here.

Short Film Wednesday 009 – Surveyor (2012)

I really hadn’t planned to do a Short Film Wednesday this week, but I happened to run across this one earlier today, and thought I’d share it with you all.

Director Scott Blake calls his short film Surveyor an “anti-western”, and it’s easy to see why. Filmmaker Magazine describes the short this way:

Set in the mid-1800s, Blake’s film follows a surveyor as he pushes West, forging a path for settlers and the American government. Amidst stunning widescreen visuals there’s a terse shoot-out with a villainous stranger, a hallucinatory, tragic finale, and an overall air of mystery and introspection.

Director Blake is largely self-taught, and despite some initial success with the film, has found himself kind of stranded as he has tried to shop it around to different festivals. He does however, seem to be a name to watch in the future, and I really wouldn’t be surprised to see more from him and to see him get more acclaim as he moves on to other projects and larger works. There’s really quite a bit to like here, and I  think he shows a lot of promise with many of the choices that he makes in the shooting of this film.

Here, take a look for yourself:

For more in formation on Blake, the history of Surveyor, and his plans for the future, check out this article on the Filmmaker website.

31 Days of Halloween – 019: The Tell-Tale Heart (1952)

October marches on, and so does our countdown to All Hallows Eve. This year, rather than trying to do a full 31 film reviews or something truly time-consuming like that, most of what I’m going to be posting are favorite trailers, short films, some full-length movies, and other items just to kind of help get everyone in the spirit of what really is one of my favorite holidays.

The Tell-Tale Heart has always been one of my favorite Poe stories, and here it is in a wonderful animation narrated by the great James Mason.

So what’s your favorite Poe story? Let me know either in the comments below, or over on the Durnmoose Movies Facebook page which can be found here.

Short Film Wednesday 007 – Progressbar (2013)

If you’ve ever wondered just what’s going on behind the scenes when you’re watching an online video and see that little bar scrolling across the bottom of it and wondered why – after moving along so smoothly for so long – it seems sometimes as it gets towards the end, it needs a bit of time to catch up with itself, this short animated film called Progressbar made by Vincent Broquaire may just provide the answer.