Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Short Stuff

I find judging short films difficult. A lot of the time I enjoy them greatly, but rarely do they leave me with much of a lasting impression, which makes it hard to gauge where I stand on them. As a result I don't watch all that many and am probably missing out on a lot of great work by up-and-coming filmmakers, but it's still a medium I find tricky to get myself enthused over, especially when the ones I do get to see - like Nathaniel Krause's Double or Nothing, scripted by Neil LaBute, which screened at the most recent Melbourne International Film Festival - are entirely terrible. I am keenly aware that there are short feature films out there that are marvellous, but rarely do I find they have the blissful self-contained energy of Stuart McDonald's Stranded, or Todd Haynes' Dottie Gets Spanked. Too often I watch one and just wish it had been expanded into a feature because so often they feel unfinished. But, hey, maybe that's just me.

I have much greater patience, however, for animated shorts. I suspect that has something to do with animation's roots being vested in the shortened form, but also because animated shorts are so often a playground for some truly dazzling, marvellous, and experimental work by talents with voices that might not necessarily fit into the preconceived box of mainstream animation features. I have absolutely loved the likes of French corporation satire Logorama, Australian 7-minute ode to gastric excess in Carnivore Reflux, and the imaginatively designed shadowplay of The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello amongst others. This year's crop of animated shorts have delivered some nice entries, although I haven't been able to see Adam and Dog or Head Over Heels.

Disney's Paperman and Fox's Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare' are probably the two most will have seen given they played before Wreck-It Ralph and Ice Age 4 respectively, but while the latter is cute, if unremarkable, the former is beguiling and magical. Of course, it bares a striking resemblance to an Australian short titled Signs, which was directed by Patrick Hughes some four or five years ago. I had enjoyed Hughes' feature debut Red Hill, but that's an entirely different enterprise to Signs, which sees two people (including Wolf Creek's Kestie Morassi, and Nick Russell) as office workers seeking a connection from behind glass windows. Of course, whereas Signs is lovely, it doesn't feel like it's pushing anything or doing anything unique with the form, which I think the wonderful mix of animations in Paperman succeeds. Again, maybe just my own prejudices preferring animation to live action, but there you go.


My favourite of the few Oscar nominees that I have seen, however, is Fresh Guacamole by an artist known as PES (aka Adam Pesapane). He tends to make extremely short (one to three minutes in length) works and uses everyday items and plasticine with a stop-motion style to create his incredibly inventive pieces. I'm not sure how his films qualify for Oscar since, at least in Fresh Guacamole's case it's barely two minutes long, but I'm glad that he's received recognition this year. His work as an almost Svankmajer like quality that recalls the choppy Alice (which I watched for the first time a few weeks back and was quietly stunned by). Guacamole, as it is, is a sort of sequel to Western Spaghetti, but that doesn't make it any less invigorating and his works are so much fun to watch and it's so very easy to find yourself in a YouTube wormhole of his works.

"Fresh Guacamole" | "Western Spaghetti"

"Roof Sex" | "Game Over"

Which are your favourites?

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