Sunday, January 4, 2015

Nightcap 1/4/15 On shorts, silent films plus Randi's Links

Gerard Chamberlain helps Alec Kubas-Meyer get a drink of water in the short film REEL
Thursday we started what was supposed to be another solid month of short films, but the New York Jewish Film festival kind of took over the second half of the month. This shouldn’t be taken to mean that there is a shortage of short films, rather it simply means that films of a more timely notion showed up. Later this week I’ll have a curtain raiser to NYJFF, but for now I want to talk about shorts.

I know some of you think there are too many shorts and that people who shouldn’t be making films are cranking out crap, but I’m here to tell you there are some great shorts out there. As with every year a whole bunch of the best films I saw in 2014 were shorts. I would gladly take a Jerimiah Kipp short horror film over some of the full length crap turned out from Hollywood's studios. Equally I would take one Dam Keeper over most of the computer generated crap turned out by most animation studios.

There are good shorts out there, you just have to be willing to take a the time to watch them.

Yea I know places like You Tube and Vimeo are filled to the brim with lousy shorts, but there are tons of good ones too.

If you want to take the guess work out of what’s good or bad short wise might I make the suggestion that all you need do it look at what some film festivals are programing and go with that. If you take a look at any of the short films at DOC NYC or The New York International Children’s Film Festival you are more than likely to hit a whole bunch of great shorts. I’m guessing if you can run down what they show you’ll love 90% of them. If you take the offerings at Tribeca or Sundance you’re going to end up with a whole lot of good stuff but you’ll also end up with some “WTF was that” stuff. The success rate with Tribeca or Sundance is going to be lower on the love to hate ratio, but at the same time you’ll see more stuff that’s just interesting.

The thing with shorts is you’ll have to be willing to try films. Since most shorts run only a couple of minutes why not try a bunch? As friend of Unseen Joe Bendel wrote me in an email earlier this year:
I'm... willing to cover a film of any length if it addresses a subject I'm interested in
What’s happening this month is that we’ll be giving you shorts through next weekend. At that point we’ll be switching over to ab out two weeks of films from the New York Jewish Film Festival. When the coverage of that ends we’ll go back for more shorts which will run straight into February for several days.

Where the last month of shorts were largely just reviews, this time out we’re mixing some reviews with links to the actual shorts. I’m telling you to watch the shorts so why not give you the chance to see the films? If we’re providing a link we recommend the film.

I need to point out that the mix of films includes some old silent films as well as modern day ones. Toward the end of the run you’ll be seeing Super Hooper Dyne Lizzies with Billy Bevan which is a wacked out car comedy. I’ve also linked to Laurel and Hardy’s Two Tars which concerns the boys out on a date which goes nowhere, literally, when they get caught in a traffic jam. Tempers flare and it isn’t long before cars are being dismantled.

If you like the mix then do yourself a favor and start searching the web for more films- and when you find a good short throw it our way so we can share it with the readers.
Since New Years I've been  watching a good number of silent films with the result there is going to be a week or so of reviews coming toward the end of March. I'm having a really good time watching them since with a bunch of them I had no idea the films even existed.

There were a few I saw which are not getting reviews here at Unseen but I wanted to mention them in passing.

There is a 1913 version of SPARTACUS out on DVD from Alpha home video. The film has thing at the beginning about how fact mingles with fiction, but trust me its 95% fiction. Yes its about the slave revolt but  its also a weird ass romance-just don't ask me to explain it I don't get it. Its not a particularly good film, but it is spectacular with a large cast fighting in and out of arena. On that sort of level it's worth seeing for fans of gladiator movies or morbidly curious about how the story has been messed up for a century.

I finally saw DW Griffith HEARTS OF THE WORLD his propaganda film about the Germans tormenting th Gish sisters during WW1. Its  pure propaganda and just plain silly for all the wrong reasons. Griffith supposedly regretted making the film because of moral issues. Personally I think outside of the time it was made it would have been much too silly to believe.

Similarly is the Thomas Edison produced THE UNBELIEVER about a rich guy who goes to war and has an Epiphany concerning god and people's worth.  While made in a point and shoot style of film making that was dying when the film was released (thanks to Griffith) the film is a better and more spectacular propaganda piece. I could actually watch this again.Containing an early appearance of Erich Von Strohiem (billed as Karl) the middle section of the film essentially tells the whole HEARTS OF THE WORLD plot in 25 minutes- and does so better.  If you can get past the anti-German POV and the preaching about god, this is an enjoyable little film
And now Randi's Links:

The hottest place to eat in Britain is prison
Times Square 1870-2010
The UNBROKEN screenplay
Best Animated Characters of 2014
BBC pictures of the year
Strange Victorian Christmas events
The beauty, the journalist and the Titanic
Comment section BINGO
Clear frozen lake

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