If you were quick, you could still see the animated short film, Paperman, online during the Oscars, but now it seems the online versions of ALL the nominated shorts have been removed from the Internet. Wired ran an interesting piece on why they were removed; if you’re not fortunate to catch them at a theater, hopefully they’ll be back online in the future.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy short films. PBS is hosting the 2013 Online Film Festival , running through March 22, showcasing 25 short films on a diversity of subjects. Viewers can vote for their favorites.
Pixar Short Film Collection, Volumes 1 and 2 Short films that changed the face of animation and entertainment. Volume one shows all of Pixar‘s short works from 1986 to 2006, plus an early short from when Pixar was still the computer department at Lucasfilm. Volume 2 features 12 shorts that were released from 2007 through 2012.
StoryCorps Animated Shorts [DVD] Based on the StoryCorps series on NPR which was started by former documentary filmmaker Dave Isay 2003. The shorts are based on three-minute excerpts of interviews from the show.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players . . .” William Shakespeare
Normally it’s a cliché to start a review with a quote from The Bard, but with Slings and Arrows it’s practically required. Despite the contemporary setting, Shakespeare is essentially a main character. Not a scene goes by without a mention of, an allusion to, or a quotation from the playwright himself. This is television’s ode to Shakespeare, and a beautiful one at that. The best part about the show however, is that you don’t need to have read a word of his works to enjoy the series. While it’s true that familiarity with his plays is rewarded throughout the series, the fundamental core of the show can be appreciated by anybody.
The show depicts a Canadian Shakespeare troupe struggling to keep their personal drama from affecting their stage drama. It does this without ever verging into melodramatic territory, and this is where the success of the series lies: in its effortless ability to highlight the subtle theatricality of life, and the profound and human experiences the theater provides. This is also a show about people stuck inside a profession that they love, even while it consumes them whole. Their biggest accomplishments in life are just a collection of fleeting moments that are over before they even begin . . . much like life itself. Also like life itself, the show is filled with plenty of humor, and rivals even some of the best comedies at times.
The talent is excellent across the board, but the show’s leading man is the real gem of the series. Paul Gross stars as Geoffrey Talent, a somewhat mentally unstable washed-up theater actor who hesitantly returns to his old theater troupe. Outside of the protagonist however, Slings and Arrows knows that “there are no small parts,” because every character gets their moment to shine within a given episode, and just about all of them receive a satisfying ending by the time the show ends. With only three short seasons (six episodes each), it’s hardly time-consuming, and is more rewarding than most network dramas that lasted over 100 episodes.
The story of late Brooklyn Dodgers star Jackie Robinson gets the big-screen treatment in ’42, with Chadwick Boseman as Robinson.
BlackShortFilms.com. Short films featuring black directors, actors, writers, and themes. Twenty-four short films are currently featured at the website.
BlackClassicMovies.com offers a Top 100 collection of the best black American classic movies available today. The list covers over 80 years of films dating back as early as 1920.
Hollywood Black Film Festival. Dubbed “The Black Sundance,” the Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) is an annual four-day celebration of black cinema drawing together established filmmakers, popular film and TV stars, writers, directors, industry executives, emerging artists, and diverse audiences from Hollywood and around the world.
The HistoryMakers. A video oral history archive of the untold personal stories of both well-known and unsung African Americans. The archive includes more than 2,000 interviews.
Tired of the usual run-of-the-mill movies with car chases, explosions, and digitally-enhanced special effects? If so, you might enjoy movies from Spiritual Cinema Circle, which the Library subscribes to. Every month we receive a compilation of four movies, which includes one full-length film, as well as “shorts” and documentaries, many of which are by independent filmmakers. Topics explore spirituality, morality, the power of the mind, and other enriching themes. Each group of films comes along with “reflection questions,” to help you get the most from your viewing.
So to find some inspirational movies with “heart and soul,” check out Spiritual Cinema Circle. These movies can be found in 204 SPI, along with books on spirituality, and are not with movie DVDs.
The title signals that we are going on an adventure, and the sense of being whisked away to another world and time is one of the things I love about this movie. As a Russell Crowe fan, I loved seeing him as Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey, master and commander of the HMS Surprise, and enjoyed seeing life aboard this early nineteenth century man-of-war. An Oscar for Best Sound Editing went to Russell Boyd, who recorded realistic sound effects for the battle and storm scenes. So not only are we seeing this other world, we are hearing it.
Plot-wise, Master and Commander is set during the Napoleonic Wars, when England was under threat of invasion. The captain plays a cat-and-mouse game with the French war vessel, the Acheron, pushing his men and his ship to their limits, as they sail around South America, often on stormy seas. On board is Dr. Stephen Maturin, an amateur naturalist, who hopes to stop at the Galapagos Islands to study their natural history. The growing friendship between the captain and the doctor forms an enjoyable subplot to the naval adventure.
At the end of the movie, the captain and the doctor sit in the captain’s quarters and play music on their cello and fiddle, indicating that peace has returned to the ship. Then, suddenly omnipotent, we see the ship, sails billowing, turning to the far horizon. What adventure will be next?
“Discovering the object of the game is the object of the game.”
When we grow up, we tend to feel a void in our lives where our childlike imagination used to be. We outgrow it because it’s no longer appropriate for us to play “make-believe,” never realizing that reality can seem so empty without it. Nicholas Van Orton is an adult man, leading a very adult life. It was Jack Torrance from The Shining who famously said: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The same could be said about Nicholas, who has more money than he knows what to do with, and nobody to spend it on. Favoring career advancement and material possessions over meaningful relationships and life experience, Nicholas is only now starting to feel the emptiness that was always there. That is, until he played The Game.
When his deadbeat brother shows up out of the blue to celebrate Nicholas’ birthday over lunch, Nicholas is given an opportunity to play The Game. One character calls it “a vacation, but one that comes to you.” That’s putting it lightly. With no information other than a business card that reads “Consumer Recreation Services,” he gets thrusts into a life-changing experience. The Game (1997) really hits its stride when Nicholas starts to lose his grasp on reality. When does The Game end and real life begin? It’s a question that the audience will be asking themselves, and the film does well in blurring those lines as neatly as it does.
David Fincher (director of The Social Network,Fight Club,Se7en) sets the film primarily at night, highlighting the extremely dark nature of such an experience. When you take away a man’s distinction between real life and fantasy, it’s no longer just fun and games. Adults could stand to let some of their childhood imagination back into their lives, but it’s clear that there’s such a thing as too much. One doesn’t play The Game, so much as gets played by The Game. And that’s true of the film as well.
What would you change if you could travel back in time and alter the past? That is the premise explored in Safety Not Guaranteed.The inspiration for this film is based on an actual ad in a survivalist newspaper that read “WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. I have only done this once before. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed.”
Jeff (Jake Johnson), a journalist for Seattle Magazine, is anxious to pursue the story and convinces his boss to allow him to recruit two interns to accompany him to his home town of Ocean View, Washington, in search of the time traveler. Jeff has an ulterior motive, thinking that the trip will give him an opportunity to reconnect with his former high school flame. He brings Darius (Aubrey Plaza), the semi-goth, quirky loner girl, and Arnau (Karan Soni), the nerdy, virginal Indian-American boy, in tow. They are in search of Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the thirty-something paranoid grocery clerk who placed the ad. Kenneth is perceived by his fellow workers as a marginally obsessed weirdo. Really? Jeff attempts to approach Kenneth under the guise of being a candidate for time travel, but Kenneth quickly sees through the ruse. So Jeff sends Darius to intercept Kenneth at the grocery store and, after some flirty banter, she scrawls her phone number with a Sharpie on a Campbell’s soup can. So begins the love interest between Kenneth and Darius, who bond over exercises in the woods to sharpen their skills in preparation for the upcoming voyage.
Kenneth wants to go back in time to save his girlfriend from dying when a car crashed through her house and killed her. (Later it is revealed that his “girlfriend” never returned his affection and is still living.) Darius wants to go back in time to save her mother who stopped after work to pick up some chocolate milk for her. Unfortunately, Darius never received the chocolate milk she so insistently demanded, because her mother was murdered in the parking lot of the gas station. How’s that for a guilt trip?
Predictably, Darius and Kenneth become entwined as they spend an increasing amount of time together preparing for their time travel adventure. Jeff rekindles his old flame, and Arnau experiences his sexual awakening. Safety Not Guaranteed is a delightful, low-budget indie film with a science fiction twist. The characters are sustainable and believable despite living on the fringe. The ending is fully satisfying and brings the plot full circle in an ingenious, unexpected way. If you’re a fan of low-key, offbeat comedies this is a must see. The film’s writer, Derek Connolly, was given the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
In Bernie, Jack Black reels in his slapstick, hip persona to portray Bernie Tiede, the mild, effeminate assistant undertaker in the town of Carthage, Texas. Everyone loves Bernie, who leads the congregation in song as the choir soloist, who lavishes the community with charitable works, and who makes their deceased loved ones look their best–despite being dead. He’s the best community leader and mortician any town could ask for.
Bernie is based on a true crime story that sent a ripple through the upscale Texas community in 1997. In his unwavering role as compassionate consoler (just part of the job for a sympathetic undertaker), Bernie showers attention on the newly widowed Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), former wife of the wealthiest man in town. Marjorie assumes her husband’s business role as head of the local bank and alienates the locals by cavalierly dismissing their loan applications. She is hands-down the most reviled person in Carthage.
Soon Marjorie and Bernie are seen side-by-side attending artsy theatre presentations, and romping through luxurious vacation destinations, thanks to her generosity in picking up the tab. They are constant companions. What started out as a simple need to console and to be consoled, morphs into a smothering relationship. Marjorie rules Bernie with an iron fist in a velvet glove. As the web tightens around Bernie, she bends him to her will, forcing an increasingly unhappy Bernie to cater to her every whim. She even goes so far as to cement the relationship by making him her sole beneficiary, and her financial advisor. Is it any surprise then that this rotund, good-natured man-child feels obligated to put a couple of slugs in his benefactor and hide her in the deep freeze? I don’t think so.
It’s hard to imagine a comedic true crime film, based on actual events, but director Richard Linklater has accomplished just that. This is only possible because Bernie, in spite of being the villain of the piece, is such a likeable fellow. Linklater apes the TV Investigation Discovery format by interspersing snippets of actual Carthage residents who knew the real Bernie Tiede. “He always made us look good.” In spite of the fact that this simple man has just confessed to slaughtering the golden goose, the town folk stand behind him. Knowing that the locals will never find Bernie guilty, wisecracking prosecuting attorney Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey) pleads for a change of venue to a town 50 miles away from Carthage, Texas, and the townspeople who support Bernie in spite of his evil deed.
Black is superb in this understated role. Bernie is the soul of goodness pitted against the despicable nature of the town villainess. As an interesting aside, both Black and MacLaine spoke with Tiede via phone calls to his prison cell before making the movie. Watch for a cameo appearance of the real Bernie in the closing credits. Rotten Tomatoes rates Bernie 92% Fresh.
A long, long, long, long time ago, I went to a Bob Marley concert in downtown Chicago. I have a confused recollection of a mob of strobe-lit musicians up on the darkened stage, and of the colorfully dressed and turbaned women backup singers. I’d never been a big fan of reggae, finding the beat rather plodding, and the concert, though fun, didn’t really change my opinion. This was a bit before Marley went on to become a megawatt star.
Now that I’ve watched Marley, the story of Jamaican music superstar Bob Marley, I wish that I’d paid more attention. Marley was born poor in the Jamaican countryside, fathered by a white British government worker. He was rejected both by whites and blacks as a bi-racial child, and early on knew that his guitar was his ticket out of poverty and strife. With friends, he absorbed not only the local Jamaican music known as “ska,” but the American music he heard on the radio. It’s fun to listen to some of his old recordings of songs like Dion’s “Teenager in Love.” He became a follower of the Rastafari movement, which believes that the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie I, was Jesus incarnate, and that cannabis should be used for spiritual purposes. They call Western society “Babylon,” and male members are forbidden to cut their hair, which knots into dreadlocks.
His rise to stardom was steady and he became a superstar, almost a cult figure, among young people worldwide. Why was he so popular? I learned why from Marley. His charisma comes pouring through the screen. He was incredibly good-looking, and danced with the abandon of a child before his audiences. He was also a talented songwriter–music poured out of him. He died at the age of 36 in 1981, when cancer from a neglected malignant melanoma spread. It was a great loss.
Marley is colorful, well-crafted, and full of music and energy. Don’t miss the interview with Marley’s aunt. Do I like reggae more after seeing Marley? Yes, because there’s a lot more to it than “I Shot the Sheriff.” Marley wrote some beautiful songs, as well as inspirational ones, and among music-lovers, he is still missed.