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We spout opinion, comment on the current zeitgeist and overanalyze pop culture and mainstream movies. Whether in the form of lists, survey questions or straight editorials, we hope to make thinking deeply about film a fun and stimulating activity for all.

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Short Starts: Watch "Room 10" - Directed by "Horrible Bosses" Star Jennifer Aniston

  • By Daniel Walber
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  • July 5, 2011 4:14 AM
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In an art form so built around the image, filmmakers often seem to forget that withholding from the audience can be even more potent than showing a complete narrative. I cannot count the number of times I’ve sat through films with unnecessary flashbacks, endings that feel far too long, and other wastes of cinematic time that leave nothing to the imagination. The problem is even more pronounced in the realm of shorts, where there’s absolutely no flexibility. Every unnecessary minute should be shaved, so that things remain compact and effective; there’s nothing worse than a short that feels too long. Jennifer Aniston and Andrea Buchanan understand this, and have crafted “Room 10” as a short that plays effectively with the off-screen life of its protagonist.
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Short Starts: A Look Back at Pixar's "Red's Dream" and "Tin Toy"

  • By Daniel Walber
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  • June 20, 2011 3:39 AM
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There are an awful lot of reasons to love Pixar, and most of them are pointed out pretty regularly. They make wonderful, original movies that send you into peals of laughter, bring you to tears, and put a huge smile on your face. Et cetera. Yet in spite of all the praise, I think there’s one thing for which Pixar doesn’t get quite enough credit. They love making short films, and have kept it up despite their extraordinary success with features. Very few directors, let alone entire studios, have that sort of passion. With “Cars 2” opening this weekend, it seems like a good time to take a look back at some of Pixar’s earliest work.
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Watch: "Green Lantern" Meets "Duck Dodgers"

  • By Daniel Walber
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  • June 14, 2011 4:49 AM
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“Duck Dodgers,” for those of you unfamiliar, is the best kind of meta-television cartoon entertainment. Starring Daffy Duck and his eternal sidekick Porky Pig, the show aired on Cartoon Network from 2003 to 2006. Spun from an original 1953 Looney Toons short entitled “Duck Dodgers in the 24th ½ Century,” the series followed Daffy-as-superhero through a series of inept adventures across the galaxy. It’s a fantastic blend of classic cartoon elements and a hysterically contemporary sensibility. As you watch, you can just picture the creators having the time of their lives.

Short Starts: "The Trip" Star Rob Brydon Brings His Voice to "Body Beautiful"

  • By Daniel Walber
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  • June 6, 2011 3:43 AM
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Rob Brydon is, to say the least, a man of many voices. His formidable talent for accents and impressions has been a major part of his success, notably with the voiceover work that kicked off his career. It is therefore no surprise that even in “The Trip,” a film so jam-packed with little eccentricities and running jokes, his constant vocal antics become one of the most effective and memorable elements. From his Michael Caine throwdown with Steve Coogan to the incessant lapses into Hugh Grant or Sean Connery, Brydon brings his A-game. Consequently, it seems fitting to take a look at some of his earliest vocal work.
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Short Starts: Watch "X-Men: First Class" Star Michael Fassbender in "Blind Pilots"

  • By Daniel Walber
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  • May 31, 2011 4:38 AM
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A music video is essentially a short film, though we don’t usually think of them as such. We watch them a lot more regularly than theatrically-released shorts, and they’re even more popular than those novelty cute cats/babies videos on YouTube. Nine out of the top ten videos of all time on the site are music videos, with the exception of “Charlie Bit My Finger” (which has inspired some great short films of its own, watch here). So in the interest of getting more people to think about music videos as short films I’ll talk about a video Michael Fassbender did back in 2003.
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Short Starts: "The Hangover Part II" Star Ed Helms in "Zombie-American"

  • By Daniel Walber
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  • May 23, 2011 4:11 AM
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I’d venture to say that there are two highly anticipated films coming out this coming weekend. The first, of course, is Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life,” newly anointed by Robert De Niro and the Cannes Festival Jury with a Palme d’Or. Then there’s “The Hangover Part II,” the excitement for which is a bit different. I’ll be honest: initially I was hoping to write about Malick’s early short film, 1969’s “Lanton Mills.” Unfortunately, not only is it not available anywhere on the web, but to see it at all you have to go to the American Film Institute library. Those of us who don’t live in LA have no such luck.
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The Other Palme d'Or: 6 Marvelous Cannes-Winning Shorts from Years Past

  • By Daniel Walber
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  • May 20, 2011 7:50 AM
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On Sunday, the Cannes Film Festival Jury, headed by Robert De Niro, will be announcing this year’s Palme d’Or. And while that’s certainly exciting, it's easy to overlook its twin award, the Palme d’Or for short film. The honor has existed for almost as long as the festival itself and over the years has jump-started quite a few careers, from Norman McLaren and Albert Lamorisse to Jane Campion and Nuri Bilge Ceylan. One can even trace the origins of the Romanian New Wave to 2004 and the victory of Cătălin Mitulescu’s “Trafic,” a year before his compatriots’ features started raising eyes on the Croisette. So in honor of the award (and because none of this year’s contenders are yet available on the web), here’s a look back at some of the finest work ever to take home a Palme d’Or du court métrage.
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Short Starts: "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" Inspires a Look Back to Donald Duck

  • By Daniel Walber
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  • May 16, 2011 3:50 AM
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As I’m sure everyone is almost excessively aware, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (aka "POTC4") is opening this weekend. This time around Johnny Depp will be sailing around with Penélope Cruz and Ian McShane looking for the Fountain of Youth, perhaps in an attempt to restore the vitality of the franchise. Yet unfortunately for us, neither Cruz nor Depp, nor even director Rob Marshall worked in short film in their own youth. So instead, I thought it’d be fun to take a look back at another Disney film inspired by that elusive spring: 1953’s “Don’s Fountain of Youth.”

TrendSpouting: Suggestions for Scorsese and Lars von Trier's "Five Obstructions" Redo

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • May 13, 2011 8:39 AM
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At Cannes late last night (or early this morning? the time difference confuses me) an official announcement was made that Lars von Trier would make another "The Five Obstructions" documentary, this time with Martin Scorsese. We all heard something like this before, little more than a year ago, when it was rumored-then-denied that the two filmmakers would unite for a "Taxi Driver" redo. I responded at the time (elsewhere) with a list of other suggested -- yet unlikely -- directorial collaborations (also see Film School Rejects' excellent year-old list of 10 Films (and Directors) That Lars Von Trier Should Obstruct). I named the original "Five Obstructions" one of the best docs of the 2000s (specifically it's labeled "the best participatory/first-person doc"), so I'm definitely looking forward to a remake/sequel.

Short Starts: Watch "Hesher" Director Spencer Susser's "I Love Sarah Jane"

  • By Daniel Walber
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  • May 9, 2011 4:14 AM
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When is a zombie movie not a zombie movie? “Hesher” director Spencer Susser answers that question with gusto in his 2008 film “I Love Sarah Jane.” The short does have a zombie, and it’s a pretty classic variety of zombie at that. It looks like a zombie, hungers for human flesh and can infect with zombie-ness by biting you. Yet that’s the extent to which “I Love Sarah Jane” conforms to the genre. The cast of healthy human characters, entirely kids and teenagers, are neither running away from an undead horde nor holed up trying to fight them off. It’s a movie in the context of zombies, but it can’t really be considered a “zombie movie,” and that’s part of what makes it so cool.
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