Something to Watch: “Victor”

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Have you ever had a moment as a kid where you were completely alone? You know the kind. The one where your mind starts to wonder, your imagination brings the toys around you to life and the characters become a new kind of company. Well, some people have those imaginary adventures well into adulthood.

Enter today’s short film, Victor, the latest addition to the Vimeo Staff Picks playlist and the latest effort from directing duo Yeah Haus.The subject of the piece, a lonely craftsman named Victor, whose story wanders through the themes of “imagination, solitude and the sometimes blindfolded quest for happiness”. It’s a quiet, atmospheric and heartwarming seven minutes. Take a look!

For more about Victor, you can visit the film’s official site.

Something to Watch: “HENRi” & “Atropa”

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The very nature of the independent, low-budget films that I like to talk about means that the concepts are usually pretty grounded. A lot of the more fantastical settings and stories that catch my geeky eye, such as science-fiction, fantasy, or superheroes, tend to go unexplored. It’s a wonder, then, that I’m only now finding out about the works of filmmaker Eli Sasich. It’s not often I get to talk about space-based films, so here we go!

Atropa

Let’s start off with Sasich’s latest project, a proof-of-concept short film released just a few days ago. Inspired by such sci-fi films as Alien and Blade Runner, Atropa takes a look at a detective investigating the disappearance of a research vessel. With some nice performances and a lot of really impressive effects, this is a fascinating watch.

HENRi

Consider the last video a pre-show to the feature presentation. This twenty-minute short film received it’s funding through a Kickstarter campaign back in 2010. After two years of production and a year of touring the festivals, it’s finally been released online.

HENRi uses a combination of small-scale sets, puppetry and live-action to tell the tragic but heartwarming story of a lonely robot left to ponder the meaning of human nature. Some beautiful cinematography, heartbreaking performances and a passionate score allow this film to really shine. Whether you’re a sci-fi nut like me or a philosophical enthusiast, this is a must-watch.

Click the link below to watch on Vimeo.

For those of you who still want something you can play in this post, I’ve got something extra for you. Before the release of HENRi, the short video I Dream Electric was released. Seeming to be the sort of prototype to HENRiElectric contains some of the opening fottage from the last short, and acts as a great music video for “Everything Speaks” by Diamond Rings.

When all is said and done, this is one filmmaker to keep an eye on.

For more on Eli Sasich’s work, you can visit his Vimeo page.

Something to Watch: “Gabriel in the Dreamscape”

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“Gabriel is a cartoon character living in the real world”, reads the video description of Eric Lerner’s latest project, Gabriel in the Dreamscape. The short film gives a a brief glimpse at a fusion of CG animation and live-action, with well choreographed skateboarding animation and a gritty documentary film style. At the very least, here is a cool little video to start off your day, so take a look!

The rest of the description gives one the impression that this is intended as a sort of proof-of-concept video and that, with enough support, Lerner will be more likely to secure funding for more Gabriel videos. With that in mind, even though I don’t get much of a story out of this, I’d love to see what this can develop into. So if you want to see more of this, make sure to share and make your voice heard.

To find more of Eric Lerner’s work, you can check out his Vimeo page, or visit his official site.

Something to Watch: “Fear of Flying”

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As I said in my last post, I have been combing through the interwebs for short films based on the holiday season and winter in general. In my quest, I’ve found this fun, award-winning short film about what happens when the birds fly south for winter. It’s two years old and didn’t have enough to do with the holidays to make my “Jingle Things” series. But if you haven’t seen it already, you should definitely watch Fear of Flying.

I love this one! I love the simple-but-clever premise. I love the combination of puppetry and animation. I love the character designs and the coloring. It’s a very pretty looking piece.

If you’re looking for a little more, there’s also this brief behind-the-scenes clip below. You can also check out animator Conor Finnegan’s other work on Vimeo, here. He’s a talented guy and his work is very much worth checking out.

You can find Conor Finnegan on Tumblr, here.

Something to Watch: “Displacement Welcomed”

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Here’s something cool to check out. Filmmaker Evan Kidd and his crew over at RockSet Productions have just released a new short film, Displacement Welcomed. The film focuses on a young woman, Skylar (Avery Hobbs), and her unlikely friendship with a homeless woman named Norma (April Vickery). And you can watch it, in full, right now!

As director, Evan deserves a lot of credit for his work. The 16-minute short does a great job of providing a calm yet engaging environment, and is filled with great cinematography. The story, a tale of two troubled individuals finding solace in each other, is brought to life pretty well by the film’s cast. It’s a nice, feel-good piece that’s definitely worth a look.

You can find out more about Displacement Welcomed by going to the official site. And you can check out the rest of RockSet Productions’ work at their official site.

Something to Watch: “Birdman”

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Oscar season is officially upon us, and it’s time for some of the biggest names in the business to get in on the independent film game. Among these efforts, one of the most notable entries is an ambitious tragicomedy directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Enter the dizzying world of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), a darkly-humorous satire of show business in the 21st century.

(Note: The clips embedded in this post contain some vulgar language. NSFW)

We’re introduced to Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton, of Batman fame), a washed-up actor once known for playing a popular superhero, the titular Birdman, in a series of Hollywood blockbusters. Having left the role quite some time ago, with a slow decline in fame ever since, Riggan hopes to get his career back on track by starring in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. In the days leading up to opening night, Riggan wrestles with a strained relationship with his daughter Sam (Emma Stone), the renegade actions of lead actor Mike (Edward Norton) and, above and beyond all else, his own ego.

The first thing you’ll notice about this film is the cinematography. There are only a couple of standard “cuts” in this movie, as every scene in the movie will go on for 10 to 20 minutes at a time on a single take. The camera bobs and weaves from room to room, always focusing on a close-up shot. And most of the scene transitions are handled so smoothly, you may not even notice when they happen. It all comes together to create an environment of blissful confusion and spiraling delirium.

(Note: The clips embedded in this post contain some vulgar language. NSFW)

That’s all to say nothing of the performances from the actors, which are all exemplary. The film employs an all-star cast which includes, in addition to the above listed, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough and Amy Ryan among others. Each turning in strong comedic and dramatic performances. In particular, Keaton provides one of the most fascinating and entertaining performances of his carer, balancing his ego and arrogance with the a genuine desire to impress and leave his mark on the world.

I was entranced by this movie from beginning to end. I enjoyed the laughs (and there are plenty), while contemplating the film’s questions about dramatic ambition, the importance of social media and the ideas of where you stand in the grand scheme of things. It’s a technical achievement filled with grade-A performances and challenging ideas. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot about this one, come February.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is now playing in select theaters. For more info, you can visit the official site at BirdmanTheMovie.com.