The One-Man Oscar After-Party

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Well, the Oscars have come and gone. And what a show. Neil Patrick Harris was fantastic as host, we had a couple of heartfelt speeches and we had some amazing nominees. This has been one of the strongest Oscar seasons I’ve seen in years, not to mention the first time I’ve gotten the chance to see every nominated movie and short film before the ceremony.

So here’s what I’m gonna do today: for a few select awards from last night’s show, I’ll pull from a list of the nominees and recommend one of the ones that didn’t win the Oscar. Here we go!

Best Live-Action Short: Parvaneh

This is a really hard one to choose and, really, I recommend that you look up all of the nominees. The fact the my personal favorite, The Phone Call, won the award last night isn’t making this any easier. But if I had to choose one, I would recommend Pavaneh. 

Pavaneh focuses on an immigrant from Afghanistan trying to send money to her family overseas to pay their doctor. In her struggles, she ends up developing a friendship with a native citizen who tries to show her life in the city. It’s a captivating piece, well worth a watch.

Best Animated Short: The Dam Keeper

Again, if you can find a way to see all of the nominees this year, you should. Each and every one of these is a gem. But my favorite of the bunch is The Dam Keepper.

The Dam Keeper focuses on a young pig with an important job, keep the dam up and the windmill running. Keep the darkness at bay. For his troubles, he is ridiculed and ostracized at his school, until he develops a friendship with a newly-arrived student.

Nearly dialogue-less, this short is able to sell all of it’s emotion off of the animation and a few stock sound effects. It’s a beautiful and heartwarming piece.

Best Feature Film: Whiplash

Once again, a tough choice, made even harder by the fact that my favorite, Birdman, took home the gold. I also know that my choice is not going to be a popular one, but my second favorite movie this last year was Whiplash.

Whiplash focuses on college-age drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) who get swept up into the top competing jazz class. These “studio players” are led by the conductor Terrance Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an abusive teacher whose aggressive treatment pushes Andrew to the extreme in the pursuit of Fletcher’s approval. What results is an intense and thought-provoking look at the unhealthy addiction to accomplishment, filled with stellar performances and an enticing jazz soundtrack.

What were your favorites this year? Let me know in the comments!

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: “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: “HitRECord on TV: Season 1”

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Before we start, a disclaimer: I’m very biased about this one. See, I actually appear, for a quarter-of-a-second, in three episodes of this TV show. Because of this, I initially didn’t think it would be a good idea to write about this one. But I legitimately believe that, if you’ve been interested in anything I’ve talked about on this blog, you’re very likely to enjoy this show. Just be aware that this is a project that I’m, in a small part, a part of.

Anyhow, have you ever heard of HitRecord? Well, it’s a production company, founded by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, that’s a little bit different than other companies. HitRecord works with an online community of artists who work together on projects of all kinds Whenever a project becomes commercially viable, the company looks to find ways to distribute it, sharing the profits with the artists that worked on it. They’ve published everything from books, to albums, to short films.

Earlier this year, they made a TV show.

Consisting of eight episodes for it’s first season and airing on cable network PivotHitRecord on TV premiered last January and has recently been made available as a box set. It’s a variety show, hosted by Gordon-Levitt, that showcases short films, animations, music videos and documentaries made by the community. Each episode also has a theme, including examples such as space, money and patterns among others.

I would talk more about my opinions on the show but, again, I don’t exactly have a lot of credibility on this subject. Suffice to say, I’ve really enjoyed the show, whether I was in the episode or not, and I’d recommend it wholeheartedly. However, HitRecord has put the first episode of the show “Re: The Number One” up on their YouTube page, so you can take a look for yourself and see what you think.

If you liked it as much as I did, there are several ways to watch the rest of the season. Pivot still airs the show on several occasions and you can also download every episode on iTunes and Amazon. Most recently, the show has become available as a box set, which includes collectible books about the show and downloads for the season’s episodes. You can find that here.

Oh, and if you want to see what I do on the HitRecord site, you can visit my profile, JustCallMeRyan.

Something to Watch: “Too Many Cooks”

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Well, there’s no use trying to deny it. Rolling Stone wrote about it. The Atlantic wrote about it. Other art sites like It’s Nice That have written about itToo Many Cooks is a thing, and I’m running just a tad late to the party.

See, from time to time, the comedy network [adult swim] produces eleven-minute shorts and airs them on the graveyard slot of 4am. A week later, they’ll often upload these shorts to their official YouTube channel. In a somewhat unusual case, their most recent effort has reached viral status, following it’s upload. I’ll go ahead and say ahead of time that Too Many Cooks is rather NSFW. I’d give reasons why but, as The Atlantic would tell you, the less you know about this short going in, the more likely you are to enjoy it.

That was really well done! The joke about a never-ending TV theme song is funny enough, but to then transcend the sitcom parody and lampoon cop shows, sci-fi shows and even G.I. Joe makes this video something else entirely. Clearly, a lot of thought went into this, and it’s paying off. To give credit where credit’s due, there aren’t a whole lot of networks that would invest money in weird, one-off projects like this. [adult swim] does so for seemingly little purpose other than showcasing them, and that says wonders about who they are and how they do businesses.

Now, as evidence of the short’s popularity, I leave you with a fan-made 8-bit rendition of the theme song from Too Many Cooks.

You can find more from [adult swim] by visiting their official site and YouTube channel.

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.