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SHORT 6: Insanity

Thanks to the Internet and its almost unlimited distribution potential, independent film is currently enjoying something of a renaissance. For the cost of constructing a web site, filmmakers can now provide their artistic endeavors to the general public on demand, effectively acting as their own distributor. This year's biggest indie hit, The Blair Witch Project, was the first film to successfully harness the marketing power of the 'Net, with an advertising campaign that owed much of its success to the power of cyberspace buzz. SHORT (formerly Short Cinema Journal) is the logical extension of the current indie film trend. This bi-monthly DVD anthology compiles the best American and foreign short movies onto a single disc, taking extensive advantage of the increased storage medium to provide a smorgasbord of extra features, including director commentaries, production notes, and similar items for each cinematic offering. Since its inception, SHORT has developed a reputation as the premiere source for quality shorts. The publication's sixth volume, Insanity, is now on the street, and is arguably the most interesting -- if not the most artistically satisfying -- to date. As usual, the material is widely varied in terms of subject matter and production value, ranging from Hollywood-quality to "Little Boy with a Camcorder." Even when the films aren't entirely successful, however, the shorts possess enough spunk to make them entertaining. This volume's standout offerings include the charming "Franky Goes to Hollywood" -- a hilarious documentary about Franky, the canine co-star of such blockbusters as Godzilla and Armageddon -- and "Black Coffee," a sadistic dark comedy about the game show industry that alone justifies the cost of the DVD. Not every offering in the collection is as well-crafted, however. Although David Birdsell's "Blue City" has taken the top prize at eleven different film festivals, the short's admittedly interesting execution is not enough to mask its lack of coherent narrative. Nor does Amy Winfrey's animated offering, "The Bad Plant," succeed in justifying its inclusion -- although the Dr. Seuss-like story is moderately interesting (and charmingly narrated), the actual animation is disappointingly mundane. Nonetheless, Insanity succeeds more often than not, and belongs in the DVD collection of any SHORT fan. This volume is an excellent value, containing nine shorts, many of which offer filmmaker commentary or behind-the-scenes footage. For those new to the series, this is a great introduction.
—Joe Barlow

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