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SHORT 7: Utopia

Warner Home Video

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Is the short film a dying art form? Is there any practicality to it? Many people find them pointless. Studios have a tough time selling them to an audience. You can't see them at major movie theaters, since few people will pay money to watch something that's less than half an hour long. Rarely do we see them on television either, as they're either too short or too long to fit in the allotted time given. The people who make the short films seldom get recognition for their work either. It's too bad. While there are many shorts out there that are undeserving of notice, there are many that are. It's nice then to see DVDs like Short Cinema Journal showcase this mistreated art form.

Short Cinema Journal (or just SHORT for short) is a DVD series distributed by Warner Brothers every few months or so that spotlight notable examples of short films from a wide variety of genres and styles. Past issues of the series have had classic shorts like "La Jetee", the inspiration for the film "12 Monkeys", the Holocaust portrait "Night and Fog", and "Some Folks Call It A Sling Blade", Billy Bob Thornton's short work that was expanded into the feature-length Sling Blade. Each issue compiles films with a particular theme to it, be it "Seduction," "Diversity," or "Insanity." SHORT 7, deals with Utopia and how various filmmakers tackle ideal perfection in its many guises.

This disc, as with most in the SHORT series, is set up in five sections: Narrative, Experimental, Documentary, Interview, and Music. Within each lies the films that relate to each category. Here's a look at what's in SHORT 7: Utopia:

The picture quality on SHORT 7: Utopia varies from film to film. Several of the shorts are shot on video, and in these the picture isn't as sharp as the ones on celluloid. However, none of the selections suffer from any major defects. Audio for all of the films is Dolby Digital 5.1, with the alternate tracks in standard 2.0 stereo. Included along with the films is the "Junk Drawer," extra tidbits that run from trailers (Eyes Wide Shut) to juvenile jokes ("See Food") to the classic video fireplace.

The SHORT series of DVDs are great discs to have, as they're affordable and offer viewers a wide array of films to choose from. There's always at least two or three that are worth the price. Unfortunately, SHORT 7: Utopia is the weakest of the series to date, but it's still worth picking up if you're a fan and/or completist. For people interested in shorts who are hankering for a fix of mini-flicks, the Short Cinema Journal series is one of the few places where you can find quality stuff on DVD, although you should start with an earlier issue and work up to this one. As for an answer to whether or not the short film is a dying art form, it most definitely will thrive as long as DVDs like the SHORT series continue to spark interest in the format, small as it may be.

— Steve Firstenburg

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