SHORT 8: Vision
Warner Home Video
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For those unfamiliar with Warner Brother's quarterly DVDs entitled SHORT, the series collects short films from around the world. Each volume's films are tied together by a common theme. The latest, SHORT 8, is subtitled "Vision" and it's the most ambiguous one yet. Past volumes have dealt with issues such as seduction, diversity, or utopia, but the idea of vision in a film is less clear unless you think of the directors all having a vision of what their films are to be about. In any case, each volume of the series separates the shorts within a number of different categories. In SHORT 8 there are four of them: Narrative, Documentary, Music, and Spoken Word. Here's a rundown of each film.
- The Cinema Ticket: This cute film from Norway is about a young boy who desperately wants to see his favorite film and does anything he can to raise the money to see it. Director Gunnar Vikene does a wonderful job of capturing the innocence of childhood and the joy many of us have of seeing a favorite film.
- true.: This is the short that was responsible for the Budweiser "Whassup" ads. If you've seen the commercials, you've seen this short. Depending on the number of times one has seen the ads and what kind of effect they've had, you'll either love this one or hate it. It's a shame the Superfriends parody wasn't included as well. Charles Stone III directed "true." as well as the commercials so he's milking the "Whassup" craze for all its worth be it good or bad.
- Sky Above, Heaven Below: A 35mm short by University of Miami student Chi Chi Zhang that deals with a young girl in pre-Revolutionary China. It's a rather unexceptional short. It looks good but the story is dull and the acting sub par but since its a student film, these can be somewhat forgiven. There is an additional video track that shows the storyboards as well as a commentary track by Zhang who starts out talking about the film but by the end is giving her Oscar speech by thanking everyone she knows. It's a bit premature for her to be doing this even if she did win the Nation Student Film Competion in Fort Lauderdale.
- Number One Fan: Amy Talkington, one of Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces of Independent Film, directed this story of a teenage girl who encounters a photographer and his friends who take her to their home to be photographed. Of course this can only mean a load of trouble for the girl and the friends. The short suffers from poor cinematography. There's an audio commentary by Amy and her brother who stars as the photographer. Neither have much to say about the film and a lot of it is spent in silence.
- Tag der Freiheit (Day of Freedom): This is the highlight of the disc. A rare short by controversial but acclaimed filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl shot not too long after "Triumph of the Will". The film shows the Nazi Army training for combat in 1935. Despite the grim subject matter, the film is amazing and acts as an effective piece of propaganda. There is an additional audio track by historian Robert von Dassanowsky, Ph. D where he gives an overview of the life and work of Riefenstahl as well as the controversy that surrounds much of her work.
- Why Liberace?: Why indeed. This interactive documentary allows the viewer to pick a topic on the late entertainer. Most of these are related to the legacy he left behind including his fans and imitators. The short is good only for its kitsch subject manner.
- Kite: a beautifully animated short based on the works of artist William Turner that incorporates traditional 2-D animation as well as 3-D computer animation. The director, Alina Hiu-Fan Chau, provides an additional commentary as well as a composition test and a model of the 3-D computer animated ship seen in the film.
- Serpent and the Sandman: A performance piece on Ben Porter Lewis, a spoken word artist, as he recites the title work in the Nevada desert. This digital video short by director Gordon Bijelonic isn't anything special but will appeal to fans of spoken word. There is an additional video track that is an interview with Lewis who talks about his work and the art of spoken word.
All of the films look as good as they can be considering the sources. Most of them are shot on a low-budget and so they don't have the glossy look that a lot of films have. Even "Sky Above, Heaven Below", shot in 35mm, looks just so-so. The audio on all of the films is in Dolby Digital. Whether they're in 5.1 or 2.0 all depends on who you believe. On the box, it says 2.0 Dolby Digital but when the disc is in the player, it says 5.1. Either way, the films sound as good as they can.
The SHORT series is a good deal. They're inexpensive and there's always a few worthy films on each disc to merit buying. The best films for this reviewer were "Tag Der Freiheit", "The Cinema Ticket", and "Kite" but for someone else, there might be another that'll be of interest. Give SHORT 8 or any other in the series a shot. You'll go away pleasantly surprised.
- Digitally Mastered picture and audio
- Additional video tracks (on select shorts)
- Additional audio tracks (on select shorts)
Get it at Reel.com
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