DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Shorts!

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Osadciw, Mar 12, 2004.

  1. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

    Jun 24, 2003
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    Michael Osadciw

    Film Festival Collection
    Volume 1

    Studio: Razor Digital Entertainment
    Short Film Release Dates: 1999 - 2003

    U.S. Rating: Unrated

    Disc Length: 140 minutes
    Genre: Compilation

    Aspect Ratio: various
    Audio: Dolby Digital (various)
    Languages: English, Danish, Dutch
    Subtitles: English
    Closed Captioned: Yes

    Region Code: N/A
    SLP: US$24.99

    Release Date: March 23, 2004

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    Ok, so we all love our blockbuster film of the week, that heavy drama jerking tears from our eyes, and our favorite classic of the past. The successes of films we love are built on a director’s knowledge, experience, and an ability to work with a team of people on a film project. Each director has a rate before they become successful, and some many never gain the success of others. At least most of them share a common ground: they weren’t always starting off with a hit film.

    Many directors had a passion for films since childhood. I think many of us can relate to having a vision in our minds of a story, or a sequence of events, or maybe just a message, and have a desire to put it together in some form and show it to an audience. So out came an 8mm camera or a video recorder and we roughly put it all together. Some people followed their dreams further and were fortunate to go to film school where they could further their projects to become more educated and determined to make better films. Some of these short films were so good they deserved recognition and awards for what they were. If you are looking for a DVD to add to your collection because if offers something different over the rest of the mainstream content on the shelves today, I will mention the disc to you! Shorts! is the first volume in a series giving the best award-winning short films a broader audience after their release. These films appeared at the Sundance Film Festival, Aspen Shortfest, Starz Denver International Film Festival, Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival, and Tribeca Film Festival.

    I will admit whole-heartedly: there is nothing more entertaining, more mind boggling, and more amazing than watching the works of short films. There are fifteen films on this disc originating from the U.S.A., U.K., Denmark, and The Netherlands. Each of them offers refreshing creativity through their diverse stories and is paced perfectly for maximum effectiveness. Each of these directors come from a variety of backgrounds such as film school and have gone on to do other projects for television shows and art schools. Their creativity could take them on to be the next innovative director in the film industry.

    The Colorado Film Foundation’s goal is to create a semi-archive of award winning short films and allow people to see them on a DVD distributed through Razor Digital Entertainment. Despite winning awards, too often these short films are lost and never recovered as time passes and directors move on with their projects. Shorts! is an excellent opportunity to review these films with the best possible sources available. While the quality of the presentations is variable, they will without doubt be very entertaining for you. I love this DVD!

    Here is a short synopsis of each of the fifteen short films on this disc. I’ve also provided you the origin of each film and their year of release, approximate run times, picture format, and sound format (origin, year, time in min/sec, picture, sound).

    Short Films on Shorts!: Volume 1

    What's Wrong With This Picture? (US ’02, 1.58, 16x9, 5.1&2.0) - It¹s a seemingly idyllic afternoon for Aidan, a three-year-old boy: cookies, Kool-aid and crayons. But when Aidan draws the wrong picture, a horrible nightmare begins.

    Chinese Wall (The Netherlands ’02, 10.20, 4:3lbx, 2.0) - Aagt (Celia Nufaar) is a lonely woman, and the Chinese restaurant is her daily refuge. Here with bitter irony she ruminates over her life. But things aren't always what they seem.

    Dreamscapes (US ’02, 5.59, 4:3lbx, 5.1&2.0) - A fantastic bit of animated imagination takes shape when dreamy vignettes are woven together to form a patchwork of perceptions and memories.

    In Absentia (UK ’02, 5.59, 4:3, 2.0) - An excursion into the precious last moments, feelings and thoughts of a young person's life.

    John and Mia (Denmark ’02, 25.15, 4:3lbx, 2.0) - A touching and emotional tale of an inept father's kind-hearted but clumsy attempt to revive contact with his daughter.

    The World of Interiors (UK ’01, 6.26, 16:9, 5.1&2.0) - A dark comedy about procrastination in which a man becomes entangled in his own domestic web.

    Dad's Dead (UK ’03, 6.39, 5.1&2.0) - Through a series of ghostly reminiscences a young man tries to piece together fragmented moments from the past, memories being triggered by admiration for his best friend Johnno.

    Ready (UK ’02, 18.43, 16:9, 2.0) - Naomi has known all her life that she will succumb to the same fate that has befallen her family for generations. Naomi has accepted her destiny and tells herself that she is ready . . .

    Tenth (US ’02, 3.45, 4:3lbx, 2.0) - Chance encounters, random acts, and the strangers who drift in and out of our lives.

    Pishadoo (US ’99, 22.07, 4:3lbx, 2.0) - Set in a Bronx barbershop, Pishadoo, tells the comedic story of a young man and his quest to learn the family business.

    Sleep (UK ’02, 10.02, 4:3lbx, 2.0) - 26-year-old Arthur has just found out he's dying. He withdraws into a world of his own until he finally realizes where he really belongs.

    Fish Never Sleep (UK ’02, 6.20, 16:9, 5.1&2.0) - Naoko, a complete insomniac, muses wearily over fish bowls, sushi, and the vast fish market near her Tokyo home to the puzzling question: why do fish never sleep?

    Coda (US ’01, 10.29, 4:3lbx, 2.0) - A single violent incident becomes an apocalyptic catalyst for five prep school boys.

    Non-Abductees Anonymous (US ’02, 4.46, 4:3, 2.0) - The goings-on at a support group for people who have NEVER been abducted by aliens. Forlorn and rejected, they go to extremes trying to get the attention of those snobby extraterrestrials.

    Earthquake! UK/US ’02, 1.55, 4:3, 5.1&2.0)- Experience an earthquake first hand with some interesting subjects.

    I enjoyed all of these films, but of course I have my favorites. I’ll mention those here and not in any particular order. The first short is What’s Wrong With This Picture? and effectively shows the child’s nightmare after he draws a picture. It’s a very simple use of animation and the child’s crying is more haunting than any horror flick I’ve seen lately!

    Next up is Chinese Wall, probably my most favorite of the bunch because I know of so many people who are at the same fault as Aagt. It is a perfect example of how not everything is as it seems in our minds. As people we can have a tendency to create our own little stories in our minds regarding the actions of the people around us and believing it without proof. A perfect example of how communicating with others will make us happier individuals.

    Both In Absentia and Dad’s Dead are prime examples of how effective camera work and story telling can haunt the audience to almost a disturbing level. Ready is commended for its excellent acting and the ability to draw me into the woman’s story, and Sleep affects one emotionally without really knowing “the reason why”. I’ll let you see.

    I had to laugh with both The World of Interiors and Non-Abductees Anonymous. The latter was simply hilarious because of its “out of this world” idea (no pun intended!) for a short film. You will get a laugh from that one. …and The World of Interiors, well, I guess I like it because I can relate to this one often enough…and geesh, do I know a few people who are just as procrastinating as this guy in the film!

    VIDEO QUALITY [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    It’s hard to rate this release with stars because the quality of the image varies so much from film to film. Some of them are widescreen enhanced for 16:9 monitors and they look great! Some of them are vividly colourful and others are subdued intentionally. Most of the titles are not widescreen enhanced despite a widescreen ratio. I watched these 4:3 letterboxed films windowboxed on my 16:9 screen so I wouldn’t sacrifice the quality of the video my zooming in the image. The ratios of the films vary, I’m not even sure if there was a method to any of them other than to give it a widescreen look. They don’t look 1.66:1 or 1.85:1, just a mix of everything a little under and above, depending on the title. I’ll take Colorado Film Foundation’s word that these are the best available masters to them, but I don’t doubt that somewhere the original film with better image quality lies elsewhere (hence the loss of one star just for my presumption. Nevertheless, the image is still pleasing, and bitrate is almost always maxed at 10Mbps. Compression artifacts are almost completely absent and other than film and source artifacts there isn’t much to complain about on these low-budget short films. It is expected that most of these films aren’t going to look like a high-budget film. Never once did I let the image impede my enjoyment. Enjoy these films for what they are and be forgiving to the sometimes ‘rough’ nature of them.

    AUDIO QUALITY [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Again, like the video, how can I hold the audio at fault here? The disc does a reputable job in delivering either a 5.1 soundtrack or a 2.0 soundtrack (mono, stereo). The 5.1 mixes aren’t active but sound clean and pleasant. Surprisingly, none of the films sounded horrible and unlistenable. I expected to come across a few shrill sounding soundtracks, but they were all well recorded and always sounded balanced and intelligible.

    SPECIAL FEATURES [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    For what this release is, my rating on the features is based on what could be done with the material presented. I believe those behind this release did what they could to get a good feature and that is a director’s commentary for almost every film. In many instances the director provides two commentaries, one about the film, and the other one technical. Chinese Wall also has a writer’s commentary. Dad’s Dead is the only one without commentary but it has a making of feature instead. Non-Inductees Anonymous also includes the storyboard. Each of these short films have weblinks that offer updated material online. You can access it by placing the DVD in a DVD-ROM drive. An insert is also included and has information about each film inside.


    What else can I say? Go pick up this disc! It’s a wonderfully put together release that you don’t want your DVD collection to miss! The content is great and so are the features - a five out of five! Despite not being the 'average films', you may find yourself watching your favorites over again in a short period of time. I know I have because they touched a nerve in me that bigger films frequently fail to do. It’s my appreciation for the art of filmmaking.

    Michael Osadciw
  2. Dick

    Dick Producer

    May 22, 1999
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    Nice review. Sounds intriguing. I often wonder why there aren't compilations (that I am aware of) of all the year's Oscar-nominated short films - we see millisecond excerpt flashes during the awards broadcast and have no idea what these films are about... they do not get distributed in theaters anywhere near where I live, and might at best show up unannounced between movies on The Movie Channel or on PBS. Is there a good source on DVD of such films, collected together?
  3. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

    Jun 24, 2003
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    Michael Osadciw

    I agree there should be a compilation set, and hopefully this release will get the ball rolling on a project of that sort.

  4. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

    Feb 24, 1999
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    Excellent review. Looking forward to picking up this disc. It's a DVD I would have known nothing about except for reading this review. Thanks Michael!

    -dave [​IMG]
  5. Robert Hutchison

    Aug 19, 2001
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    There has been atleast two compilations of Academy Award nominated short films released on DVD. Questar Entertainment has just released a DVD of all of the short films (both animated and live action) nominated for Oscars in 2003. Disc title is "75th Annual Academy Awards Short Films". Questar's website is www.questar1.com If you want more like this be sure to order this one. Maybe they will be encouraged enough to put a a DVD of this years Academy Award nominated shorts.

    Also a few years ago Atom Films put out a DVD with most of the Oscar nominees from the 72nd Academy Awards. The title was "The Road To The Awards" It had seven of the eight nominated shorts on it. I believe that this one is out of print now that Atom Films no longer produces DVD's.

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