The 5th Short Film Hall of Fame

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Guy who likes movies
I love early cinema. Have you seen the 1910 Frankenstein?
Not yet, but it is included as a special feature on the Arrow blu ray of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which I recently picked up. I plan on checking it out soon.



Next time , be more specific.
Not yet, but it is included as a special feature on the Arrow blu ray of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which I recently picked up. I plan on checking it out soon.
It's on YouTube as well.



What a great range of films! I've only seen two of them. Since I just watched The House is Black a few months ago, I'm reposting my review of it:



The House is Black, 1963

This short documentary film captures glimpses of the lives of men, women, and children living in a leper "colony" in Iran.

This is a very brief, but moving portrait of the lives of people living with a disfiguring, frightening disease. While there are a few isolated shots of the effects of leprosy, most of the images of the people are in action: children in a classroom, a woman nursing a baby, men smoking pipes or cigarettes against a wall. The drooping eyelids, missing noses, and mangled fingers are all normal in this setting.

Underneath it all, there is narration consisting of religious text and poetry from the woman who made the film. There is an undercurrent of irony as the chanting students thank God for giving them eyes . . . even as leprosy is robbing them of their vision.

The final shots, however, give a call to action. Leprosy is treatable. If the poor are treated well, the disease can be eradicated. It is a push for compassion, to replace fear with love and caring.






Brats, 1930

Two fathers (Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy) are looking after their sons (also Laurel and Hardy). The two men are trying to enjoy a quiet game of checkers, but their sons' antics keep interrupting their game with increasingly disastrous results.

I have a real love for practical effects, and I am especially a sucker for the use of oversized props (a la that one sequence in Eternal Sunshine). So a lot of this short was really playing to something that I totally enjoy: the "boys" playing with large blocks, or climbing the stairs, or romping around on the dresser. All of the sets were really well done, especially the oversized bathroom.

If I had things my way, the entire short would have centered on the boys. As it is, we get several stretches of hanging out with the "dads". And it's not bad stuff, but the stuff with the kids is so fun that I found myself a bit impatient whenever we left them.

This was a really fun little romp.






Hedgehog in the Fog, 1975

A small hedgehog (Mariya Vinogradova) goes on a journey to visit his friend, and encounters many other creatures along the way.

This is my nomination and I have watched it countless times. I have also used it with my elementary students in a lesson about mood. I absolutely love this film.

For starters, I am totally taken by the visual style of it, which blends two-dimensional figures with "live" and real elements, like water and some sort of sea creature. The short leans heavily into the perspective of the hedgehog, and there are so many beautiful moments that capture his point of view, like when he thinks he sees an elephant only to follow a stick toward the object and find it to be a tree, which slowly rotates above him. I find this to be a really beautiful film, right down to the little details like the way that the hedgehog clasps his hands behind him in the early minutes.

There is a fun little sense of humor that runs through the short, such as the way that the hedgehog knows exactly what the bear will say when he arrives, right down to the "what do you call it . . ." or the way that the owl following him gets so easily distracted by the echo. The unexpected encounter with the dog, and the surprise ending to it, is also up there.

What I love most about this short is its mood. It fills me with a simultaneous sense of melancholy and hope and something else I can't quite name. I am very aware when I watch it that I feel a lot of feelings. Every encounter that the hedgehog has walks a line between fear or sadness and beauty. Obviously the horse is the key example of this, but I also like the seemingly-sinister "Someone" that carries him safely to shore as a favor. There is an atmosphere to this short that just goes right to my heart.

Totally enchanting, and one of my favorite films, period.




Also, the version that I watched tonight (the top result on YouTube) had pretty funky subtitles. I found one that has much better subtitles:




This is definitely manageable for my busy schedule so I might join in. What's the deadline to jump in?

EDIT: 5/29! Great. I already have two shorts in mind, but I'll give it some thought.
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Night and Fog is another recent watch for me (and I'm shocked it hasn't won any previous short HoFs!! And I imagine it would win this one!). Here's my review:



Night and Fog, 1956

This documentary, filmed ten years after the end of WW2, recounts the creation of the concentration camps and the suffering of those unfortunate enough to end up in them.

Despite the mostly sedate tone of the narrator, this film is like a howl against the cruelties that people can inflict on each other.

Watching this film, I felt the way that I often do when confronted with cruelty on this scale and scope---it is almost beyond comprehension, and it's like looking into a nightmarish abyss. My grandfather was present at the liberation of one of the concentration camps (I want to say Buchenwald), and my mother said that he was never the same after what he saw there.

There is almost nothing that I can say about this film. It is heartbreaking in the sense of the the entire scale of it but also down to little details, like footage of a man carrying a nude, emaciated corpse slung over his shoulder. The outraged question at the end of the film--"Who is responsible?" feels like an indictment that reaches far beyond the Nazi leadership.




Next time , be more specific.
@Citizen Rules

Great nomination. I have seen several films about the Nazi concentration camps and this was the one that had the most impact on me.

I own the Criterion dvd of this as well as Shoah.



BRATS

This is not one that I'd recommend to an L&H newcomer, just because it's a bit gimmicky and therefore an anomaly in the catalog. That said, it's still lots of fun. I actually prefer the moments when Stan & Ollie are their usual selves, so my favorite bit is probably the game of pool, and Stan's attempt at harmonizing on the lullaby. Ollie's ride down the stairway is one of their more memorable sight gags.
As for the kid stuff, the oversized props are impressive, especially considering they were constructed for a 20 minute two-reeler. The animated mouse was fun also.
As a massive fan, this is one that I often neglect so this excuse to revisit it was welcome.
(I almost went with an L&H nomination myself, in fact)
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Since I already have a review for this one, I figured I'd post it now.

The House is Black (1963) -


This short is one of my favorite films of all time. I didn't expect to love it as much as I did when I first saw it considering how poor the quality of the film is (some of the subtitles blend into the background, making them difficult to make out), but by the time I finished it, I was blown away by it.

The line "Leprosy is not incurable" is repeated twice throughout an opening sequence which states facts about leprosy, almost as if to make sure the meaning of that line isn't lost concerning the grisly images we see of the people with the disease. This monologue also indicates that the people we see suffering in the film could be cured of this disease. It's just that the government failed to take care of them as, instead of solving the problem, they herded them into the colony documented in the short, leaving them to further deteriorate. Instead of this scene coming off as preachy, this unspoken message is implied rather than directly stated, making for a powerful scene. Regardless of whether you pick up on this implication or not, it still manages to get under your skin.

Farrokhzad also does a great job at exploring the ironies of the daily lives of the people in the colony, specifically with religion. Multiple sequences indicate that religion is a major part of their cultures. In one scene, a group of kids thank God for giving them hands, eyes, and ears - features which many people in the colony don't have. In another powerful moment, a man holds his withered hands in the air and refers to them while reciting a prayer. This is followed by a sequence which cuts between a group of people practicing religion and several shots of people with deformed body parts, in turn creating tension through the editing. Watching this, you can't help but wonder why all these people thank God for giving them gifts which many of them don't have. It seems likely that religion is an abstract concept in their lives and they don't think much about the words and prayers they say.

In addition, a few sequences in the film stuck out as especially powerful. The first of which shows a couple women putting on makeup and brushing their hair. Seeing this, it's clear that, in spite of their facial and bodily features, many of the women in the colony still make an effort to look beautiful or to find light in their current situations. Another scene shows a group of boys playing ball together. Unlike a number of the older people we see in the colony, their mobility doesn't seem to be effected by their disease. The deformed facial features on a number of them are hard to ignore though and, considering how the shot which immediately follows this sequence shows a man with one leg using crutches to walk down a path, the short seems to suggest that those boys will end up like the old man unless they're cured of their disease (one effective shot which occurs earlier shows a man giving his crutch to a boy to play with). The classroom scene at the end is also worth mentioning. Something about the scene, specifically some of the answers the boys give to their teacher, makes it feel staged. It just seems too suited for the messages Farrokhzad wants to send to have naturally occurred. While I usually find staged scenes like this to be jarring in documentaries, I didn't mind it so much in here as it's still able to make for a devastating critique of religion.

Overall, this is a perfect short. Instead of solely raising awareness for the issue documented in it, Farrokhzad has several artistic points which she incorporates into the dialogue and the visuals of the film quite phenomenally. Sadly, Farrokhzad died shortly after this film was released, making this the only film she ever directed. Who knows what else she could've given us? However, this film will forever stand as a masterpiece to me and, if you can get by the occasional issues with the subtitles, you're in for a great treat with it.

Next Up: Brats



I'm excited to jump into this, which I hope to do later this week. I'm especially excited about the Matthew Holness movie since Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is one of the funniest shows I've ever watched.

I watched my pick, Shell All, at the 2016 Atlanta Film Festival. If you don't like it, you'll at least be able to win Letterboxd contests for least-watched movies since only 18 users have seen it!



If you don't like it, you'll at least be able to win Letterboxd contests for least-watched movies since only 18 users have seen it!
This made me curious to see how many people had seen one of my nominations from the last Shorts HoF, Flankers. Apparently 20 have, so it's only slightly less obscure than yours haha.

Another of the films from that HoF, Bomb, also only has 18 views. Next closest is 49.

Edit: wrote "more" instead of "less"



This made me curious to see how many people had seen one of my nominations from the last Shorts HoF, Flankers. Apparently 20 have, so it's only slightly more obscure than yours haha.

Another of the films from that HoF, Bomb, also only has 18 views. Next closest is 49.
I'm surprised my pick has so few views because it played at many other film festivals. I can only assume that a lot of Letterboxd users don't know they have short films in their database or that they just don't bother to log them.

Oh well. What they lose in completeness, we gain in smugness.



I'm excited to jump into this, which I hope to do later this week. I'm especially excited about the Matthew Holness movie since Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is one of the funniest shows I've ever watched.
I still haven't seen that so I can't say how this short compares, but I find it funny.

(Just learned that I can stream Garth for free! Nice. That wasn't the case last time I looked for it.)





Malice in Wonderland, 1982

[Insert plot summary here, LOL!]

I'm generally not super into the whole trope of taking a child's story or folk tale and making it "adult". Partly because I think it's been done to death (not always poorly, per se) and partly because I've always felt that too often the driving force is just a bit juvenile in trying to be edgy.

But I still quite enjoyed this short, mainly because it manages to avoid a lot of pitfalls that could have easily made it off-putting.

To start with, I appreciated that the women in the film were drawn as adults. Using a child character in a sexual way is kind of iffy, and I was glad that the Alice figures here don't seem to be intended as children (or even teens). Despite the overall gruesome aesthetic, I did have to laugh at one point because they couldn't resist throwing in an extended sequence with a woman with porn proportions. But generally everything is so bizarre that the nudity/sexuality feels like part of the nightmare.

The pace of the film is also unrelenting, which works in its favor. By refusing to linger on anything, it sweeps you up in its momentum. And given the absolute barrage of images and noises, keeping that momentum is key. Fortunately, this is not a short that overstays its welcome, and at 4 minutes it seems like it's just the right runtime. Less would not have felt coherent, but more would have grown tiring.

Despite the whole "but sex and disturbing" aspect that is the dominant vibe, my favorite sequences were the ones that played with recursion or tessellation, such as the "lifting the teacup" sequence or the part where the queen's face is assembled out of tessellated flying birds.