Saturday, January 3, 2009

A warm welcome to "Short Cuts," the new stronghold of short films!

Well, perhaps I'm exaggerating.

This blog (my third, as avid readers will note) was initially envisioned as a team project with Josh Tschantret (a.k.a. fake_username), but he went off and created a short film blog all by himself, so now we have what I would consider a healthy rivalry. In any case, if my musings aren't enough for you, please feel free to head over there and browse.

Cinema was born as the short film. From the earliest days of Roundhay Garden Scene (1888) until the mid-1910s, films running less than one hour were the norm. Believe it or not, it was we Australians who broke the mould, producing the feature-length The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) [only fragments of this film remain today, and have been excellently restored by the National Film and Sound Archive.

Once features became dominant, due largely to the efforts of D.W. Griffith, it seems that short films fell mostly out of favour. Today, they are usually seen as inferior cinema, allowing budding directors to explore new techniques and make a name for themselves. Though this is certainly true in many cases, I remain adamant that masterpieces are just as common among short-subjects as they are among features, and this blog allows an avenue through which I can demonstrate this.
Just to get the ball rolling, here are my fifty favourite short films of all time, as of today. My interest skews slightly more towards animation than live-action (and you'll note a particular preference for Soviet animation), but I nonetheless think that it's a adequately eclectic selection:

1) Skazka skazok {Tale of Tales} (1979, Yuriy Norshteyn)
2) The Old Mill (1937, Wilfred Jackson)
3) La Jetée {The Pier} (1962, Chris Marker)
4) Le Voyage à travers l'impossible {The Impossible Voyage} (1904, Georges Méliès)
5) Yozhik v tumane {Hedgehog in the Fog} (1975, Yuriy Norshteyn)
6) Le Voyage dans la lune {A Trip to the Moon} (1902, Georges Méliès)
7) The Old Man and the Sea (1999, Aleksandr Petrov)
8) Geri’s Game (1997, Jan Pinkava)
9) The Tell-Tale Heart (1953, Ted Parmelee)
10) The Fountain of Youth (1958, Orson Welles)

11) Zhiltsy starogo doma {The Lodgers of an Old House} (1987, Alexei Karaev)
12) A Warning to the Curious (1972, Lawrence Gordon Clark)
13) Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968, Jonathan Miller)
14) Feed the Kitty (1952, Chuck Jones)
15) The Signalman (1976, Lawrence Gordon Clark)
16) One Froggy Evening (1955, Chuck Jones)
17) Suur Tõll {Toell the Great} (1980, Rein Raamat)
18) Partie de campagne {A Day in the Country} (1936, Jean Renoir)
19) Moya lyubov {My Love} (2006, Aleksandr Petrov)
20) Mest kinematograficheskogo operatora {The Cameraman's Revenge} (1912, Wladyslaw Starewicz)

21) The Fall of the House of Usher (1928, James Sibley Watson, Melville Webber)
22) Frank Film (1973, Caroline Mouris, Frank Mouris)
23) Zhil-byl pyos {There was a Dog} (1981, Eduard Nazarov)
24) Vesennie Melodii {Spring Melodies} (1946, Dmitry Babichenko)
25) A Corner in Wheat (1909, D.W. Griffith)
26) Son smeshnogo cheloveka {The Dream of a Ridiculous Man} (1992, Aleksandr Petrov)
27) Romance sentimentale {Sentimental Romance} (1930, Grigori Aleksandrov, Sergei M. Eisenstein)
28) Precious Images (1986, Chuck Workman)
29) Korova {Cow} (1989, Aleksandr Petrov)
30) Pas de deux {Duet} (1968, Norman McLaren)

31) Skazki Lesa {Forest Tales} (1997, Elena Petkevich)
32) Polizeibericht Überfall {Assault} (1928, Ernö Metzner)
33) Film (1965, Alan Schneider)
34) Ugly Duckling (1939, Jack Cutting)
35) Nuit et brouillard {Night and Fog} (1955, Alain Resnais)
36) Steklyannaya garmonika {The Glass Harmonica} (1968, Andrey Khrzhanovskiy)
37) Window Water Baby Moving (1959, Stan Brakhage)
38) The Key to Reserva (2007, Martin Scorsese)
39) Duck Amuck (1953, Chuck Jones)
40) Un chien andalou {An Andalusian Dog} (1929, Luis Buñuel)

41) More (1998, Mark Osborne)
42) Flowers and Trees (1932, Burt Gillett)
43) Tsaplya i zhuravl {The Heron and the Crane} (1974, Yuriy Norshteyn)
44) The Thieving Hand (1908, J. Stuart Blackton)
45) OffOn (1972, Scott Bartlett)
46) Frankenstein (1910, J. Searle Dawley)
47) The Skeleton Dance (1929, Walt Disney)
48) La Petite marchande d'allumettes {The Little Match Girl} (1928, Jean Renoir, Jean Tédesco)
49) A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit (1989, Nick Park)
50) The Cat Concerto (1947, Joseph Barbera, William Hanna)


  1. What are your criteria for considering a film a "short film"? By including The Fountain of Youth, are you open to other TV programs being considered as shorts? Is A Day in the Country a short just because it is incomplete?

    I think the best way to fight for shorts is to ignore classification. Cinema is cinema, whatever the length. Good luck with this.

  2. Hi there, Ian.
    My criteria for what constitutes a short film are deliberately very loose. Like you say, there's no clear distinction between a short and a feature, so I'm just going to play it by ear.

    Under 50 minutes sounds about right. But then that raises the question - what would you call something like Buster Keaton's "Sherlock Jr.," which runs 44 minutes but has a narrative structure more closesly resembling his later features? Truth is, I'm not interested in such semantics, and so won't spend all that much time addressing them.

    My main intention with this blog is to introduce readers to some films that might otherwise pass beneath their radars. Short films, however you define them, often have a tendency to do that.

    Thanks for the comment, and I hope you stick around!

  3. And you told me that you were just a little more informed than the average man on the street. You easily eclipse even me with my 2716 film lifetime total. I look forward to reading more of your blogs and only hope I can start to write as well as you do.

  4. Thanks a lot, Raven. That's high praise, indeed! My own tally, for the record, sits at a reasonably modest 1271.

    I tend to digest a lot of information from all the review-writing. To be honest, I don't think my writing is quite up to the standard I'd like - my habit of reviewing everything I see means that the emphasis is typically on quantity over quality. It's on the re-watches that I do my best work, I think.

    Anyway, thanks for dropping in, and be sure to keep in touch. By the way, how did you happen upon my blog in the first place?

  5. Well, you know what they say. The best watching is re-watching. At least if it is a good movie. Re-watching a bad movie is pure masochism.

    I am shocked to find that your total is only 1271. It is probably still higher than the so called film majors I have met at UC Berkeley. And you certainly know more about film then they do.

    Honestly, I don't really remember how I stumbled across your blog. I was probably looking for information on one of the movies on the list and Google gave me your page. Probably Ophuls' Letter From An Unknown Woman since it's that review that I have bookmarked for your page rather than the main one. Either that or there was a link on TSPDT's site.

    I will definitely keep in touch. It's nice to know a fellow cinephile or cinejunkie, whichever you prefer.

  6. Hehe, a healthy rivalry is never bad, but just be warned, I'm intenting to make mine the ultimate short film website. Yours is looking great though, and you do know how to attract users with the lists. I'll have to make an epic top one hundred eventually.

    But you've got a nice layout here, and I can't wait to see how the rivalry compares once we start rolling.

  7. Hi Andrew: I'm visiting from DeeDee's La Lumière et l'obscurité.

    You've put together a great list - so glad you added Wallace and Gromit. May I suggest one more? Truffaut's directorial debut called Les Mistons. It's on youtube with English sub-titles if you want to check it out.

    Good luck with this new blog. I'll definitely be dropping by.

  8. Hi there Bourges:
    Thanks for the recommendation. My experience with Truffaut is light (I've only seen "The 400 Blows"), but his humble debut seems as good a place as any to get started again.

    Owing to uni commitments, my short film viewing is somewhat sporadic, but I'll make every effort to ensure that "Les Mistons" is the next film I watch!



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