I need your shorts

I’ve picked up a new (well, new-to-me) regular column over at Cinematical called Eat My Shorts. No, it’s not about Bart Simpson and his appearances on celluloid, it’s about short films. You can read my first attempt at this column here. The idea is that I find good short films online, and then link to them and tell you how wonderful they are. And then you can go watch all the films yourself. The great thing about short films is that even if they’re less than stellar, you don’t have long to watch. And yet some of the films I recommended this week pack all the entertainment of a feature film into 5 minutes.
If you’ve made a short film yourself — it doesn’t have to be recent — and it is available to the public online, please send me a link. Or if you haven’t made a short film but you saw one online the other day and loved it to death, send me a link. You can email me (address in the right sidebar) or post a comment with the link. I’ve been getting some good responses so far, but I need to build up a little library of films I can use in the Eat My Shorts column so I can sustain it weekly. Good publicity for your short film, good material for my column, good films for everyone to watch … we all win.

happy birthday, dude

My little brother turns 25 today. That’s a quarter of a century. Makes a girl think … mostly about how if her “baby” brother is now 25, than that makes her … Anyway. Usually we phone each other on our birthdays and leave messages with odd movie quotes on them. I’m not sure how the tradition got started. This year, I emailed him with one of our favorite birthday quotes, mainly because I do a rotten imitation of the actor in question. I’m reprinting the quote here, and following it, quotes from several other movies that we both have enjoyed watching and quoting together. Feel free to guess, but I’m not trying to make it at all difficult:
“Five long years, he wore this watch up his ass. Then when he died of dysentery, he gave me the watch. I hid this uncomfortable piece of metal up my ass for two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family. And now, little man, I give the watch to you.”
“Hell, I can get you a toe by 3:00 this afternoon… with nail polish.”
“Put it on a plate, son. You’ll enjoy it more.”
“Now listen up, you primitive screwheads. See this? This… is my boomstick! The 12-gauge double-barreled Remington. S-Mart’s top of the line. You can find this in the sporting goods department. That’s right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Retails for about $109.95. It’s got a walnut stock, cobalt blue steel, and a hair trigger. That’s right. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.”
“Let’s go do some crimes.” “Yeah, let’s get some sushi and not pay.”
“Hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here!”
“It’s a trick. Get an axe.”
“Dr. Jones. Again we see there is nothing you can possess that I cannot take away.”

A is for All the President’s Men

All the President’s Men: 1976, dir. Alan J. Pakula. Seen April 22, 2007 on DVD.
All the President’s Men shouldn’t be as interesting a movie as it is. It’s more than two hours long and features a couple of journalists doing a lot of research in service to a story that we already know about ourselves. They spend a lot of time on the phone, and knocking on doors, and digging through stacks of dull paperwork. We don’t see anything about their personal lives, if they even had any at that time; a large chunk of the movie is set in a newsroom. (I’m growing tired of the guy-centric Seventies movies with the token scene or two with some girlfriend or wife, myself, and I was relieved not to see that kind of unnecessary stuff in this movie. I swear, I think those scenes are in certain movies just to show that the male buddies aren’t gay.)
It’s not quite a buddy movie, either. These two guys are working together, and they do get along much better at the end than they do at the beginning, but there aren’t any great bonding moments. They argue over trays of fast food at McDonald’s, or while one is at the typewriter and the other is fussing over notes.
So what makes All the President’s Men work? Good acting — Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. The faces are instantly familiar, but it works the other way around, the good way: We imagine Woodward and Bernstein as looking like Redford and Hoffman. Wow, remember when Redford was that young? In one scene, where he’s walking home after a meeting at the garage, he looked eerily like Brad Pitt.

Continue reading A is for All the President’s Men

The ABC Project

I’d like to post here more often. And now that the spring film festival season is behind me, I’d like to watch more movies on DVD — I’ve got Netflix and I ought to use it, instead of being envious of the DVDs my husband is watching. So why not combine the two?
My Netflix queue is currently in alphabetical order, sort of. It’s not strict alphabetical order because that really is too, too anal retentive. (Netflix does not alphabetize the movies for you; you have to do it yourself, manually.) But all the A’s, B’s, C’s, etc. are grouped together. We’re talking about over 200 movies here, plus a few TV shows thrown in there on various people’s recommendations.
So here’s my plan: The ABC Project. It’s pretty simple: I’m going to get movies from Netflix in alphabetical order. First I’ll rent a movie with a title starting with A, then one with B, and so forth down the alphabet. And I intend to write a little something about each of these movies — not a formal review, but some thoughts about the film. I’m picking movies I haven’t seen before, or haven’t seen since childhood (I’m thinking it’s time to see Jaws and Rocky again). I have at least one movie in my queue for almost every letter of the alphabet — tons of “M” options but no “X” so far.
These aren’t the only movies I’m going to watch on DVD, because I can’t wait for some of those movies with end-of-alphabet titles. And there may have to be multiple “D” movies because it’s incredibly difficult for me to decide between several I’m dying to see. Two “B” movies, too, since I just read Anthony Lane’s essay on Barbara Stanwyck and want to see Baby Face. “L” is going to be even tougher. But I’m hoping that a little gimmick like The ABC Project will encourage me to write more about movies, and to watch the movies I get from Netflix sooner rather than later. (It took me a week to get to Jesus Camp.) Also, seeing good movies that I missed in theaters, and classics that I haven’t gotten around to watching yet, will make up nicely for the shortage of thought-provoking films in theaters during the summer months. Finally, it will get people off my back about my not having seen certain films that they feel are obligatory for film writers. I will not mention any titles, because I don’t want any of you doing that “whaaaat? how can you not have seen …” thing. You can do that after I write about those movies.
The “A” movie has already arrived: All the President’s Men. I never have seen it — okay, you can do that “whaaat?” routine now, if you must. I watched Dick instead — will Robert Redford be as entertaining a Bob Woodward as Will Ferrell? I’ll let you know.