Why Your New Year's Resolution Should Include Watching More Short Films

Why Your New Year's Resolution Should Include Watching More Short Films

Jan 02, 2013

Short Rounds is a biweekly column dedicated to spreading the love of short film. Every other Wednesday we'll curate a number of flicks around a theme, from current film festivals to whatever is in the air.

Happy New Year! Now we all get to make promises to ourselves, resolutions for a better life that we’ll earnestly begin tomorrow. Then, inevitably, by March they’ve all but disappeared. Learning a new skill, losing weight, quitting bad habits, developing a less grouchy attitude – we try our best, but it turns out we’re only human. Yet there’s hope! I have a proposal for a New Year’s resolution that is so easy to keep you won’t even notice that you still totally bite your nails and don’t get enough exercise. Watch more short films!

Actually, let’s push this one step further. You should make time to watch a short film each and every day. Don’t tell me you don’t have the time. Chances are you probably already watch at least one YouTube video. You also probably spend the same amount of time mindlessly watching TV commercials. There’s space in your schedule to devote a few minutes to the creativity and dedication that fuels this under-valued area of moviemaking. And, believe it or not, some of these shorts will help you with those other pesky New Year’s resolutions.

Everyone comes out of the holiday season with an acute sense of inertia. With all of the turkey eating and couch slouching, it’s no wonder how many people resolve to get more exercise. The problem is the motivation. It’s cold in January, and no one wants to go out jogging in the snow. No one even wants to brave the cold weather even just to get to a gym. We are lazy people. Thankfully, there’s a beautiful Canadian short film that will make walking seem like the coolest thing anyone with legs has ever done.

Walking is a simple exercise in motion, and perhaps Ryan Larkin’s best work. The detail is impeccable, the result of two years of ink-wash painting experimentation and close research into movement. It’s hypnotic and concise, yet also somehow intimately connected to the infinity of human variation. Watch it and then take a long stroll, noticing the little quirks of your own style of ambulation.

The National Film Board of Canada has been producing top-notch animated and documentary shorts for decades. Moreover, it has put quite a large portion of the collection online, which will make it really easy for you to keep your resolution to watch more of these films. As another example, here’s Gerald Potterton’s My Financial Career. It’s a witty critique of out overcomplicated financial system, or at least the way it was in 1962. Regardless, it’ll reinforce that resolution of yours to get your financial house in order.

Now that you’re working on that bank account and getting more exercise, time to move on to another one of those common promises we make ourselves: eat healthier. For many, this means eating more vegetables. And what better way to put yourself in the mood for a salad than to watch a bunch of potatoes and tomatoes reenact classical tragedy? Oedipus is bonkers short filmmaking at its best, a stop-motion achievement of the highest order. It’s also proof of the great stuff that you can find on Vimeo just by poking around. The library is deep and rich, and there’s really nowhere better to go for high-quality video.

It’s also worth diving into the vast array of shorts on YouTube, though they aren’t curated with the astute judgment and attention to detail as what you might find on Vimeo. YouTube is the best place to go for a lot of pre-Internet shorts, especially old animated cartoons. Here’s another vegetable-themed short, from the Golden Age of Animation. More noir than classical, Max Fleischer’s team brings its strangest ideas to fruition with The Fresh Vegetable Mystery.

Even with all of these options, you might still be a bit daunted by the notion of curating your own short film playlist. YouTube, Vimeo, the NFB and many other sites give lots and lots of options, but sometimes it’s helpful to have a little extra help in picking what to watch. Of course, you have us at Movies.com and this column to give you some recommendations every other week. But if that’s not enough, let me make a recommendation or two.

Scott Beggs over at Film School Rejects writes about a short film every day, and might be the only one currently doing so. Short of the Week has put together quite the library of carefully chosen selections from Vimeo, YouTube and elsewhere. The people there have reviewed them, catalogued them, and put them into easily navigable playlists and categories. Want proof? Well, there’s one last common resolution we haven’t done yet: find a better job.

You probably aren’t interested in new employment for the same reason as the wolf protagonist of FriendSheep. Then again, why do we work if not to fill our stomachs? This charismatic animal is simply taking that motivation a little bit more directly than we do. We might not necessarily empathize with wanting to devour our coworkers, but we can certainly find ourselves in the awkwardness of starting a new job. Picked by the Vimeo staff and featured on SotW, here it is:

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