Warner's Short series presents a wide range of independent short films and provides a welcome source for creative and meritorious works of art that might not have reached the mainstream audience otherwise. The series has undergone numerous changes since its inception and the results are somewhat inconsistent. The early installments included a wide range of films with loads of extras and very quirky menus. Later versions of Short tend to be more conservative in approach with more or less standard menu interfaces, a shallower selection of films and fewer but more meaningful extras. Short 8: Vision isn't the most exciting of the discs but it has enough meat on its bones to make viewing worth while.
Because the footage on this disc comes from many sources it's hard to evaluate the overall quality of the picture. On the whole the transfers are nicely done with minimal artifacting, good color saturation and adequate contrast. Unfortunately none of the material is anamorphic, a fact that will be readily apparent to owners of 16x9 TVs.
Short 8 features Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mixes, all of which are acceptable if unremarkable. Some of the films make use of the surrounds but most are dialogue driven and hang on the mains and center channel. There are a few instances of LFE signal but nothing that threatens to wake the neighbors.
The Cinema Ticket:
This is my personal favorite film on Short 8. Produced in Norway, it tells the story of a young boy whose entrepreneurial spirit is wakened by the prospect of attending a local movie. The cinematography is gorgeous and the acting top notch. The Cinema Ticket is a sensitive comment on youth that has the ring of truth about it.
Many people don't know it but the Budweiser 'Whassup!' ads have their origin in independent filmmaking. true is the original film by Charles Stone III that attracted the attention of Budweiser and birthed the successful series of ads. It's every bit as funny as the commercials and pleasantly untainted by capitalist messages.
Sky Above, Heaven Below:
Chi Chi Zhang's self indulgent character study concerns a young Chinese girl's awakening into adulthood. The film is sumptuous in terms of color, composition and editing but suffers from wooden acting and a plot that seems a touch too trite.
Number One Fan:
This is another middle of the road offering. Number One Fan could easily stand as the quintessential American Independent (with a capitol I) film. It follows the brief exploits of a runaway girl who encounters a dangerous (and possibly drug addicted) photographer and his hangers on. The film is grainy, violent and desperately trying to be poetic.
Tag der Freiheit:
Speaking of poetic, Tag der Freiheit is an example of the kind of filmmaking that made Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl famous. This curious short is a kind of coda to her best-known work Triumph of the Will. Riefenstahl made the film under protest after Triumph was lambasted for failing to glorify the army. Tag der Freiheit attempts to rectify the situation but ends up as little more than a series of (admittedly striking) views of marching soldiers. The original version included a speech by Adolph Hitler but that footage is excised from this presentation.
This is a very strange collection of short clips that together form a documentary on a very strange man and his even stranger fans. Why Liberace has a high camp factor, kind of like Paramount's Trekies.
Kite is a beautifully rendered animation that mixes watercolor technique with 3D rendering and pleasant music. The film was inspired by the paintings of William Turner.
Serpent and the Sandman
Interesting though not very memorable, Serpent and the Sandman is a spoken word piece that takes the form of a freeform prose poem. It's notable mainly for the idyllic views of rural Nevada that were used for its setting.
There are all manner of extras available on each Short disc and Short 8 is no exception. Most of the films have accompanying production notes and audio commentary tracks. Some have alternate video tracks, multiple angles and additional audio programs. The short discs are fun to play with even if some of the films don't exactly ring your bell.
I really enjoy this series but have a hard time recommending them for purchase sight unseen. A better strategy is rent first and buy later. Chances are some of the discs will fit right in with your collection while others will have little to offer. Rating: Rent it.