With the release of the first in an ongoing series of 'DVD magazines' Short Cinema Journal (later renamed simply Short) distinguished itself as a source of quality independent film content. Each edition includes about a dozen films ranging in length from about two minutes to a little less than a half-hour. The shorts are from diverse sources and show various approaches to filmmaking. Each edition has a theme that loosely connects the offerings; the theme for this issue is Invention.
As the first title in the series this disc shows that the producers were still fiddling around with format issues. The DVD contains quality content but isn't as feature-rich as later releases. By Short 1:3 you'll notice that most of the films are accompanied by text based filmmaker profiles and additional audio and video tracks. That isn't the case here. The lack of extras isn't a major problem though as this disc has some of the best content of the batch.
Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade: George Hickenlooper's short film staring Billy Bob Thornton was the direct inspiration for the longer version that made general release a couple of years ago. Many of the elements of the studio release are here only with a very different ending.
Henry Rollins – Easter Sunday in New York City: I've been a huge Rollins fan ever since I saw his former band Black Flag in the basement of a frat house in Eugene Oregon. This is a sort of fusion of Rollins' spoken-word act, his work with the Rollins band and documentary footage. It's a very satisfying foray into Rollins' unique mind and a great introduction to his work. Also included are three additional audio tracks with some of his most interesting songs.
The Big Story: This is a short and very funny claymation piece featuring characters based on Kirk Douglas. An additional video track shows the rough pencil test animations.
Mr. Resistor: Here's another short film that's close to my heart. As a graphic designer in Portland Oregon it's hard to avoid coming in contact with Wil Vinton studios (the California Raisin guys) at one point or another. My encounter came when I met Mr. Resistor's creator Mark Gustafson to discuss a promotional web site for his quirky animated character. Mr. Resistor is a surreal ride through a fantastic and nightmarish world sure to make you laugh and think.
Black Rider: An insightful look at racism from a unique perspective.
Michael Apted: An interesting interview with the director of such films as Nell and Gorillas in the Mist.
BARAKA: Clips from the 1992 film. An amazing visual feast showing various 'altered time' and 'skewed viewpoint' clips that is very similar to the much-lauded Koyaanisqatsi.
Because this is a collection of many films the quality of images vary between titles. Overall the transfer is exemplary with good color, black level and clean film elements. Each title is presented in its original aspect ratio.
Again, the sound varies between titles. Some have full-blown Dolby 5.1 tracks and others simple Dolby 2.0. In all cases the sound is clear and free of distortion. Volume levels are consistent throughout so you won't need to fuss around with the remote. Just set it and forget it.
As stated above, the extras on this disc are a little sparser than on later editions. Some of the shorts have additional audio, some have additional video but most are simply stand-alone offerings.
At an average retail price of $12.00, Short 1:1 is well worth owning (as are all of the discs in this series). If the invention theme isn't to your linking don't despair: simply check out some of the other Short offerings. These discs are designed for the serious film fan but even the casual observer should find much to like. They're great for casual entertainment or as warm-ups for an evening of DVD viewing.