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Short And Sweet Movies

Amid all the sameness, some online short films are worth watching.
The greatest thing about the Internet is also the worst thing about the Internet: It enables anyone with access to a computer to speak to the world. The same can be said about online movies in general, and short online films in particular.

The short film, the fledgling filmmaker's calling card, takes less time, money, and hassle than a full-length production. And, if you're trying to get your proverbial foot in the door, it's easier to do so in three minutes than 90 minutes. However, the majority of work on movie Web sites is a mishmash of crude humor targeting 14-year-old boys (the next "South Park" is out there somewhere, I am sure), an avalanche of unimaginative parodies (if I had a dime for every "Star Wars" or "Sopranos" knockoff), and the how-twisted-can-I-make-this "art" film. But make no mistake: a lot of this work looks good anyway, due to the affordability of today's computer production equipment.

There are always a few diamonds in the rough. They include:

"Gary the Rat", an animated short starring the voice of Kelsey Grammer, is at Media Trip. It's a funny, slightly crude story of the life of an attorney who has inexplicably turned into a rat, and who tries to maintain a normal life until he can figure out how to change back. The current episode is "The Blind Date."

"Powder Keg", at www.bmwfilms.com, is an intense eight minutes about a photographer (Stellan Skarsgard) trying to escape a country--in a BMW, of course--after taking a picture that would unite the world against its leader. At the same site is "Ambush" by feature-film veteran John Frankenheimer, a thrilling five-minute chase through country roads after gun-toting masked men in a van pull alongside another vehicle, demanding the return of diamonds they say have been stolen.

For shorts that are refreshingly different, head to www.planetkrulik.com, the site of independent documentarian Jeff Krulik (and friends). There is an array to choose from, including "The Brady Bunch--2000," which is a lunchtime interview with Robbie Rist, who played Cousin Oliver in the series' waning days. Don't miss the underground cult favorite "Heavy Metal Parking Lot," 15 head-banging minutes in the parking lot before a Judas Priest concert in 1986.

"Swerve" over to Atom Films to view this compelling Australian mystery. A man's car is stolen after he's ambushed while changing a tire on the side of the road. He pursues the thief, with surprising results.

"Death and Driving" is a well made, suspense-filled 13 minutes about a double cross in the desert between a drifter and a professional football player. Nicely shot and competently acted. It's worth the time. You'll find it at iFilm.

At the same site is "Spankachek's Law!" a very funny fictional movie trailer for a detective film. Rogue Detective Frank Spankachek confronts his foe, Pillsbury, and contends with his by-the-book partner and the hard-nosed district attorney. (Full disclosure: This is my brother's film, but after watching dozens upon dozens of shorts, it truly is one of the better ones.)

"Shy Guy," at Short TV, is an intelligently humorous story of a man whose life changes dramatically because he doesn't want attention after being caught in a bank during a robbery. Shot from the main character's point of view, it's more clever than most comedies.

Finally, there's "Respectable" at BritShorts, a comedy with a documentary-like feel. It follows a well-to-do British man who, while speaking to the camera most of the time, tries to regain economic freedom after a failed dot-com investment. You'll never guess what his business model is!

I hope these suggestions get you started in what is a bottomless pit of online choices. Because the filmmaker at times pays to be online, the format choices for each short vary (QuickTime, RealPlayer, etc.). The more viewing choices in which a film is available, the more expensive it gets to post one's film.

Enjoy the show!

Did we miss any of your favorites? Add to the list in the Water Cooler discussion forum.

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