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The short movie is an oft-neglected aspect of movie viewing these days, with fewer outlets available to the makers of short movies, and certainly little chance of their efforts being seen in our local multiplexes (the exceptions to these are the animated shorts made to accompany the likes of Pixar’s movies, the occasional cash-in from Disney such as Frozen Fever (2015), and Blue Sky’s Scrat movies (see below). Otherwise it’s an internet platform such as Vimeo, YouTube (a particularly good place to find short movies, including the ones in this post), or brief exposure at a film festival. Even on DVD or Blu-ray, there’s a dearth of short movies on offer. In an attempt to bring some of the gems that are out there to a wider audience, here is the first in an ongoing series of posts that will focus on short movies. Who knows? You might find one that becomes a firm favourite – if you do, please let me know.

One-Minute Time Machine (2014) / D: Devon Avery / 6m

Cast: Brian Dietzen, Erinn Hayes

One-Minute Time Machine

Rating: 9/10 – A comedy about a young man who invents a time machine in order to impress the girl of his dreams, this brief but inventive short is like a sci-fi version of Groundhog Day, but with a humorous sting in the tale. The two leads are well chosen, with Dietzen (NCIS‘s Jimmy Palmer) playing the lovelorn geek to perfection, and Hayes proving to be an equally effective sparring partner. It does make up its own rules about time travel but that’s no bad thing, and Avery makes a virtue of the way in which he cuts between his two characters. A rewarding little movie that is well worth watching.

Turn Around When Possible (2014) / D: Dave Calub, David Mead / 7m

Cast: Megan Prescott, Holly Hoyland

Turn Around When Possible

Rating: 7/10 – Two young women trust their sat-nav too much in this British short that sees them lost in the forest and at the mercy of something strange lurking in the undergrowth. Just what is lurking in the undergrowth is very reminiscent of a creature you shouldn’t get wet or feed after midnight, and the acting is a little amateurish, but this is still an atmospheric, well-shot movie that also manages to provide viewers with a surprisingly ambiguous ending.

Is This Free? (2011) / D: Lauris Beinerts / 8m

Is This Free?

Cast: Jack Hawkins, Tarryn Meaker, Abdiel LeRoy, Cornelia Baumann, Julian Lamoral-Roberts, David Cullinane, Chloe Massey, Katie Goldfinch, Véronique Sevegrand

Rating: 8/10 – Observational comedy is the focus here as Hawkins’ Luka illustrates the various responses he gives to people who ask if the seat next to him is free. Ranging from the risible – woman agrees to pay £2 to avoid someone else getting the seat – to the awkwardly humorous – Luka allows someone to sit next to him on a bench but tells them they’re being watched – Beinerts makes the most of his central idea, and it’s put together with a great deal of heart. And of course Luka doesn’t get it all his own way, which helps the movie avoid being too clever for its own good.

The Plan (2008) / D: Matthew Kalish / 4m

Cast: Ryder Bach, Andrea Jensen

Plan, The

Rating: 8/10 – Mitch (Bach) is unhappy with his life and decides to ditch his job, his girlfriend, and travel to Las Vegas to bet everything’s he’s got on red. Along the way he meets a young woman (Jensen) who steals his camera, but proves to be an augur of a better future. Shot in black and white, and with a Fifties feel to it that adds to the movie’s overall charm, this is both romantic and transformative at the same time, and despite Kalish’s predilection for unnecessary camera angles.

The Accidental Sea (2011) / D: Ransom Riggs / 6m

Accidental Sea, The

Rating: 8/10 – The writer of the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children‘s trilogy provides a potted history of California’s Salton Sea, from its origins as a major engineering mistake to its heyday as a holiday destination before the sea became too salty to sustain the surrounding infrastructure. Of particular interest thanks to Riggs’ modern day footage, where the area looks like the aftermath of the end of the world, the only fault is the sudden appearance of an old man who’s been making art out of the area’s refuse, and who isn’t on screen for nearly long enough. Haunting and wistful, this is a documentary short that is visually arresting and endlessly fascinating.

Christmas Scrat-tastrophe (2015) / D: Mike Thurmeier, Galen Chu / 5m

Cast: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Chris Wedge

Christmas Scrat-tastrophe

Rating: 9/10 – Scrat’s back, and this time his obsession with keeping his nut all to himself leads to his being aboard the spaceship we glimpsed in the first Ice Age movie. From there, Scrat heads off into space to play havoc with the planets and go for a space walk, with predictably disastrous effects. Unabashedly entertaining (and with a complete disregard for physics and astrodynamics), this is top-notch stuff that, unfortunately, serves as a reminder that Scrat’s solo adventures are still far more entertaining than the full-length movies he has a supporting turn in.