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Film Of The Week: The Orchestra

The Phone Call (2013) (UK) (20m)

The Orchestra is an animation that feels like a cross between the Oscar-winning House On Little Cubes and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. In this case, instead of dæmons everyone has their own little orchestra following them around. Unfortunately, for the elderly Vernon, his orchestra of mini-mes is always striking the wrong note. When an eligible woman moves into the adjoining apartment, Vernon decides he must finally teach his band to play in harmony.


Cindy's New Boyfriend by Robert Brinkmann (2015) (USA) (23m)

Written by Sean Sellars and directed by Robert Brinkmann, the comic Cindy's New Boyfriend is just all-round good filmmaking. Cindy is the ex-girlfriend of Spencer, who persuades his friend Nick that he should use his acting talent to scare off Cindy's new boyfriend. However, things go wrong when Cindy's new boyfriend turns out to be a man not easily scared. Brinkmann is better known as a cinematographer, shooting such films as The Cable Guy.

The Mother by Anh Le Huy (2020) (Vietnam) (5m)

The Mother is a tear-jerking drama about a man making a long and emotional journey home. Beginning in a snowy city, you know you are in safe hands with the accomplished VFX, and Anh's background in advertising soon shines through with his quick edits and short scenes. Indeed, it almost feels like a trailer for a feature film; perhaps because, despite its short running time, it crams in a bewildering number of high-class shots: it feels like no expense was spared in making this film, and must have taken a long time to complete.


Prey by Acim Vasic (2018) (France) (12m)

Prey was written and directed by Acim Vasic, who won the FILMSshort competition with the snowbound black comedy 8. Prey is another great, dialogue-free short film with a message; this time looking at the predatory nature of some men. Full of unusual shots and set in an unnamed European city, this thriller short film focuses on one such predator as he watches out for a victim and then sets off after her. However, his night is about to take an unexpected turn.

Dear Basketball by Glen Keane (2017) (USA) (4m)

After the untimely death of Kobe Bryant on Sunday, there was only one choice this week. Dear Basketball won the Best Animated Short Oscar in 2018. One suspects that it would not have won the award if the Oscars were not held in the United States, where basketball is so popular. It probably did not hurt that most Academy members live in LA, and Bryant played for the LA Lakers. The title is pretty self-explanatory: it is a valedictory love-letter from Kobe Bryant to basketball, the sport that made him a superstar.


Matria by Alvaro Gago (2017) (Spain) (21m)

Matria won many awards on the short film festival circuit, including the Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Made in Galicia, Matria tells the story of the middle-aged and humorless Ramona as she struggles through a depressing daily routine of non-stop work, which includes working in a mussel-canning factory and buying her granddaughter's birthday present. Can anything make her smile? It is very much a slice-of-life piece, with minimal story, but it is very real with a great lead performance.

A Love Story by Anushka Naanayakkara (2016) (UK) (7m)

A Love Story won the BAFTA in 2017, when only three animations were nominated. Created in woven wools, A Love Story is a fairly experimental film in which two floating heads come together before one is taken over by a blackness that the other finds impossible to negate. It reminds me of BAFTA winning The Bead Game from 1978 but I have to admit I prefer the older film. Naanayakkara made A Love Story while a student at the UK's NFTS, continuing a long tradition of BAFTA winners from the school.

Cowboy Dave by Colin O'Toole (2017) (UK) (25m)

Cowboy Dave won the BAFTA in 2018. Set in a deprived area of Manchester, it sees a teenage wannabe hustler befriend a chain-smoking, verbose drifter called Dave who thought he was destined for musical greatness. When a debt collector arrives with his violent, axe-toting righthand man, it is unclear whether Dave can talk his way out of the debt or talk his way into trouble. As the debt appears to be for only £5, it would seem unlikely that the debt collector would resort to any serious violence.


The Naughty List by Paul Campion (2016) (USA) (9m)

A competition finalist, The Naughty List reminds us that Santa Claus will visit all the world's children on Christmas Eve, even if the child in question - Vince - is an adult mobster hiding out with his partner-in-crime in a secluded cabin. The problem is that Vince's partner does not believe in Santa Claus and, fearing the stranger could be a hitman, is tempted to put a slug in him. For his part, Santa Claus is no saint, but how will this unusual situation end, and will the rest of the world's children get their presents tonight?

Small Deaths

Argentine Tangos by Guy Thys (2006) (Belgium) (14m)

Arguably the best Christmas short film yet made, Argentine Tangos (Tanghi Argentini), was nominated for a Best Short Film Oscar in 2008. In Argentine Tangos, a beautiful comedy drama full of Christmas spirit, we follow a middle-aged office-worker trying to fulflil his Christmas passion and conceal a snowy-white lie. I promise you will thank me for showing it to you. It is in Dutch with English subtitles.

Seven Things I Learned About Time Travel by J Herzberg (2016) (Holland) (9m)

Seven Things I Learned About Time Travel tells the story of Marcus, a 9-year-old boy whose mother suffers from depression and who has invented a no-frills time machine that works. He now wishes to impart his knowledge. Without wanting give away any lessons, it is worth mentioning that the film - in diving into the human psyche - rather supports the multiverse theory, where it is impossible to change one's own past, but can create an infinite number of different futures for oneself.


All These Creatures by Charles Williams (2018) (Australia) (13m)

All These Creatures won at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. It tells the story of Tempest, an Australian teen of African heritage whose father suffers from mental illness. The title ostensibly refers to the older man's obsession with the insects overrunning his back garden. A drama film told through narration as much as visuals, it contains very little actual dialogue. It is more of a contemplative piece, with little in the way of story. It is certainly nicely made, with a filmic look, but one wonders if its win in Cannes played a part in its future successes.

Stone Cars

Ice Lolly by Barbe, Desvignes & Hayé (2019) (France) (7m)

Ice Lolly (Glace à l'Eau) shows just what can be achieved with the right software, skill and time. The animation itself is incredible. Ice Lolly tells the story of an iceberg who slips away from his ice shelf and begins to float away towards unknown and potentially dangerous waters. He is befriended by a friendly orca (the only unfriendly orcas are the ones imprisoned by humans) but the two friends soon find themselves faced with an external threat.

Films marked * contain no dialogue. Search the entire website below.

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