SHCC WYSIWYG Article from September 2001

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This article was written by club member Ralph Osinski.  This article appeared in the September 2001 WYSIWYG newsletter.

Movies from the Weird Wide Web

by Ralph Osinski

Lately, many Independent, or "Indie," film makers have found the Web to be the ideal venue for showcasing their works, usually without the associated costs, including the violations to their artistic integrity and other forms of "dues paying," that can be the big studio systems' failings. Just as fledgling musicians seeking alternatives to breaking into the business, and certain established artists disaffected with the bloated recording companies, helped give rise to the Napster phenomenon, the Indies brought about a new sort of Net experience -- the Virtual Theatre. Other contributors to the cinema's presence on the Web include enthusiastic amateur movie makers, animators and film-school students who, through whose art, are simply trying to make themselves heard. As at certain music-sharing services, most of the works presented are, if not freely-downloadable, at least free to view online. Difficulty in marketing such short films, particularly those from unknowns or made with Web-based tools such as Flash and Shockwave, makes them a low-profit niche-market product, meaning they have not provoked the knee-jerk reaction from the movie studios that the file-swapping services have in the music business. Quite contrarily, the industry now sees this as fertile ground for developing its next crop of talent, to the extent that even some seasoned professionals, intent on maintaining their standing, have exploited it as an additional outlet for their efforts. Thus, it should endure.

What follows is a somewhat less-than-random surf through some currently available on-line short movies, or "shorts." This list is heavily influenced by Science Fiction titles, in part because that's what the computer geek in me likes, but also because they can most easily evoke comparisons to (and may even, in their own concise ways, compete with) their big-budget counterparts for enjoyment value. Computer-Generated ("C.G.") animation also plays a key role, as the same machines which can bring these movies into your home via the Web can, through digital special effects, be used to enhance -- and now even more easily create -- that very medium. This is not all that's available however, but the traditional "live-action" offerings, mostly because of bandwidth requirements, still appear less successfully here. This may change when the increased download speeds demanded by streaming media finally become widespread enough to provide the TV-like quality expected of it, or when playing DVD movies on the "smallest screen" of the PC becomes more commonplace. Its successful presence on the Web may even finally force the long-heralded convergence between TV and PC, perhaps eventually supplanting the former as the dominant entertainment medium. As such, a few have been included, not just for completeness, but rather because they are the worthy exceptions.  

The movie-style ratings, based on the Web Rating Censorship system of are approximate, and provided by me in the hopes that they will be a rough guide for your sensibilities.  

Microwave a bag of popcorn, the show's about to start. 


AdCritic - All Ads, All The Time.  (Rated Web G: Just like American TV.)
Celebrate television's true reason for existence -- stuffing advertising into your eyeballs. All the commercials that you remember, because they were actually more entertaining, educating, interesting, or clever than the politically-correct programs you were watching when they aired. And even a few, like the PETA "Cats" ad, that have yet to see airplay. Act now, quantities are limited.


All Your Base Are Belong to Us  (Rated Web G: Fan Art silliness.)

Badly-translated dialogue, from the old video game Zero Wing, finds new life as a geeky cult catch-phrase for the next millennium. Movies, music videos,Photoshop-altered pictures, and MP3s arise from fans spreading the word. "Somebody set us up the bomb."


Anime Channel (Rated Web G: Safe enough for Toonami.)
Too many Americans shy away from Japanese Animation, shunning it largely because of cultural differences or false perceptions.  Increasingly, however, more have learned to look beyond such misunderstandings, and appreciate it for the totality of the artistry expressed. The stereotypical attention to detail isn't just limited to the animated feature itself, but starts with the opening titles and runs through the closing credits. Fans of anime have long known that these are just like little "J-Pop" music videos -- and often better than anything shown on MTV. This site showcases those musical bookends for some of the more General Audience type titles. Maurice Binder, eat your heart out.


Atom Films (Web Ratings vary.)
Not just one movie, but a whole site devoted to Independent live-action and C.G. short films of the sort that make the Sundance Film Festival, Cannes, and the Sci-Fi channel's Exposure show possible. Many of the titles listed in this article are collected into one convenient location here. Be sure you have a fast connection with JavaScript turned on, and poke around to find the bits of gold among the dross. Motto -- "Atom Films: get into our shorts."


Bambi meets Godzilla (Rated Web G: Harmless Furry... er... Scaly fun.)

So short and simple that it's hard to believe it wasn't done in Flash for the Web, but this little cell-animated gag has been around since 1969. (A clearer, animated .gif version can be found at the Geocities URL.) Still, there's lots more computer pranks and general silliness at Robrob8's site -- search for the really funny Granny series.  "Here: leezard, leezard, leezard."


B.M.W. Films: The Hire Digital Film Series.  (Rated Web 14: Drama.)
Wunderkind directors: Guy Ritchie, Wong Kar-Wai, John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, and Alejandro González, offer five live-action mini-features woven around the common thread of a hired driver/bodyguard. Together they create a seamless background of eye-candy ads for Bimmer's übermachines. When it works, this site delivers, but it doesn't work for everyone. Without a fast PC on a cable modem, even trying to download the QuickTime movie files via their crippled proprietary viewer, is worse than watching the streamed versions. With a slow machine on a dial-up connection it just crashes and burns; your mileage may vary.  B.M.W. -- Breaks My Windows™.


Conker's Bad Fur Day (Rated Web PG: Furries in rude situations.)
Site advertising the Nintendo video game sequel Conker's Bad Fur Day,featuring the continuing adventures of their cute, drunken squirrel. Full-length, uncut version of the live-action TV commercial for same, plus The making of... mini-documentary and additional short videos, largely "cut-scene" sequences from the game.  "Warning: Squirrels."


Electronic Data Systems (Rated Web G: Ready for Prime Time.)
The militaristically-humorless E.D.S. corp. surprises us with some notably comical and clever commercials, initially aired at incredible expense during the StuporBowl games. Check out Cat Herding, Airplane, and a couple of other bits of brilliance; as the collective conscience of a hive of Molloy-clone drones in 3-piece suits, trolls for business and new recruits. "You will be assimilated. Are you willing to relocate?"


George Lucas in Love (Rated Web G: Cutesy enough for Disney.)
Hilariously-written, brilliantly-directed-and-performed live-action spoof of the movie Shakespeare in Love, as the developing Star Wars script mirrors young college student George Lucas's life. How many parallels can you spot? This 9-minute film-school project is sold at video stores, but you can see it online for free! It even has a surprise ending... or two. 5 out of 5 stars!


Los Gringos (Rated Web PG: Peckinpah, it ain't.)
The Wild West gets even wilder in this fun C.G. parody of Spaghetti Westerns, featuring the voices of Charles Napier and Pat Morita. With high production values echoing those of Toy Story, meticulous attention is paid to rendering facial features, skin tone, and body movement, giving a real feel for the characters. Mediatrip is another "Indie" film site, and many of the other titles mentioned in this article can be found there. Yee haw!


Ninja Stickman (Rated Web PG: Cartoony violence.)
Everybody's gone Kung Fu fighting in this Chop-Socky flick, taken to its 2nd-dimension glory as stick-figure theatre. Unless you read Chinese, you'll have to guess which .gif mini-movie on the game page links to the full-length version, but this URL takes you right into the action. Awesome! Guaranteed to stop all store traffic if you access this ShockWave animation on those Comcast mall kiosks: the Matrix move will blow you away in the finale. Crouching Tiger; Hidden Wires.


Summoner Geeks (Rated Web G: Mostly harmless.),3699,220487,00.html
"Remember back in the days when your mother told you not to play  Dungeons and Dragons? She told you it would make you Satanic... so you played anyway. That's when you discovered D&D turns you into something much worse: a gigantic nerd." The C.G. Characters from the computer games Red Faction and Summoner get together to geek it out. Pass around the Cheetos and Mountain Dew.


The Animator's Apprentice (Rated Web G: Harmless Furries.)
A computer-literate update of The Sorcerer's Apprentice act from Fantasia, pokes fun at itself and its genre. These C.G. animations have great "character" and "camera" direction set to a classical score. The theatrical release isn't done, but you can download the trailers here, in a variety of video and compression formats to play with. More animations, like Java Noir and a short tutorial on making the characters at the site. Now, where's that instruction manual?


Tripping The Rift (Web Ratings uncertain: Killer clowns in outer space.)
Tripping The Rift Episode 1: Love and Darph. Very funny, professionally done, first installment in a planned series of  C.G. animated Sci-Fi spoofs, features the voice acting talents of Star Trek DS9 star Terry Farrell.  (May be "mosaiced" Web PG  as seen on the Sci Fi Channel, or uncut Web 14 depending on the edit, due to some language used  & theme presentation.) In space, no one can hear you scream... with laughter.


Troops (Rated Web PG: Just like the Fox Network.)

Director Kevin Rubino brilliantly twists the Star Wars story from another point of view, in a live-action Cops-style TV documentary, as Storm Troopers of the Imperial Empire profile Jawa "home boys" over stolen 'droids, and investigate a domestic dispute at the Skywalker farm. Excellent production, acting, costumes and special effects, as any Hollywood movie can be. Two opposable thumbs up.

©2001 Ralph Osinski

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