As the holiday season fast approaches, short film aficionados should be saying grace and giving thanks for the bounty laid out for mass consumption. While everyone can enjoy the never-ending feast of mini-movies available online, true connoisseurs will want to devour the latest offerings on DVD. And what an amazing buffet there is: from timely holiday fare from photographer/filmmaker William Wegman to tasty treats from animator Don Hertzfeldt. If you're wondering what to put on your holiday wish list, look no further than these ten recent DVD releases.
1. "William Wegman's Fay's Twelve Days of Christmas" (Released by Microcinema International DVD, Oct. 31, 2006)
2. "William Wegman's Alphabet Soup" (Released by Microcinema International DVD, Oct. 31, 2006)
Originally produced in 1995, Wegman's half-hour Christmas classic gets a stunning DVD reissue, showcasing the artist's famous Weimaraner Fay Ray in all her glory as she undertakes Martha Stewart-ish preparations to ring in the holidays. Make it a double-feature by also indulging in "William Wegman's Alphabet Soup," a charming (and educational!) canine comedy suitable for even the youngest viewers.
3. "A Collection of 2005 Academy Award Nominated Short Films" (Released by Magnolia, July 25, 2006)
4. "75th Annual Academy Awards Short Films" (Released by Questar, February 28, 2004)
Yes, the Award Season is around the corner, and you can whet your appetite by indulging in some past years' winners. Magnolia has done a fabulous job of collecting eight short films nominated for the 2005 Academy Awards (five live action, three animation, plus two bonus animated shorts) to provide 162 minutes of fine viewing. The standout is the 27-minute Irish dark comedy, "Six Shooter," which took home the statue and launched playwright Martin McDonagh's film directing career.
The "75th" is an older collection of Oscar shorts given the Academy nod in 2003. The films that make the strongest impression among the 100 minutes of viewing are the slick studio-produced animated shorts: Sony Pictures Imageworks' "The ChubbChubbs!" (dir. Eric Armstrong) and Pixar's "Mike's New Car" (dirs. Pete Docter and Roger Gould).
5. "The Journal of Short Films, Vol. 5, Fall 2006" (Released by www.theJSF.org, October 24, 2006)
For those unfamiliar with the Journal of Short Films, it's a quarterly DVD series produced out of Columbus, Ohio, with a mandate to celebrate diversity, experimentation, and independent work. The fifth volume, which came out last month, marks the Journal's one-year anniversary. Among the most arresting of the ten films are Jennifer Levonian's two-minute experimental animation rumination, "You, Starbucks," and Hope Tucker's war-footage piece, "Noel."
6. "Shorts! Volume 4" (Upcoming release by Film Festival Collection, scheduled for January 16, 2007)
Put in your pre-order for this fourth installment of sixteen award-winning short films culled from the world's best film festivals. Overflowing with 220 minutes of films and six hours of filmmaker commentaries, this DVD should satisfy even the most hardcore viewer. One of the most accomplished films in the collection is John Mitchell and Jeremy Kipp Walker's hospital room dramedy, "Goodnight Bill," which features a commentary track by the co-directors and a second one by cinematographer Martin Matiasek. For those who can't wait for Volume 4, check out the previous volume, which contains "Half Nelson" director Ryan Fleck's 2004 short, "Gowanus, Brooklyn."
7. "American Short Films" (Released by Cinema 16, June 5, 2006)
8. "European Short Films" (Released by Cinema 16, June 5, 2006)
9. "British Short Films" (Released by Cinema 16, June 5, 2006)
This Cinema 16 series of DVD collections comes from Great Britain, which means they've been issued in Region 2 PAL format. But it's well worth the extra effort to view them because where else are you going to see short films by Chris Nolan ("Doodlebug," 1997), Ridley Scott ("Boy & Bicycle," 1958), Lars von Trier ("Nocturne," 1980), and Tom Tykwer ("Epilog," 2000). The American Collection is thankfully in NTSC format and offers up 16 outstanding shorts (often accompanied by director commentary) including little seen films by George Lucas ("Freiheit," 1966), Todd Solondz ("Feelings," 1984), and D.A. Pennebaker ("Daybreak Express," 1953).
10. "Bitter Films Volume One: 1995-2005" (Released by Bitter Films, 2006)
Animator Don Hertzfeldt collected all of his beloved short films ("Lily and Jim," "Billy's Balloon," the Academy Award-nominated "Rejected," and all the rest) and personally put together this amazing elaborate DVD package, complete with an impressive 16-page retrospective booklet. As the back of the DVD case proclaims, "At last, all the landmark animated films collected together for the very first time, lovingly remastered in high definition from their original film negatives, providing alarming clarity and squiggly detail never before seen outside of theaters!" How can you resist?
[Kim Adelman is the author of "The Ultimate Filmmaker's Guide to Short Films."]