A new Thursday, a new set of Sundance shorts. This is the second of three batches of 2011 in-competition shorts that Sundance is sharing via the YouTube Screening Room, and the fourth of five short programs. You can find our coverage of those other programs here, here and here. These are competition shorts, however the actual competition is over, wrapping up Tuesday night with the announcement of the jury award winners.

The domestic prize went to Brick Novax’s Diary Pts. 1 and 2. You can see a teaser here. A proposed 4 part series, part 2 will screen tomorrow night on HBO as part of  Funny or Dies Presents: Season 2. Weirdly another Funny or Die production won last year’s Sundance Jury Prize, Drunk History Vol. 5. We featured Vol. 1 shortly thereafter on the site, and it was not received well by you all. I hope Brick Novax is awesome, but I’m not liking this trend.

Ariel Kleiman took the International Jury Prize for Deeper Than Yesterday. Scope his nice trailer for it. Of the 6 Honorable Mentions, of particular interest for us is David O’Reilly garnering one for The External World.

Anyway, onto this week’s online films.

stil image for the short film: "Close"Close (Tahir Jetter)

“One night after a casual ‘visit’, Angela is all but ready to leave Derek’s apartment. Derek, however, is determined no to let her go without a fight.”

I like Close, more so perhaps for what it wants to be than what it is. The film is raw: emotionally, sexually—it is the type of unvarnished look at people and relationships that I like to see from NYU student films. It is a weird cousin to an NYU short like Andy and Zach, in that sense. I’m sure the film is disturbing to some, and being auto-biographical it is brave of Jetter to put himself out there the way he has. It appears truthful to me though, the way lovers manipulate, dominate and hide their thoughts and feelings from each other.

What I didn’t like was I felt that the narrative arc was incomplete. She detached, he asserted, she briefly submitted, then detached. Simplistic stuff, but without a clearer understanding of where this couple have been, the indeterminacy of the closing lacked climax.

Score: 7/10

still image from short film "oops"Oops (Chris Beckman)

“A metaphorical elucidation exploring the Internet’s infinite repository of ‘throwaway’ social documentation.”

This film won Best “Experimental” at the Vimeo Awards in October. A great found footage collage, Beckman, gathers and edits footage of cameras being dropped he collected from around the web. Not really up my alley, but it is a bit remarkable how much more entertaining it is than one would expect from that description. The anthropological documentation doesn’t do much for me, but the enormous skill in the film’s transitions between footage sources appeals to the filmmaker in myself. Still at 10 minutes it is probably longer than the concept warrants.

Score: 6/10

still image from short film: Sasquatch birth journalSasquatch Birth Journal 2 (David & Nathan Zellner)

“An unprecedented peek at the mysteries of nature.”

Ugh, I’m sorry, but I see basically no redeeming value in this. Mocked up as a field-recording of a Sasquatch in the wild giving birth, the film is juvenile, but doesn’t even work on juvenile levels. I concede that the movie does possess a certain subversive, uncomfortable tension due the length of the static opening shot. This might allow it work in a festival setting, i.e. with an audience, in a dark theater, everyone excited with anticipation due to the pomp and circumstance of the occasion. However late at night, on the internet, I began to severely second-guess the festival programmers. The Zellner Bros. are faves of Sundance, having had something like 5 shorts in the festival and a feature, Goliath, that I had heard good things about, so I won’t write them off because of this however.

Score: 2/10

Yelp (With Apologies to Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”) (Tiffany Shlain)

“Sophocles once said, ‘nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse,’ and this couldn’t be more true of technology.”

Another of the Sundance picks that has been online, I first saw this film when it was on the shortlist for YouTube Play. Tiffany Shlain is a vet of the indie scene and is also famous as one of the founders of the Webby Awards. In this collage-piece she rewrites Ginsberg for the modern era of technological crisis. The writing is very good and the delivery by Peter Coyote is superb. The imagery is ok, buoyed by animations from Stefan Nadelman, Shlain’s collaborator on her wonderful film The Tribe, and creator himself of the legendary short, Terminal Bar. Shlain succumbs however to one of the sins of a music-video-style collage approach—excessively literal depictions of the words. That said, while the subject is well-trod, the film is far more entertaining than your average  NYT puff piece about how tech is changing our brains, giving us all ADD.

Score: 8/10