Vimeo has achieved an impressive evolution over the last couple of years from simply one of dozens of simple user-generated content sites (UCG) into a powerhouse short media destination that boasts a large and devoted creative community. A full 9 of our last 10 SotW Feature picks found their hosting on the site, a remarkable stretch that not even YouTube has ever matched. Indeed the once wide open chase for market share in UCG short media has become a two-man game. YouTube has more users and better hosting, Vimeo however has the community of tastemakers needed to make a film a success.

Vimeo’s ascendancy culminated with this weekend’s Vimeo Festival & Awards in New York City—a two-day event complete with panels, workshops, and screenings designed to educate filmmakers on everything from DSLR production techniques to advanced New Media theorizing. The centerpiece of the whole affair is The Vimeo Awards, the company’s first effort at giving prizes to the best short media posted to the site in the past year. 5 films in each of 9 different categories have been chosen by the Vimeo community as finalists, with winners to be announced tonight. All the finalists can be found at the website. Still, while these films are all impressive and vouched for by an enormous community, the finalists number what?… let me do my math…45 films! Thats a lot of watching to do. Rely on us to give you the Cliff Notes. We’ve picked the three categories that fit our M.O. as a short film outlet the most, ANIMATION, DOCUMENTARY and NARRATIVE, (ignoring categories like Original Series and Music Videos), and provided you some brief thoughts, including our favorites in each category. ANIMATION Pixels; dir: Patrick Jean, 3 minThe most widely seen of the nominees, getting millions upon millions of views. New York is attacked by 8-bit video game invaders. Adam Sandler say he wants to make a feature from it. Will Vimeo viewers feel the same way? Coalition of the Willing; dir: Simon Robson/Knife Party, 15 minThe inventive Knife Party organized this project, a visual manifesto for how together we can create rhizomatic insurgencies in order to overcome the intransigence of our institution’s reactions towards catastrophic climate change. Yeah, for reals. It’s the longest and most serious of the finalists; employing the most formal innovations and incorporating the efforts of the most diverse set of contributors. Perhaps that is why of all the nominees it feels like the least essential. Between Bears; dir: Eran Hilleli, 5 min—**VIMEO AWARD WINNER** MarBelle featured this a couple of months ago. Read his review for more details. Ultimately a gorgeous piece, but can a non-narrative film win with the people? (edit: Evidently yes!) Something Left, Something Taken; dir. Max Porter & Ru Kuwahata, 10 minI imagine this will be a strong contender. The Tiny Inventions team of Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata, have created one of the most polished mixed-animation productions I have yet seen. See their wonderful making-of blog post for details. However I wish that polish extended further into the writing and story, as I had difficulty liking the characters, based evidently on Max and Ru themselves. (Sorry you two! You’re great artists and I’m sure great people!) Bottle; dir: Kirsten Lepore, 5 min—**SOTW PICK** I love Kirsten Lepore. Sweet Dreams was previously presented here, but she has without a doubt outdone herself even while doing less. There are a couple of schools of thinking on ways to innovate, how to show audiences something they haven’t seen. One is to go more baroque: add detail, add adornment, mix techniques, mix media. A couple of the nominees follow that track. The other is to simplify and create something pure, which I believe to be the harder task. There is a real minimalist perfection on display in Bottle, a film about unlikely penpals who communicate by passing things to each other in a floating receptacle. Despite the resurgence of stop-motion the last couple of years I have yet to see this approach and the same goes for the story—it is pared to the essentials, but gloriously moving. DOCUMENTARY Facts About Projection; Temujin Doran, 3minA brief and somewhat ironic piece about a 35mm projectionist prematurely morning the loss of his breed. (Has Vimeo nothing to do with the digital revolution?) It’s edited at a jaunty pace and has a nice mix of archival footage intermixed with well-composed new shots. The first documentary I’ve seen attempt Wes Anderson. Shinya Kimura @ Chabott Engineering; dir: Henrik Hansen, 3 minThere is a global fetishization of original style going on right now and a romanticization of craftsmen. The bestseller Shopcraft as Soulcraft can be seen as breakout title for this niche. Shinya Kimura likewise works on motorcycles which instantly makes him among the coolest people in the world. This film is like Facts About Projection,  a portrait of a man working with his hands, knowing about machines, who feels somehow like an iconoclast and one of a dying breed. Schlimazeltov; Light Surgeons, 10 minA ten minute treatise on “luck” viewed through the lens of the Jewish faith and the term “mazel”. A series of disconnected images that only occasionally made sense of what the interview subjects were talking about combines with meandering theological/empirical/psychological debate. The topic didn’t not grab my attention and visually it would have been better if they had pulled out for some talking-head shots frankly.  A bewildering choice. Pennies Heart; Phos Productions, 8 minPhos Productions team based out of Portland has two of the 5 nominees in the category. They have worked out how to get around the dilemma of character-based short documentaries, overcoming the lack of time to develop their characters by plunging into some of the toughest and most devastating experiences in life—in this case a child who needs a heart transplant. They have a solid DSLR-style, with shallow depth of field compositions and camera movement that floats unobtrusively into intimate scenes. The fatal flaw of this film is that it betrays its character-based strength. Text cards interspliced throughout heavy-handedly make the film something it should not be—an issue-based documentary. Plus a monumental plot point is presented and then left relatively unexplored—what culpability does the mother, a recovering drug addict, feel and do those around her feel? Last Minutes with ODEN; Phos Productions, 6 min—**SOTW PICK, VIMEO AWARD WINNER, BEST VIDEO OF THE YEAR WINNER** The second Pho Productions work, I find this to be the superior of the two. A previous recommendation of mine, I stay consistent and award this moving tale about the last days of a dog—and the owner whose life was saved from drug abuse by his love and companionship. NARRATIVE The Raven; Ricardo de Montreuil, 6 min—The year’s darling of the DiY crowd. We featured it when it came out, and my opinion is much the same as then; slick entertainment, but empty calories. Notte Sento; Daniele Napolitano, 7 min—First saw this almost 2 years back on Bobby Miller’s much-missed Best Short Films in the World. Comprised entirely of individual photographs, a girl has a chance romance with a boy after missing her train. It is an interesting gimmick, but the film as a whole doesn’t transcend the novelty factor. The frequency of the images makes the creative choices involved too similar to simply shooting video, and the formal innovation is much higher in something like Ten Thousand Pictures of You. Subsequent videos have followed Notte Sento’s lead though to more interesting effect, so credit is still due. Thrush; Gabriel Bisset-Smith, 4 min**VIMEO AWARD WINNER** The only one in the category new to me, I was taken by this other, photographic journey of love, love-lost, love-obsessed about, and love faded. A clever blending of documentary and narrative, I wonder how much of it is true, even while I recognize that it doesn’t matter. Nuit Blanche; Arev Manoukian, 4 min—Slighter than even The Raven, yet much more impressive visually as well. We featured this as a SotM earlier in the year. Definitely worth a viewing but is it substantial enough to win the category? Apricot; Ben Briand, 10 min**SOTW PICK** Our man El Vez reviewed this in May, and it is nice to see the success it has had subsequently. A beautiful-looking film, it is also affecting—an exploration of memory and its importance. *** That does it for this summary of the Vimeo Awards 2010. What stuck out to me is frankly the relative weakness of the Finalists. I’m biased of course, but I think you’re in much better hands following Short of the Week than listening to the crowds on Vimeo. Thanks for reading.