Eat My Shorts is a bi-weekly column that showcases and reviews short films.
It's more than a week until St. Patrick's Day, but that means you have plenty of time to watch all 10 of the Irish short films I've curated for you here. Actually, some of them, specifically the two oldies, are only Irish-themed but still appropriate to the holiday. So get your green on and enjoy.
First, a word about Irish shorts: Partly thanks to the Irish Film Board's interest in shorts (they just announced a new animated short funding grant) but in general due a strong national cinema overall, the past decade has seen a great surge of quality shorts from Ireland, a number of which have been nominated for Oscars. This year's contender, 'The Crush,' may have been my least favorite in its group, but it has its charms and I was still glad to see Ireland continue a streak with this being the third year in a row it was represented in the live action category.
First up is a film that won the Academy Award in 2006.
'Six Shooter' by Martin McDonagh
Fans of 'In Bruges' (and recent Sundance premiere 'The Guard') should enjoy this initial piece of evidence that the McDonagh brothers are possibly the greatest thing to ever happen to Brendan Gleeson (and vice-versa). Here he plays a widowed man who ends up on a train running on grief and happenstance. It's fairly depressing and darkly, dryly humorous, and like 'In Bruges,' it has some rapid-fire dialogue. Cow and bunny fans be warned, it's also kind of gory:
'New Boy' by Steph Green
If that last one was too violent for you, here is a sweet substitute. Like this year's Oscar nominee, Green's 2009 Oscar contender involves schoolchildren. Based on a short story by Roddy Doyle ('The Commitments'), the film is about a Rwandan refugee during his first day at his new school in Ireland. Not only does it leave me wanting more in terms of the story (in a good way), it also make me hopeful about Green's career. Her feature 'Run & Jump,' a 2010 Sundance Screenwriter's Lab vet, should be soon in production with help from the Irish Film Board.
'Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom' ('My Name Is Yu Ming') by Daniel O'Hara
Another immigrant story unfolds in this joke on language in Ireland. Yu Ming moves to Dublin from China, but first he spends six months learning Irish in order to fit in (including imitating Robert De Niro in 'Taxi Driver' for practice). Of course, few people speak the old language in Ireland, enough that some characters think Yu is speaking Chinese. Filmmaker Daniel O'Hara followed this short with another that similarly played with the obscurity of Gaelic speakers. That film, 'Fluent Dysphasia,' stars Stephen Rea as a father who wakes up one day only able to speak and understand Irish. Watch that one here. Watch 'Yu Ming' below:
'The Door' by Juanita Wilson
Without knowledge that it's an Irish production, 2010 Oscar nominee 'The Door' would be presumed to be Ukranian. It takes place during the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, following a family evacuated from Pripyat. Inspired by a short story by Nikolai Kalugin (from the book 'Voices from Chernobyl'), it was actually filmed on location, with shooting time limits and protective clothing keeping the crew safe. Seeing as next month marks the 25th anniversary of the incident, this film is a fitting selection for that more than for St. Patty's Day.
'The Silent City' by Ruairi Robinson
On the subject of apocalyptic nightmares, here is a bleak sci-fi war film from writer-director Ruari Robinson, who'd previously received an Oscar nomination for his violent computer-animated afterlife gag, 'Fifty Percent Grey' (watch that here). Featuring Cillian Murphy as one of the soldiers targeted by some mysterious threat, 'The Silent City' is like many recent sci-fi shorts in that it's ambiguously plotted and seems a calling card for a feature-length adaptation. So far such an extension isn't planned, but this film likely helped get Robinson the gig directing the live-action 'Akira' remake (for a while, anyway). Now we can be excited for Robinson's feature debut, a robot movie titled 'Blinky™,' that will hopefully be out this year.
'Prey Alone' by James Mather and Stephen St. Leger
Another vague yet cool sci-fi short, but this one has a twist that (over)explains everything in the end. Ridiculous, sure, especially the part where jet fighters follow a car into a tunnel, but kind of awesome nonetheless. And it's green, for the holiday! Like Robinson, Mather and St. Leger are now on their way up in Hollywood, with a feature debut -- the "'Taken'-in-space" blockbuster 'Lockdown,' which is produced by Luc Besson and stars Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace -- set for release early next year. See their calling card film here:
'Give Up Yer Aul Sins: The Story of St. Patrick' by Darragh O'Connell
In 2002, the Academy nominated an episode of Brown Bag Films' 'Give Up Yer Aul Sins' series. These animated documentaries take recordings from the 1960s of Irish schoolchildren telling Bible stories and illustrate them with simple, sepia-like cartoons. The one selected for the Oscars featured the story of John the Baptist (see that and other shorts from the series here), but it's obviously more appropriate for us to showcase this episode on the story of St. Patrick:
'The Wearing of the Grin' by Chuck Jones
This classic Looney Tunes short will turn 60 this summer. It stars Porky Pig in his last solo vehicle as he meets a couple of leprechauns on his way to Dublin. It's the sort of thing that taught us in our youth that Ireland was primarily known for little people, pots o' gold, harps, shamrocks and compulsory jigs. Surprisingly there's no drink to be seen, though I'm assuming the leprechauns' red noses are meant to signify alcoholism. Anyway, in spite of its stereotyping, this is a typical fun Warner Bros. cartoon:
'Undressing My Mother' by Ken Wardrop
Documentary filmmaker Ken Wardrop ('His & Hers') arrived on the scene with this very acclaimed and much-awarded short in which he filmed his mum in the buff as she discussed why she's comfortable being overweight, especially because her late husband loved her that way. It's a beautiful and touching little film, and it's too bad I have to warn people that it is indeed NSFW, unless your workplace is okay with artfully photographed elderly nudes. Anyway you have to head over to Babelgum to watch it, so go and do so when you can.
'St. Patrick's Day Parade, Lowell, Mass.' by Thomas Edison, Inc.
There isn't much to this early Edison production, which historically documents the 1905 event of the title. I wouldn't even realize it was a parade if the film didn't tell me so. Just seems like a bunch of people slowly going about their day as normal. I mean, how many of us today would have thought the men are dressed for a special occasion? Or that people 106 years ago didn't march with instruments routinely? Thank goodness for actuality films for being literal in their naming. And thank goodness for them in general. It's like time travel seeing a film like this:
I'd also like to recommend a number of short films from the 'Beckett on Film' project. I couldn't decide which to include, so I didn't include any. But if you're into Samuel Beckett and/or filmmakers like David Mamet, Anthony Minghella, Atom Egoyan and Neil Jordan, you can find a number of them easily on YouTube or elsewhere.
Have a favorite Irish short I didn't include? Tell us about it down below.