I am currently a panelist for an unofficial Hulu Awards ceremony. We are assessing videos available to watch on Hulu in various categories, including Sports, 80s television, horror movies, classic television, etc., and nominating the best shows in each category. “Best” is quite a subjective term for choosing nominees, so there has been a lot of variety in the nominees. If you are interested in seeing the various categories, or having your own votes included, check out The Hulu Review. There are links to the award categories in the upper right-hand corner.
For those of you not familiar, Hulu is an ad supported online video service, free to viewers, that provides tv shows, movies, and other video clips. I have really enjoyed browsing the videos, some of which I am familiar with, and others that I’ve never heard of. The short films fall into this second category – before watching them on Hulu, I had never heard of any of them. What I’ve discovered is that there is much to appreciate and enjoy in short films. Read on for my picks for the best short films currently available on Hulu, as well as a few that were my least favorite.
- Evol – The brief description for this film on Hulu calls it “a fantastically choreographed short that proves even in a backwards world, there’s a place for love.” I loved it! It’s whimsical, sweet, colorful, and visually stunning. I think this is something I could watch again and again, and always smile and notice something new. It is my top pick for Best Dramatic Short.
- The Rip-Off – I always enjoy heist movies, and I was impressed that this little film managed to fit a complex con job into ten minutes. The editing first creates a sense of uncertainty, as the audience can’t be sure which customers are in on the job, but after the rip-off is completed, we are able to see an “instant replay” of what happened on the store’s video surveillance. The camera work during this section is very well done, zooming in and slowing down at just the right moments to draw our attention to the quick moving con artists’ stealthy moves. The music, the editing, and the acting all come together for a smoothly produced, entertaining short.
- One Down – “Trying to solve a crossword can be murder.” That’s the tag line for this short film that is an odd meshing of the mundane, the mysterious, and the macabre. Who knew a movie about a crossword puzzle could be so entertaining? On one level, it shows the simple pleasure of sitting down with a cup of tea to solve one of these challenging little puzzles. On another, it deals with much heavier themes (which I won’t reveal here in case you want to see for yourself). And at its finest, it uses the element of word play in clever, surprising, and magical ways to tell its story. The musical score complements and reflects the tone, as it shifts from relaxed to surprised to nervous, etc. Don’t let the “Mature Audiences Only” rating scare you away. That rating is due to the main character’s occasional use of offensive language, but you have to read the subtitles to even know what he is saying.
- Uncle Jonny – This quirky short doesn’t have production values as impressive as the other three on this list, but the script and the characters are what make it worthy of the final spot on my list of nominees. The basic premise of this seven minute short is that the main character, a young boy, is obsessed with the number eight. He is daydreaming in class about all the things the number eight represents. His sing-song recitation of all things eight is at times funny, at others sweet, and sometimes bittersweet. Beyond the oddity of everything revolving around a number, this little story allows us to see the world, and more specifically a dysfunctional family, from the innocent perspective of its youngest member. So whether it’s his aunt’s depression, his Uncle Jonny’s criminal behavior, or his crush on a classmate, the audience is entertained by the narration, as well as the colorful cast who play all the people in the boy’s life. There is a brief cameo by Hugh Jackman, but that is far from the main reason to watch. My only complaint is the sudden, silly ending, but perhaps that is in keeping with the mindset of the little boy.
If you have a chance to watch any of these shorts, let me know what you think of them.
And here are some shorts that I was less impressed by:
- Way of the Flounder – This ten minute short follows the journey of a fish from its home in the sea, to its death in a fish net, to a dinner plate at a restaurant, etc. I am often interested in seeing a different perspective on daily life, and seeing the “adventures” of a fish certainly qualifies as that. However, the pacing was too slow, there was little to no music to add interest, and it simply wasn’t entertaining and had no clear purpose.
- The Masquerade – This was billed as an “unexpected thriller,” but I was very disappointed. It had potential that was never realized, and its concept was mostly borrowed from other movies. This just goes to show that having an established actor (in this case Chris Masterson) as the star doesn’t always translate into having a better short film.
- At the Quinte Hotel – This short is highly rated on Hulu, but I guess I just didn’t “get it.” It is described as “A bar, a beer, a brawl- not your average night at the pub. Starring Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip.” In my opinion, it was too hip for its own good. To much flash, not enough substance.
Stay tuned for my take on upcoming categories for the Hulu Awards. I’m enjoying discovering new shows and clips and look forward to sharing my opinions with anyone who cares to join in.