As bright greens and warm breezes give way to golden yellows and crisp chills, we say sayonara to summer and hello, again, to our best picks from the last whole month of summer 2018. This batch is all about challenges, whether that obstacle is getting arrested for dealing coke at 15 years old, or watching your home planet destroy itself with nuclear weaponry from the windows of your (now directionless) spaceship. Ironically, deciding on which eight gems were the best representatives of their category was unusually easy this month. We think you’ll understand why from the your first click of the play button. Dive in, and enjoy!
Flawless surfing on the spine of gnarly ocean waves? Check. Waves so big they could swallow up your entire neighborhood? Check. A+ cinematography from director and DP Scott Nichols? Check. What we have here is a big wave surf film that tracks our human relationship with its physical domain. With a dope concept set against jaw-dropping waves, it’s no surprise that everyone involved in this stylish short looks like someone we’d want to hang out with.
Trapped high above Earth, the astronauts watch in detached horror as mushroom clouds blossom across the surface of the planet. Their mission is unclear, but the pair is tasked with documenting nuclear destruction. However, at a certain point, the damage on Earth is too great for them to process emotionally. With radio communication lost and power outages growing larger, darkness engulfs the world. We discovered Tomasz Popakul’s excellent animation at Sundance this year, and couldn’t wait for this stunning piece to make its online debut as a Staff Pick Premiere. Press play to see why.
“The Climb” by Michael Covino
Kyle is pretty bummed out from his recent breakup from Kelly, a woman he dated for three years. Knowing that his best friend could use some fresh air, Michael invites a sad but hopeful Kyle to climb the steep streets of outer Los Angeles for the day. In a short biking sesh filled with twists and turns, Kyle is crushed by a truth bomb thrown onto him by his closest bud halfway up a challenging hill. We have yet to watch this short with anyone who hasn’t laughed at it, and dare you to try to resist the hilarity of this original story.
After only one day of filming, the students of a 3rd grade class at the California School for the Deaf seemed to forget that directors Chris Fillippone and Azar Kafaei were quietly observing them. The film that resulted from these recordings is an intimate and powerful documentary following young deaf students as they navigate science lessons, forge playground friendships and absorb a lesson about the activist movement Black Lives Matter. By allowing their sweet subjects to show us their everyday lives without narration or exposition, Fillippone and Kafaei provide a window into the world of modern day deaf children as they are gently introduced to the perplexities of today’s world.
In the cinematic world of gangsters and drug dealers, kids are often portrayed as pawns, either serving or sacrificed for the larger game. “Drug Runner,” one of this month’s Staff Pick Premieres, takes us further into the psyche of a young kid with a gripping, step-by-step account of his journey into a life of crime. Based on a series of interviews with a friend from filmmaker Charlotte Regan’s childhood, this quick-moving true story is a powerful docu-drama told with unflinching candor that’s a testament to the unique trust shared between filmmaker and subject. If you enjoy expertly edited true-life crime dramas about drug deals that spiraled into disaster (like, say, Goodfella’s), you’ll dig this short.
When observing the eye-popping technology of today, it’s fun to think about what would happen if we placed, say, a founding father in a time machine and brought him to the future. Upon stepping into the new millennium, what would they think of cars, or television, or animation that looks so close to reality you couldn’t even begin to wrap your head around how it was made. Our best eye candy video this month is sharp and innovative enough to convince anyone that magic is real, humans are hella creative and that the future is going to look really freaking sweet.
Nine-time Staff Pick recipient Brandon Li is an insatiable globetrotter whose A+ badge earning videos have swept us through the vastly different terrains of Spain, Mongolia, China, Bali, Dubai, India, Japan and now, South Korea. Half travel videolog, half documentary, “seoul_wave” provides a sweeping tour of an urban city with a vibrant, fast-paced culture that is heavily dependent on modern technology. What makes Brandon’s latest opus stand out from his other outstanding travel videos? His willingness to delve into the lesser known nooks of Korean culture, shining a light on communal eating via video chat, the popularity of plastic surgery, and packed video gaming events.
Canada-based director Jonathan Desbiens has been churning out top quality shorts for over half a decade, earning 8 Staff Picks for his epic VFX-laden music videos since his first badge in 2012. His latest video for “Corporation” is perhaps his most ambitious endeavor yet, following the villainous behavior of a cast of bad seeds who are all suspects in the murder of Jack White. In a gray-hued world that moves to the rhythm of a Jack White song veering on the experimental rock n’ roll end of the pop song spectrum, both Jonathan and Jack take creative risks in this piece and land firmly on their feet. Their bold artistic choices resulted in a thoroughly entertaining eight minute film that should be adapted into a feature film.
For the second month in a row, we’re sticking a “Best of the Month” badge for best VR film on the player of a HIDDEN Content vid directed by Adam Donald and Jake Wasserman. July’s 360 short, “SAMSUNG VR - The Anatomy of Ski w/ Bode Miller,” put us in the ski shoes of an Olympic and World Championship gold medalist, while this month’s immersive experience places us warmer climates alongside professional surfer Ian Walsh. For those who have never found themselves gliding through the barrel of a wave, “The Anatomy of Surf w/ Ian Walsh” is your 3-minute ticket to crossing that goal off of your bucket list.
If a month’s worth of Staff Pick gems didn’t scratch your itch, be sure to browse our Best of the Month Channel.