Looking back over last year’s of Staff Picks, we discovered that February of 2017 brought us a crazy amount of gems. Every top pick in our eight categories (action sports, animation, comedy, documentary, drama, eye candy, music, and travel) was especially awesome, and it looks like the shortest month of the year this time around is just as great. There are wonkily drawn women trying to do yoga in a sea of experts, men tryna avoid losing their hair and their dreams, sad lovers doing hallucinogenic drugs, and smiling teenagers reminding us of the joy of floating in the ocean. In these days of cold and bleak weather, we offer these nuggets of sunshine as a quality distraction until the sun comes back. Bundle up, snuggle up, and enjoy!
The past couple months, our Best of Action Sports spot has usually been about daredevil athletes flying off of craggy, snow-covered mountains at frighteningly sharp angles. February brought us this story of a more humble but equally passionate athlete that any enthusiast can relate to. Newcomer Caitlyn Greene of eight-time Staff Picked production company Voyager brings us a heartwarming story of Dean, a teen with Down syndrome whose love for surfing is equaled only by his penchant for drumming and desire to marry Rihanna. His love for the waves reminds us of the simply joy of being in nature and enjoying yourself without the pressure of striving to be the absolute best.
A life holds a million possibilities: endless choices line our path, lady luck may or may not fall into our lap, and accomplishments and misfortunes await us behind every corner. That is, unless your hair follicles have something to say about it. A curation team favorite at Sundance 2017, Paul Cabon’s “Le Futur Sera Chauve / The Bald Future” is one man’s ridiculous (-ly imaginative) and funny musing about his future as a bald man, and all of the wild adventures he must now bid adieu to because of the sorry fate of his noggin. We can’t say we agree with Paul’s opinion of bare heads, but his anxieties around the way society views hairless men are certainly entertaining.
Experience a meditative rainbow parade, courtesy of old IBM computers, archaic software programs, and the colorful brain of experimental filmmaker Dirk Koy. The textures, smooth floating movements, and soft beep boops of the strangely transfixing electronic tune accompanying this gorgeous quilt of pixelated beauty are the stress ball of the new millenium.
When America watches football, they’re not exactly keeping track of the severity and regularity of each player’s head injuries. With mounting stories of the life-altering effects of CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy), however, it’s clear that the NFL has a health crisis on its hands as more and more men suffer repeated head trauma and concussions during the game. 19-time (!) Staff Picked journalism unit Field of Vision brings us a sobering, up-close perspective of the concussions sustained by pro football athletes during the 2017-2018 season. It’s a painful watch that should accompany all discussions by the league concerning their “concussion protocol.”
With five Staff Picks to his name, we feel like animator slash comedian Noah Malone’s odd sense of humor is kind of an unrecognized national treasure. His characters — all possessing large bone structure, protruding chins, and sunken eyes — have a very strange and simple view of the world and absurd rules of social etiquette. In “Fly Safe,” for instance, we observe a couple who have been stranded while hanging by climbing ropes directly beneath a rare bird’s egg, while a plane carrying a borderline-psychopathic flight attendant glides overhead. It’s all very specifically weird and unrealistic, and that’s why it’s so damn funny.
As modern technology continues to connect distant places and people at a rate that makes it seem like teleportation could actually be a thing one day, we must acknowledge that there are disadvantages to the instant access we have to our loved ones. Today, you could see the face of your grandmother who lives in the Middle East with the click of a button, or instantly send an electronic message to a friend you curiously never see in real life but who lives in their same neighborhood. Filmmaker Jose Pando Lucas beautifully portrays the ways in which humans are, ironically, becoming emotionally disconnected from each other as the ability to contact anyone, anytime, around the planet advances by leaps and bounds.
“You wanna do MDMA now?” is not typically the response one expects when breaking up with their partner. For Danish and Norwegian filmmaker Kristian Håskjold, it was, however, the response given and what later inspired this Staff Pick Premiere. Written by both Håskjold and his ex-girlfriend Trille Cecilie Uldall-Spanner, with whom he shared the real-life experience, this 2017 SXSW Narrative Short Jury Award winner beautifully and authentically captures the swirling emotions that make up a mutual ending of a relationship.
There’s something about discovering an excellent new animated short that brings a special kind of joy to our team. When the style is unique, the compositions are interesting, the colors bold and bright, and — if its a music video — the song is good, we can’t help but get really excited to share it with our fellow cartoon nerds. All of the above were the case with Angela Stempel’s music video for singer-songwriter Renata Zeiguer’s punchy rock song “Wayside.” The main gal in this story of yoga class insecurity doesn’t really look like us, and yet her expressions and weird attempts to contort herself into the right shapes are so relatable. She may have intensely blue skin, but that look on her face when she gazes around at her hyperbolically built classmates? Girl, we feel you. And we really love your colors.
If a month worth of Staff Pick hits isn’t enough for you, be sure to check through our archives here.