Ho ho ho, Vimeo.
This year we featured just under 1,500 videos in Staff Picks. We loved them all, but, in the spirit of year-end lists, some videos must be given affection of a more cosmic variety. Below are our top 10 videos of the year, along with some personal thoughts on why we enjoyed them.
Jeffrey Wright’s excitable demeanor and crazy experiments teach children about the universe, but one lesson in particular teaches them the true meaning of life — when he opens up about his son. Zack Conkle, a photojournalist and former student of Wright, crafts a beautiful documentary about his mentor in two movements: the first makes you love what Mr. Wright does, the second makes you admire who he is. (Jason Sondhi)
One of our personal highlights of 2013 was screening Staff Picks at the Vimeo Theatre at SXSW. We already loved this video, but watching it on the big screen, with an audience, blew us far, far away. The sheer amount of work involved. The amazing attention to detail. Even watching on a mobile screen, you can feel the colossal amount of energy that was expended, but seeing the pen strokes coloring in the white board tipped us over the edge.
You may have already seen this video, and we’ve certainly lost count of how many times we’ve watched it. But find the biggest screen you can, turn up the volume, and watch it again. You won’t regret it. (Jordan McGarry)
Once in a while we’re faced with a life or death situation, or at least what feels like one. Martin Rosete’s short, “Voice Over,” is a harrowing testament to our tendency to overestimate the obstacles we face, reminding us that a leap of faith often pays off. Nominated for a Goya Award, the film won us over with its remarkable ability to blend suspense, comedy, and romance, and with high production values to boot. It’s the definition of a crowd-pleaser. (Sam Morrill)
The charming personality and honesty of “The Scared Is Scared” brings us in close. A story narrated by a child and acted out by adults, it feels as fun and comfortingly familiar as our favorite bedtime story. By listening in on their conversation, we get to know the narrator, Asa Baker-Rouse, and the filmmaker, Bianca Giaever. They invite us into their secret, half-imaginary world, which is pleasure enough, but we also benefit from a child’s advice, which is perfectly suited to combat any adult insecurity. (Ian Durkin)
Using a poignant poem written and performed by Shane Koyczan as inspiration, Canadian design firm Giant Ant organized a massive Internet collaboration uniting animators the world over as part of the global campaign against bullying. These volunteers each brought their distinct vision to 20 seconds of footage, and the resulting compilation is a wild, cutting-edge collection of styles that are brought together by a strong message — a fitting metaphor for the diversity of individual experiences confronting bullying. (Jason Sondhi)
With meditative music and a voiceover that could slacken the tightest shoulders, this video is like a session with an amazing psychoanalyst. Pulling us all in with a string of illusions, the film explains why such visual trickery freaks us out: “These tricks of light are unnerving, they are cracks in our confidence about our own perceptions.”
Causing us to question even the solidity of our own physical bodies, Illusions (part one) is possibly the deepest video we’ve featured this year. And the last line, “You are doing the best you can,” is the closest we’ve ever come to getting a hug from a video. Outstanding. (Jordan McGarry)
James W. Griffiths was already a known entity on Vimeo when “Room 8” first appeared, so our expectations were high. Commissioned by Bombay Sapphire for its celebrated Imagination Series, “Room 8” is the story of a prisoner who discovers the metaphysical peculiarities of the prison in which he’s confined. It’s clever and darkly comic, with welcome echoes of The Twilight Zone. (Sam Morrill)
With its long, ambiguous build-up in outer space, the opening to this video kills us. The music is bumpin’, the handclaps are going, we’re ready to go, but to where? Then BOOM! The video’s concept kicks in and it’s grins from ear to ear. We don’t believe in guilty pleasures, but this vid is pretty sinful, and when it finishes we’re ready to press play and indulge again. Ohji definitely knows how to treat us right. (Jason Sondhi)
The first time watching “Box” is a struggle. Not tedious by any means, but the viewer must juggle pure enjoyment with logistical questions and thoughts about the potential implications. The production house Bot & Dolly introduced us to robot camera systems that can move objects with remarkable precision, and we watched in awe. Flat, projected-on objects move around a room while a man interacts with them, seemingly in total control. It is rare to come across a video that introduces a technique that is completely new to the film industry, and to see it at the grandiose scale of “Box” is unforgettable. We can hardly wait for the follow up. (Ian Durkin)
We first saw “The Record Breaker” at the Full Frame Film Festival and immediately fell in love with its protagonist, Ashrita Furman. On the surface it’s a comedic documentary profiling the man who holds the record for, um, holding the most Guinness World Records. But the heart of “The Record Breaker” is a moving story about a father and son, their estrangement, and ultimate reconciliation. (Sam Morrill)
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE
It wouldn’t be fair (or very fun) to leave out the amazing films that were added to our shiny new Vimeo on Demand platform in 2013. So while we’re here, let’s pretend we’re a DVD menu and give you some bonus material: our top three Vimeo On Demand films of 2013. If you haven’t watched them yet, you simply haven’t finished 2013 properly. What are you waiting for?
The film we launched our Vimeo On Demand service with at SXSW 2013, “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” remains one of our favorites. Independent animation legend Don Hertzfeldt’s years-in-the-making magnum opus explores a stick-figure descent into madness and confrontation with mortality. The film is challenging, funny, sad, and soulful. It is an utterly unique viewing experience, and represents the best of what Vimeo is about. (Jason Sondhi)
Sean Dunne isn’t out to reinvent documentary filmmaking; rather he seems intent on mastering one particular, but highly important, element of it: empathy. In Oxyana, the performances he summons from his interview subjects are truly heartrending. The citizens of Oceana, West Virginia, a town so haunted by addiction to the prescription painkiller Oxycontin that they call it Oxyana, bare their pain with incredibly honesty. With a patient lens and disposition, Dunne records their cries and interweaves their myriad perspectives into a compelling narrative on the decline of small-town America. (Jason Sondhi)
If you have a fondness for photography or New York City, or, heck, even a fondness for people, Cheryl Dunn’s Everybody Street is for you. A portrait of NYC’s greatest street photographers, this film would have been satisfying enough as a slideshow of their legendary work. But it is much more than that, and, through interviews, the sensibilities of these pioneering artists emerge. A history lesson, a lecture on the power of art, and above all a fascinating visual delight, Everybody Street is one of our favorite feature films of 2013. (Jason Sondhi)Happy everything!