How's this for reaching to find a promotional hook? The Sundance Channel, recognizing that Monday is the shortest day of the year, is programming a full day of--what else?--short films to celebrate the winter solstice. Maybe it should have gotten songwriter Randy Newman ("Short People") to pen some theme music.
Dipping into its extensive vaults to assemble "Shorts All Day," the channel plans to screen 56 shorts, including comedy, drama, fairy tales and a few utterly undefinable projects in live action and animation. The programming starts at 6 a.m. with "Ah, L'amour" and finishes with "Zap," in an alphabetical sequence that airs twice.
That's probably more short films than most people can take at one sitting. But selective viewing can produce some engaging results. There is, for example, "Dance Lexie Dance." Nominated for a 1998 Academy Award, it is a touching mini-drama about a single Irish father who finds a way to connect with his young daughter via her fascination with the dance musical "Riverdance."
And the animated film "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" is an inventive interpretation of a song by the Charlie Daniels Band about a competition between the devil and a young boy to decide who is the better fiddler, imaginatively rendered in the medium of claymation.
Other pictures make their points in quick order. The black humor of "Omar, the Short" comes and goes in a flash, as poor Omar makes yet another swift, abortive stop in his transit through the endless rounds of reincarnation. But even selective grazing can turn up pictures ("The Day I Ran Into All My Boyfriends" is one, "Smoking" is another) that have the feel of student efforts--ambitious with intention, less successful with accomplishment.
So the best solution may be to follow the Sundance lead. Shortest day of the year; short films; approached with a short attention span. That is, if they don't grab you in the first minute or two, they're probably not going to grab you at all, and it's time to make a short, hasty move to the remote control.
* "Shorts All Day" airs Monday on the Sundance Channel, starting at 6 a.m.