SHORT FILMS ARE made for the monks of cinema, not for the sinners. What I mean is, those who watch short films do so out of an obligation to the art (the church of cinema!) and not for pleasure. Short films function more like term papers--they demonstrate a director's ability to produce a film. It is not made for its own sake, but instead is supposed to point to bigger things, to a bright future when the audience will not be made up of monks with notepads (i.e., critics), but useless, common sinners munching popcorn in the dark.

Such was the attitude I had when I sat down to preview a set of short films the Little Theatre is presenting this weekend. The series, which is called "Local Sightings," contains three programs: First is "Cinema Implosion!," which offers eight short films by local filmmakers showing the imploding Kingdome. Second is "New Summer Shorts," which offers six shorts co-produced by WigglyWorld Studios over the past year. Third is "The Other Cinema," which offers a number of experimental films from the Northwest and beyond, selected by local experimental filmmakers of note.

To be honest, I had written a mental review for this series long before entering the cinema: It would be a pious review, mentioning the importance of short films, supporting local film, and so on. The short films would be experimental, slow, and dull, and I would write that they were challenging, intelligent, and serious. No problem--this was the job of a monk; I had enough coffee in my veins to keep my eyes open through the experimental stuff. Yes, I was ready to pay my dues to the church of cinema! But I am not exaggerating or attempting to convert sinners (I would never do that!) when I say that I simply enjoyed these short films. Indeed, I enjoyed them like a sinner in the sun.

Not one of the shorts I saw was bad (I saw five of the six shorts to be shown in the "New Summer Shorts" program, and one from the "Cinema Implosion!" program); they are all directed, acted, and photographed very well. Here is an overview of what I saw: The first short was Gimmie the Trouble, which is about two hicks trying to have a birthday party with two drunk girls. Directed by Renate Anderson, the film has a bumpy start because the main characters seem to be going nowhere. As a consequence, one wonders if the film will go anywhere, but, amazingly, the short comes to life, and comically stumbles to its absurd conclusion. The second short, Brian Thomas' The Incredible Vibrating Man, is my least favorite in the series if only because I'm a little tired of superhero spoofs. The superhero in this film happens to vibrate; he has dangerous enemies, a beautiful girlfriend, and all he wants is a normal life--the drama of the superhero.

The third short, Christmas, is by Serge Gregory. It's based on a story by the greatest writer in the English language, Vladimir Nabokov, and, like all of the shorts I have seen by Serge Gregory, it is beautiful. With its deep colors, shadows, sad faces, and dreamy atmosphere, how can it fail? And to fail is easy, especially when it comes to translating a Nabokov story into cinematic terms (indeed the only other success in this regard is Fassbinder's adaptation of Nabokov's novel Despair).

Then there is The Beer Commercial, which I think is going to win an award or something, because it's very funny. The film, directed by Roald Simonson, was shot in somber Spokane and concerns a small-time brewer who wants to make a big-time beer commercial. He doesn't know how to go about doing this, so he hires a man from the street who claims he does. True, this is not the most original comic formula in the world, but Simonson manages to squeeze a lot of humor and poetry out of it.

The "Summer Shorts" program also offers two trailers: Artificial Life Trailer, which is a stop-action film on the building of ConWorks, and Popcorn Trailer, a documentary about the famous "Popper Man" of West Seattle, made by the staff at WigglyWorld. All in all, I'm certain that the regular film crowd, the sinners of cinema, will enjoy these short films as they loudly munch their popcorn in the dark.