In honor of this blog's writer graduating with a Master's degree this week, Off-Model is celebrating with a smörgåsbord of apocalyptic and futuristic scenarios. A veritable buffet of delicious dystopias await, with a unsurprising amount of CG life, some fresh ideas folded into well-trodden tropes, and solid advice about what to do with those extra human skulls you've got lying around the post-nuclear wastes. It's the end of the world as we know it, and you may not feel so fine.
After ROSA awakens from her cybernetic pod to a skeleton-strewn world, her search for answers lands her in the crosshairs of some less sympathetic synthetics. Full of evocative, haunting images, ROSA  may look as good as a cut scene from a high-gloss video game, but creator Jesús Orellana made it entirely without budget during a single year. Smart camerawork keeps the action-focused short on its feet, with nods to the Matrix Trilogy, and various anime, showing up here and there. An official selection at Screamfest, Toronto After Dark, and the Los Angeles Shorts Film Festival, among others, the short caught the attention of producers, and is currently in development to be a live-action motion picture.
Artificial life is the focus yet again in Russian short The Gift , an intriguing and stylish sci-fi short from director Carl E. Rinsch, and the Philips Cinema campaign. When a mysterious package is revealed as valuable, the messenger murders his intended deliverer, only to be done in by the wealthy household's porcelain-patterned android butler. What follows is a crisply composited chase through city streets. A bleak vision of the near future, this short raises more questions than it provides answers, leaving it lingering in the mind long after the credits roll.
Originally, I hesitated to include RUIN , a slick bit of CG from Wes Ball & OddBall Animation. About a badass post-apocalyptic scavenger who inadvertently triggers a dormant security system, I felt that RUIN was high in production value, and good for action, but lacking in anything original I could take away for longer than its eight-and-half-minute duration. But I found my thoughts returning to its tantalizing hints of something more. The light-up biotech imbedded in the protagonist's hands. The implication, from his weapons, that he's dealt with this kind of threat before. Hardcore sci-fi heads, like myself, might enjoy this no matter what; I can only hope OddBall will come back with a strong backstory to round out the stunning visuals.
An attempt to rise from the ashes proves futile and destructive in the haunting semi-documentary GAMMA , from Factory Fifteen, experienced renderers of an unfortunate, dark future. After nuclear war leaves the Earth in ruins, a sinister corporation rises with a claim on a new technology that will eradicate all traces of radiation from the cities. As the film reveals in its harrowing critique of cheap urban development, quick and untested solutions can be as devastating as the problems they were meant to solve.
To end on a lighter note, we go Down Under, where Ducked and Covered: A Survival Guide to the Post Apocalypse  delivers solid advice for the population in the event that Mad Max becomes a reality. Not so much worth it for its animation as for its sheer comedic value, Nathaniel Lindsay's short has plenty of nods to genre classics, as well as playing homage to Cold War duck-and-cover reels and 1980s PSAs. From wardrobe advice, to what to do with a human skull surplus, to where one might secure the necessary ingredients for that perfect Molotov cocktail, Lindsay has got you covered when it comes to the tropes one might encounter after the world ends. This is useful information, people. Learn it, and learn it well.