The CFC presents a series of shorts in their Short Dramatic Films program (Sunday, June 5 at 12:00 p.m. at the Varsity Cinemas) that showcase some of the best work from CFC resident filmmakers, and four of the very best films in the festival. Michel Kandinsky’sKill Brass is a sparse, but stylish showdown between two rival snipers intent on killing each other to become the best in the world at what they do. The film uses a wealth of styles and techniques to keep the action moving without having the characters give too much away too quickly. Kandinsky is also aided by two great lead performances from Graham Abbey and Ron White who play out a battle of militaristic wills over a simple breakfast. Transmission, from director Randall Okita, is the story of a tow truck driver and recovering alcoholic (Andrew Moodie) who is in the process of burning out when he is drawn into the middle of situation involving an abandoned dog, a surly and threatening young adult, and a quickly escalating domestic dispute that he wants no part of. Moodie give a soulful and heartfelt performance that helps the audience make it through some decidedly tough subject matter that will leave even the hardiest of viewers with an enormous lump in their throats. In Hans Olson’s well acted and quietly soulful Champagne, a young woman (Lara Martin) downs an entire bottle of expensive liquid courage (in honour of her birthday and the leaving of a coworker) while working the overnight shift at a furniture store who uses the liquor to try and say what she feels in her heart needs to be said. The series of films ends with How to Rid Your Lover of a Negative Emotion Caused By You! from director Nadia Litz about a very professionally minded woman who doesn’t seem to know exactly what she wants to do in life (Sarah Allen) who surgically removes any negative emotions she causes to her partner despite the growing side effects and consequences. The film works as a kind of mirror image to Charlie Kaufman’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and is equal parts creepy, depressing, and thought provoking with some of the most memorable, creative, and gruesome scenes of the festival. It is safely like nothing I have ever seen before and I mean that in the best way possible.
For those looking for the greatest concentration of celebrities, there are two programs dedicated to shorts featuring some of the festivals biggest heavy hitters. Celebrity Shorts 1 (Thursday, June at 7:00 p.m. at the ROM and Sunday, June 5 at 7:15 p.m. at the Varsity) seems on paper to be made up mostly of B-team players, but many of the films are of A-list quality. White Other is a well acted and surprising short from director Dan Hartley, who is best known as a cameraman on each of the Harry Potter films The film reunites Potter alums Tom Felton (looking much older) and Imelda Staunton (looking much younger) in a story about an overnight ICU nurse facing a distraught and belligerent young man with a secret. Sergeant Slaughter, My Big Brother is a quirky tragicomedy about a young man (Tom Hardy, who is completely nude for the first 5 minutes he is on screen) who is keen on joining the French Foreign Legion and is perfectly content on using his willing younger brother (Ben MacLeod) as a sparring partner and punching bag. Animal Love feels like it would be more at home in The Hipster program with a semi-futuristic tale of two young people (Selma Blair and Jeremy Davies) who are looking for no strings attached sex that are derailed by lies and allergies. An Act of Love is a very funny film about a married man (Extras’ Stephen Mangan, in one of the best performances of the festival) who is asked by his wife to artificially inseminate her sister the old fashioned way. The program closes off with the heartwarming yet sarcastic Christmas story Bunce, from writer/actor Stephen Fry who recounts the true story of his friendship with an awkward young boy while at boarding school. Lovers of British humour will undoubtedly get a kick out of watching young Fry (played by Daniel Roche) torture his headmaster (played by Fry, himself) over something as petty as a cache of hidden candy.
Celebrity Shorts 2 (Friday, June at 7:00 p.m. at the Bloor Cinema) brings out even more of the heavy hitters than the previous Celebrity Shorts program. Sexting, the latest from filmmaker Neil LaBute, starring Julia Stiles as a woman confronting her lover’s secret wife for the first time. I know a lot of people like LaBute, so my mentioning of this film is strictly cursory despite my complete dislike for it. If you don’t like the polarizing nature of LaBute’s earlier films, you will probably dislike this one as much as I did. A .45 at 50th alternates between historical recreations and an interview surrounding actor James Cromwell’s involvement in helping the Black Panther Party for a weekend in the 1960s. Cromwell himself is very candid and self effacing in the interview and is directed and played by his son John, who is the spitting image of his father in the recreated footage. The film is a very informative, entertaining, and insightful looks into the past life of a notable figure many wouldn’t have believed existed. How It Ended is an almost Albee like domestic drama about a dying woman (Debra Winger) who tells her husband (Larry Pine) to invite his mistress to dinner on the night she has arranged to take her own life in an effort to ease his pain and guilt over the situation. Winger is excellent and Pine is nothing short of astonishing. Steve showcases a battle of wits between neighbours Keira Knightley and a gleefully deranged Colin Firth as the titular Steve, who is essentially the neighbour from hell. Firth is equal parts comedic, creepy, and downright scary and the film showcases talents that he very rarely gets to show on screen. Actress Rachel Weisz directs two of today’s most underrated actors, Rosemarie Dewitt and Joel Edgerton in The Thief, a story of a robber and the woman he is trying to rob. The film is nothing special, but it is certainly effective. The program closes with The Third Rule, which features the inspired casting of Anthony Hopkins as a self help guru hired by slackers Jason Biggs and Joel Moore who are looking for some sort of divine inspiration instead of a way of actually paying their rent. Hopkins seems to be doing the best Marlon Brando impersonation ever committed to film and he is clearly having a blast playing someone who just doesn’t care one bit about helping anyone. The big twist can be seen from space, but Hopkins makes it all work incredibly well.
For tickets and more information, visit shorterisbetter.com.
Top image: A scene from The Third Rule. Courtesy the Worldwide Short Film Festival.