Thursday, 2 June 2011

Worldwide Short Film Festival: Celebrity Quickies;-)

Worldwide Short Film Festival: Celebrity Shorts 1 & 2. I've always wondered why celebrities dabble in shorts. It can't always be because they can't find work; yet in this year's collection of Celebrity Shorts you'll find such Oscar winners such as Colin Firth, Sandra Bullock, Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz (directing)and Oscar a parade of Oscar nominees: Gérard Depardieu, Imelda Staunton, James Cromwell, Debra Winger, and Kiera Knightley. And football notable Peyton Manning doesn't need the money. They can't all be doing it as a glamour project, either. Maybe they just like to act and want a break from being in projects that have to rack up millions of box office dollars. Whatever the reason, they do all do a bang up job in the shorts screening at WWSFF this year.

Celebrity Shorts 1
Thursday, June 2, 7:00 pm, Royal Ontario Museum
Sunday, June 5, 7:15 pm, Cineplex Odeon Varsity Cinema
94 Minutes

I thoroughly enjoyed each of the seven shorts in this section. From the documentary, PS Your Mystery Sender, about British designer Paul Smith and his odd collection of fan mail/paraphernalia (surf boards, mismatched skis, stuffed animals etc) sent by unknown appreciators of his work, to the sombre and touching French drama Winter Frog, featuring Gérard Depardieu as a grieving vintner, whose life is infused with the spirit of magic by an unexpected visitor (Eriko Tanaka). Harry Potter actors, Imelda Staunton and Tom Felton (Malfoy) play scenes far away from Hogwarts in, White Order, an hospital drama rife with dark undertones that is suitably lit by cinematographer, David Mackie. Nudity, tension and angst cloak the British short, Sergeant Slaughter, My Big Brother, which explores the relationship between a bruiser of an older (Tom Hardy) who want to join the French Foreign Legion, and his younger brother (Ben MacLeod) who is being bullied by a neighbourhood boy. The masculine interplay between the brothers and the coldness of their parents makes you want to back away from this house, while being fascinated enough to want to watch the goings on through a crack in the window.

Love is the theme in the remaining three films: Animal Love, sees Selma Blair and Jeremy Davis as loners in the future who hook up via a dating service. Shy and introverted, the two make tentative steps towards getting to know one another beyond hooking up thanks to an allergic response and an adventurous rodent named Frank. Also exploring the issue of love on many levels are Gina McKee and Stephen Mangan as a couple who goes to visit the wife's sister. What ensues in An Act of Love is best left for you to observe when you get to the theatre. Adding a sweet touch to the programme is, Bunce, written by author, actor, comedian, Stephen Fry who stars in his own childhood biographical short. As a precocious boarding school lad, it seems that Fry the Second (his brother also went to the same school), young Fry had a love of sweets that transcends every punishment he could ever endure. The scheming, sweetie lover's machinations and at school and his friendship with young Bunce is a delightful tale of childhood larceny.

Celebrity Shorts 2
Bloor Cinema
Friday, June 3, 7:00pm
88 Minutes

Who knew that James Cromwell (Babe, W, The Queen) was once linked to the Black Panther Party. Turns out, young, naive, idealistic James once loaned his parents' apartment to a few Party members back in the 60's. Narrated by Cromwell with re-enactments by his son, John, this eye-opening documentary (A .45 at 50th) will have you rethinking what you know about Cromwell while exposing some of the underhanded tactics the American government used to pursue and persecute Party members. This documentary is way at the opposite end of the scale when compared to yahoos Jason Biggs and Joel Moore who finally get their bums off the couch to learn at the feet of motivational guru, Anthony Hopkins in The Third Rule. Given the first two rules by their new life coach, these bumbling pals, think they have it made, but just what is the third rule? All I can say is "Beware the Mongoose!"

Sitting in the director's chair for The Thief, is actress Rachel Weisz, who does a wonderful job of keeping this simple story (based on a true story from Glamour Magazine) on track. This two-hander is an interesting modern morality tale that is well-acted by Rosemary DeWitt and Joel Edgerton. Also holding her own is actress, Julia Stiles in Sexting, written and directed by Neil Labute. Stiles has 97 percent of the dialogue in this short, where the camera takes the place of the woman she is taking to. The one-sided conversation about sex and communication streams naturally to its hilarious thanks to a crackling script and emotionally nuanced performance by Stiles. Like Labute, director, Rupert Friend also writes his own script for Steve, starring Colin Firth and Kiera Knightley, who has none of the usual facial tics that irriate some of her non-fans. Steve, played by Firth is an annoying neighbour, who lives downstairs from Knightly and her husband. Steve takes neighbourly-ness and the British cuppa to a different level in this dark, biting satire about how modern social interaction.

Meanwhile...Meanwhile...is a bright movie musical with a pleasant surprise. The dancers in this one belong on the hot tamale train for transforming themselves from concession stand employees to hoofers who raise the roof with popcorn and fountain drinks. The dynamic team of Sable and Battlion remain true to their brand of comedy, music and irony in this brilliant short that rivals, The Dark Side, for its humourous surprises. A spoof of Sandra Bullock's The Blind Side (and no, you don't have to go rent it before seeing this), this short takes kindness and to the extreme, where good Samaritan, Sandra, insists on mothering NFL quarterback, Peyton Manning. Did the studio not know what Saturday Night Live contributor, Seth Meyers would do with their film! Way to go, Seth!

I'm not saving the best for last with How It Ended. Unfortunately, you have to sit through 18 minutes of Debra Winger dying if you want to see the rest of these wonderful short films. Time is really relative here: Steve is 16 minutes of acerbic wit; How It Ended is only 2 minutes longer, but feels like it's an hour longer. Had it been shorter, the ending to the film would have been a fantastic pay-off, instead it elicits a lackluster response. Note to director/writer, Gabriel Nussbaum: shorter is better!



http://worldwideshortfilmfest.com/
May 31 - June 5
BOX OFFICE
Cumberland Terrace
2 Bloor Street West, entrance on Cumberland between Bay and Yonge
416-929-2232 (tickets and passes)
Monday May 30 to Friday June 3: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Saturday June 4: 11:00 am to 6:00 pm
Sunday June 5: closed (tickets will be available at theatre box offices all day)
Please note that all sales are final. No refunds or exchanges.

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