WSFF: Day 3

A Lost and Found Box of Human Sensation
Day Three of WSFF was lots of fun! First on the list of screenings was the “Silver Linings” portion of the Official Selection. “Silver Linings” begins with the brilliant Inception-esque roller coaster ride Rubika. Made by Claire Baudean, Ludovic Habas, and Mickael Krebs, Rubika employs dazzling 3D animation for a gravity-defying trip around the world. After Rubika, the series stays closer to home with the Canadian short Sang Froid (Cold Blood) by Martin Thibaudeau. Cold Blood is a touching story of sibling devotion. Riding high on the emotions offered by Cold Blood is the exhilarating animated film A Lost and Found Box of Human Sensation. Made by Martin Wallner and Steufan Leuchtenberg, Lost and Found is an affective odyssey through grief and despair. The film is narrated by Ian McKellen and features voice work by Joseph Fiennes, and the star pedigree enhances the great imagery and inspired storytelling. A different take on dealing with death is the black comedy The Life and Death of Yul Brenner. Louis-David Morasse stars as Benoit, a weary traveller who comes home to find his answering machine crammed with messages offering urgent updates on the declining health of his mother, and even more urgent pleas from a video store clerk demanding that Benoit return his movies. Enjoy this type of humour before Netflix wipes it out! 

“Silver Linings” also features one of the better documentaries of WSFF, the German entry Holding Still by Florian Riegel. In Holding Still, Janis, an unseen narrator, takes the viewer on a tour of her home and recounts a story of young love that was too good to be true. Holding Still has one of the most jarring twists you will find in a documentary, but more importantly, it delivers a truly inspiring story of perseverance and hope. Holding Still greatly eclipses the other disability-themed short of “Silver Linings”, Going Nowhere. A story of euthanasia and family ties, Going Nowhere is insufferably long and cheesy – by the ten-minute mark I couldn’t help but think, “If you’re not going to use the needle, please give it to me!” Another medical-themed drama of “Silver Linings” is the Peruvian film A Doctor’s Job, which tells of a surgeon who also drives a taxi so that he can foot the bill for his mother’s retirement home – fans of Telenovelas delight! Finally, one of the silver linings of the series is the uproarious Canadian film Altarcations. Andrea Fletcher and Geoff Hendry star as a husband and wife who seek the aid of a priest (Dan Abramovici) when they can’t seem to reconcile their pre-wedding squabbles. Unfortunately, for Andrea, this Father thinks Nine Inch Nails is appropriate music for a first dance. Amen!
After “Silver Linings” was the second half of the “Celebrity Shorts” program. The shorts of part 2 are not quite as good as those in part 1, but the surplus of star-wattage makes it equally fun. “Celebrity Shorts” starts off with the brisk Meanwhile…, which features stars from So You Think You Can Dance in a story of what goes on in a movie theatre once the credits roll. Next stop on the Hot Tamale train is Neil Labute’s brilliant film Sexting. Julia Stiles stars as ‘the other woman’ who confronts her husband’s wife following an ill-sent text. Stiles delivers the jaded lover’s rage in one sharp monologue, and her range of performance is all the more impressive because Labute shoots it in one long-take. Sexting is possibly the best work of Stiles’ career –too bad the Academy doesn’t give Oscars for shorts!
Equally impressive is the documentary A .45 at 50th, in which James Cromwell recounts his efforts as an aid to the Black Panthers. The film is directed by Joshua Bell and Cromwell’s son, John, who also stars as a younger version of his father in an effective re-enactment of Cromwell’s testimony. Less effective is How it Ended, a bizarre story of terminal illness starring Debra Winger, Larry Pine and Hailey Feiffer. The performances are great, but this uncomfortable love triangle left me squirming in my seat. The next short is equally awkward, but for the better: Steve marks the directorial debut by actor Rupert Friend, and stars Keira Knightley and Colin Firth has her flabbergasting neighbour Steve. When Keira and Colin go head-to-head, Steve is the cup of tea of which attendees of “Celebrity Shorts” dream. “Celebrity Shorts 2” features another directorial debut, The Thief, by Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz. Weisz displays a natural skill behind the camera, although the sound quality of the film is distractingly poor. Nevertheless, Weisz draws great work from stars Rosemarie DeWitt and Joel Edgerton in this engaging true story of a break-in gone awry.
The Dark Side
Finally, “Celebrity Shorts 2” features two crowd-pleasing comedies. Anthony Hopkins chews the scenery in The Third Rule as a TV self-help guru who offers strange advice to slackers played by Jason Biggs and Joel Moore. The Third Rule is full of quotable dialogue, random outbursts, and fun offbeat gags. However, the biggest laughs of the night easily went to the parody The Dark Side, a mock trailer that sees NFL MVP Peyton Manning as a poor footballer who gets abducted by the crazy White Bread do-gooder played by Sandra Bullock. Fun times!
Conversation 16
The last screening of the day was the music video series “Scene Not Herd.” “Scene Not Herd” boasts a dozen or so videos, some better than others. Best in the series are the faux biopic Moves: The Rise and Rise of the New Pornographers; The National’s Conversation 16, starring Mad Men’s John Slattery as a Secret Service agent with love eyes for the President (played by Flight of the Concords’ Kristen Schaal). There’s also the kaleidoscopic head-trip Invisible Light by the Scissor Sisters and the brilliant split-screen comedy of Living Sisters’ How are You Doing, which is directed by Michel Gondry. “Scene Not Herd” got one of the biggest turnouts of the festival, and had an after-party at the Burroughs that was quick, but fun.

Best Shorts:
Silver Linings: A Lost and Found Box of Human Sensation
Celebrity Shorts 2: Sexting
Scene Not Herd: How are You Doing?

“Silver Linings” screens again on Sunday June 5 at 2:15 at the Varsity.
“Celebrity Shorts 2” and “Scene Not Herd” do not have second screenings, so keep a watchful eye on festivals and DVD bonus features!

Full program details for WSFF at www.shorterisbetter.com