If you've been watching TV's On The Lot, you know making a short film is a real crapshoot. And while this year's Canadian shorts lineup certainly has its share of pretentious film-school-style drivel ( François Miron 's experimental black-and-white seizure on film Hymn To Pan , for example), more than a few filmmakers obviously set out with one clear goal: entertain the hell out of you for four, seven or 10 minutes.
Take The Canadian Shield , a beautifully shot police parody (it opens like one of those old Hinterland Who's Who nature vignettes) that asks the question "What is a Mountie without his horse?" Josh Peace stars as the unmounted Mountie, who finds himself in a gunfight with a grizzled trapper after rescuing a damsel in distress from the train tracks. Written and directed by Simon Ennis and with a fine comic performance by Peace, it's worth seeking out. Oh, and the answer to that question, according to the de facto Dudley Do Right, is "just some asshole out dicking around in a stupid fucking hat."
In a similar vein is the sepia-toned silent western Shooting Geronimo , by Kent Monkman . A throwback to old serials, this funny film-within-a-film stars Monkman's alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, as Lonesome Rider and features breakdancing, General Custer and a fair bit of homoeroticism.
Jonathan van Tulleken 's Bumblebee is one of the most chillingly effective and perfectly executed shorts in the program. The set-up is simple: two boys, one with Down's syndrome, are playing with a bumblebee when one of them smashes it with a rock. The payoff is note-perfect and darkly comic.
Also out for a bit of madcap fun is Kelly Harms 's Cursing Hanley , about a guy whose fiancée puts a curse on him after he cheats on her. Spilled soup, a lost wallet, parking tickets, power outages and much nuttiness ensue.
Perhaps the simplest short of the festival is Robert Kennedy 's I've Never Had SexÉ . It consists entirely of people looking into the camera and finishing the titular question. Or admitting that they have, in fact, had sex on an airplane, in a stairwell, at work, on the Internet-. Cute, provocative and surprisingly funny.
On the dramatic side, Eve And The Fire Horse director Julia Kwan offers Smile , a moving snapshot of a Chinese family getting ready to have their portrait taken. Mathieu L. Denis 's Code 13 tells the gritty story of a violent encounter between a cabbie and a cyclist. Congratulations Daisy Graham, by Cassandra Nicolaou ,is a subtle and touching portrait of an older lesbian who has a terminal illness, while Britt Randle 's black-and-white experimental Dada Dum presents the haunting figure of a blind woman trapped in a surreal mansion by unseen forces. And there's a bit of Brando's Colonel Kurtz in one of the nutjob lumberjacks killing time in Jeff Barnaby 's The Colony .
Then there's Deco Dawson 's near-indescribable The Last Moment , a hallucinatory crime film that's got a 40s noir feel. Until it doesn't. And then it does again. Sort of. Somewhere in there somebody gets killed. Maybe.
On the animated side: Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski 's Madame Tutli-Putli stands out as a surreal and haunting stop-motion movie about a 30s-era woman on a train who wakes up to find she's completely alone.
Paradise , by Cannes Festival short film prizewinner Jesse Rosensweet, makes inventive use of simple toys to recreate a perfect 50s world in which a man loses his wife and job before an unexpectedly dark and comic ending.
Latchkey's Lament is Troy Nixey 's spirited CG fairy tale about two old keys trying to escape an evil house monster, while Automoto , by Neil McInnes and Cathy McInnes , features a skeletal salaryman carved out of wood who misses his dog.
But it's not all high-tech computer-generated images and stop-motion animation. Jay White 's Boar Attack , about a guy whose ballerina dad disappeared in the woods, shows there's still a place for old-fashioned, intentionally crude, hand-drawn cartoon images.