As far as Canadian shorts are concerned, 2005 is officially the Year of the Schlub. Always a stock figure in the short-film pantheon, the hapless, stunted 30-something man-boy who just can't seem to get his minimal shit together is having his moment to shine.
There seem to be no limits to what he can do this year - from well-acted, gritty realist drama in Maxime Giroux 's Le Rouge Au Sol (Dyscendants program, September 10, 4 pm, and September 14, 6 pm, both at Cumberland 3) and chilling Twilight Zoney psychological horror in Jon Knautz 's Still Life (Genre Redux, September 11, 9 pm ROM; September 13, 4:30 pm Cumberland 3) to tight, affable slapstick in Adam Swica 's My Uncle Navy And Other Inherited Disorders (Dyscendants).
In The Waldo Cummerbund Story by Simon Ennis (Dyscendants), he runs the family porn shop and dreams of playing the ukulele. In David Hyde 's Leo (L(over), September 10, 9 am ROM; September 14, 8:30 pm Varsity 7), he delivers flowers and dreams of hooking up with Liane Balaban . His dreams are seldom realized; instead, he has a tendency to kill other people by accident, or else to accidentally kill himself. But never mind - he's bound to spring up later in the program, as doomed and hopeful and inferior as ever.
So bravo for the schmoe. It's about time he got his 15 minutes of fame - literally - in amongst the inevitable lyrical reflections on memory, identity and loss and indifferent Maclarenesque animations that so often make up the lower two-thirds of the short-film pyramid.
But let's face it: confronted by dozens of shorts, the spectatorial palate grows jaded and starts banging its fork on the table, demanding novelty - which is why the schlubless films on this year's program seem so damn special.
Denis Chabot 's Une Âme Nue Glisse À L'Eau Vive (The Making Of... , September 14, 8:30 pm ROM; September 16, 11:30 am Cumberland 3) is a trippy underwater animated dreamscape in the style of Harry Smith on a retreat with Beavis and Butthead in the Royal Art Lodge. Skeletons chase steam irons around underwater radish fields; the occasional scrap of poetry, in both official languages, provides clarification. The colours are beautiful.
Keith Cole 's A Little Death (Genre Redux) and Don McKellar 's two Phone Calls From Imaginary Girlfriends (The Making Of...) are tiny bittersweet romances told with non-standard technology - Super-8 and cellphone-cam respectively - and evocative soundtracks.
And deco dawson 's Dumb Angel (The Making Of...) reinterprets the rock video with the kind of witty clever-pants irony you just don't see enough of nowadays. Anders Erickson of Winnipeg band Inward Eye drums his heart out - on TV, under a dazzling display of lights, in a garage - but no matter how good it sounds, it's still always all about the camera.