TIFF’s Little Shorts with Big Stars

It is a common misconception you never see big stars of stage and screen in short filmmaking.  The TIFF Bell Lightbox is out to disprove with the kickoff to their new Short Cuts series, Big Stars, Short Form, a collection of charmingly disarming and beautiful stories screening for one night only, this coming Thursday October 9th at 6:30pm.

Comprised of five different films ranging from the heartbreaking and heartfelt to the inspirational and quirky, some big name talents pop up in some very unique and rewarding ways.

 

Trouble and the Shadowy Death Blow

From director Stephanie Laing, this is the tale of a once promising food scientist Jim Funkle (Tony Hale, Arrested Development, Veep) whose career goes down the tubes due to a horrible accident.  As he tries to climb his way back to the top of the mountain, he’s confronted by bullies and people trying to put him down. One fateful evening, he meets a mysterious man who gives him the power to become absolutely omnipotent.

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A wry and dead pan affair, Hale is perfectly cast as the embodiment of human mediocrity, and his performance allows viewers to laugh at him and later cringe when he discovers what he’s truly capable of.  Laing keeps the darkness and the laughter in perfect balance. It’s a fun, crown pleasing opener for anyone who has ever had life step all over them once or twice.

The Human Voice

The Human Voice

A story of love and love lost, Human Voice comes adapted from a play by Jean Cocteau about an elderly woman having a last conversation with the lover who’s leaving her for another woman.

A raw, emotional film starring, this one stars screen legend Sophie Loren commanding the screen as someone emotionally ravaged by this man leaving her.  She’s been destroyed, and Loren draws us into her smoky eyes to feel every ounce of the despair as a woman desperately holding on to a few final moments of love for as long as she can.

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Director Eduardo Ponti has also delivered an exceptional looking film, with the apartment the bulk of the film takes place in feeling like a vast expanse of old and cherished memories.

 

Three Stones for Jean Genet

Three Stones for Jean Genet

A mini documentary tracking singer-songwriter Patti Smith (who co-directs, as well, alongside Frieder Schlaich) finds her travelling to the grave of legendary French writer Jean Genet in Morocco, one of her inspirations and idols finally bringing him three stones she collected for him over thirty years ago.

This one’s more of an interesting aside from one of pop culture’s more iconic figures and less of a story with a narrative structure or even a great documentary.  It’s a brief slice of something that’s important this poet and punk icon without much else.  Ultimately it’s something for the fans and Smith herself, but even when there’s little being done to bring outsiders into the fold, Smith still remains a fine storyteller.

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Satellite Beach

Satellite Beach

Moving a space shuttle can be an overwhelming job, but not for devoted shuttle manager Warren Flowers (Luke Wilson, co-directing with brother Andrew) who’s tasked with the transportation of the Endeavour and the Atlantis space shuttles to their new homes at the California and Kennedy Space Centers.

It’s a goofy, but incredibly charming premise that allows Luke and Andrew to show off some impressive directing skills.  There’s a degree of delightful authenticity – with the filmmakers on location as these things were really moved through the city streets. It displays the massive undertaking and adds to the magic and the charm in a celebration of the days of space travel.

Wilson looks like a kid in the candy store, or at the very least someone who believes he’s going along for the shuttle’s final ride.  It’s about being a dreamer, and both Wilson brothers capture that essence. It’s easily one of my favorite short films that I have seen in recent memory.  Satellite Beach is so good that shorts aficionados will get a chance to screen it again when it plays in the Shorts That Are Not Pants series that is screening on October 23rd at the Carlton if they miss it here, where it can once again charm the pants off the audience.

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The Phone Call

During a seemingly simple day at a crisis hotline center, an employee starting her shift (Sally Hawkins) gets a call from desperate man in need (Jim Broadbent) that will change her in ways she had never imagined.

This is a fantastic example of the best kind of work you can do in a short film.  It’s simple, but powerful premise hammered home through some excellent camerawork and amazing performances.

Hawkins runs the gamut of emotions without leaving the phone.  On the other end of the line, Broadbent is heartbreaking as a man missing the love his life more than any outsider could understand. Their conversation is magical and affecting in the best ways.  It has to be seen to be believed without spoiling it.

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