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The Self-Esteem Awards: Toronto After Dark 2007 — The Shorts

Tuesday, October 30, 2007
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Secret message -- TONTO ATE ARK.  Oh, Tonto!At the “Steemies” everyone gets an award! We’re all winners, yay!

I’m comfortable being the reporter on the festival beat here, it fits me. I’ve got lots of time on my hands; movies tickle my oft-ignored fancy; I enjoy extended sitting. So whether I be in Korea, a country better for festivals than I’d expected, or Toronto, a city no-kidding darn good for film fests, you can count on me making the rounds, enduring the lineups, sneaking in the cartons of milk, and trying desperately to find a different gimmick for the writeup. Here’s this festival’s gimmick: I’m handing out awards, each tailor-made for the film that receives it.

Here’s this festival’s biography: Toronto After Dark started in ’06, ran this year for 7 days in mid-October at the grande old Bloor Cinema, and consists of nothing but cult. It’s basically the Toronto International Film Festival‘s Midnight Madness program extended, earlified (ironic that a horror-heavy fest called “After Dark” starts at 1 in the afternoon on the weekends and rarely stretches past midnight), and doubled-up: this year, TAD showed fourteen features along with a bus load of shorts.

The awards for short films were presented in a small ceremony earlier this week…

The Shorts

Most Likely to Sprout a Career: Latchkey’s Lament — This is a short I’d heard about prior to this year’s Toronto International Film Fest, where it screened, but which scheduling prevented me from seeing. Imagine my delight when the guy on stage told me they’d be playing shorts before each feature, and which short I’d be seeing first. If you’re having trouble imagining my delight, here’s a visual approximation: 8-) We clear? So anyway, Latchkey’s Lament is a half-Fantasia, half-Pan’s Labyrinth tale of keys in love and the clockwork creature who wishes to feast upon them. The keys are completely CG but display great emotion considering all they can do that regular keys can’t is bend a little; they’re charming enough, but they aren’t what makes this short film stand out. It’s the creature, called the Keyfiend, where the director shows his aptitude for design – it’s a creepy-looking, bulky freak of a man, with cracked skin and a heavy cackle. There’s no way this guy’s visual sense will go ignored in the film industry.

Additional award for Latchkey’s Lament: Most Fuckable Keys — The girl key’s a saucy little minx with moves, while the guy’s a take-no-shit hero type. They fulfill all fantasies.

Most Possibly Allegorical But More Likely Just Random: The Tragic Story of Nling — Animation made of xeroxed photographs cut out, scanned and assembled against collage backgrounds is used to tell this story of an island city with a giant garbage silo at its centre, and the men and talking donkeys who work it for payment of alcohol. It’s … Well, I don’t really know what it is. It has a weirdness all it’s own, I’ll give it that.

Additional award for The Tragic Story of Nling: Most Strategic Moustache — A character who has only a few scenes towards the end has a marker-drawn soup strainer, a big, bushy, black Wilford Brimley-pedigree ‘stache. My theory is that they had already taken all the photos and copied and cut them out, but they wanted to change his voice or dialogue, so they drew this big mouth-obscuring flock of hair on each frame to give themselves that freedom.

Man, donkeys have HUGE bindles.

Most Powerful Anthropomorphism: Sweet Strangers — In a close battle between the Latchkey guy-Key and Chocolate Man (Nling’s drunken Donkey has a powerful sense of reason, but that’s not what we’re looking for here), Sweet Strangers’ Hershey Bar-with-arms-and-legs wins the prize, for his rippling muscles, his shouldn’t-have-rippling-musclesness, and his dramatic last-minute arrival, saving the fat guy from the big black monster thing. Well done, Chocolate Man.

Additional award for Sweet Strangers: Best Scream — The fat guy has the kind of scream that just makes you laugh every time you hear at, and they exploited that. To be honest, it’s somewhat of an unfair advantage.

Most Aware of its Audience: Zombie Jesus! — The Ryerson kid who made this for his 2007 thesis movie knows just what makes this type of audience hoot n’ holler: flesh-eating and potshots at religion. He does them both well in this silly little comedy that, in moments, seems to want to be satire – the spread of the zombie plague, as begun by a resurrected Jesus, is reported on the TV as “aggressive new recruiting techniques” by the Christians – but it never quite gets there. Perhaps, in a longer format, or if tackled by South Park, this idea could find some real insight, but here it’s mainly a source of goofy gags blending horror movie clichés with religious ones. And it does a fine, fun little job of it.

Additional awards for Zombie Jesus!: Most Wasted Opportunity — When the main girl and her Jew friend are gearing up to take out some undead, they unveil a rack holding a selection of weapons, including a pair of sai. But they don’t take them! You never pass up the opportunity to include sai usage in your film!

The Damn-Them-For-Coming-Up-With-This-Before-Me Award: Terror on 3918 — This is a very straightforward science fiction story of a shuttle crew rocketing through space when they realize there’s a terrifying stowaway on board. But these clever French-Canadian bastards didn’t bother renting studio space or constructing sets or anything like that – they just shot it all in their apartment. As is. Using cups and saucers as control panel dials, milk and toast as fuel, and a huge old-fashioned radio as the ship’s omnipresent AI, they allowed performance, dialogue and costume to be the sole guides to this world, and it works so well. They play it completely straight, save for a few unfortunate moments of self-reference; similarly, their rare and unnecessary usage of optical special effects work against the film’s core idea. But these are minor quibbles – Terror on 3918 is a fine example of low-budget ingenuity pulled off well.

Additional awards for Terror on 3918: Most Resource Wasteful — To fuel their engines, they would pour milk down the drain! In 2061, when our planet is facing a crisis of unparalleled milk shortage, you’re going to regret having done that, French persons!

Least Evasive Title: Mime Massacre — Even Zombie Jesus! had other elements to it, but this short is a mime massacre and nothing but. Guy walks into a room full of mimes, takes them out. What makes it cute (and I don’t think it can be called anything more than “cute”) is that all the weapons of massacration are mimed as well, while the blood’s all real (movie real, not real real). He cocks his invisible shotgun, feigns pointing it at a hockey referee-striped belly, and his finger pulls only air — but the mime’s gut explodes in graphic red splatter. Swing an invisible sword, see a Marcel Marceau head roll. Cute fun.

Additional awards for Mime Massacre: The Quentin Tarantino Award — Specifically, the “I want to be in my movie, too!” aspect of Quentin Tarantino. The director steps in and gives a Rod Serling-esque prologue, and it’s pointless, awkward and unnecessary. He also goes to extra effort to declare this “A (his name here) Film.” Come on, pal.

Most Generous Audience: Swine — I was prepared to feel really bad for the timid local fella in the Ghostbusters T-shirt who introduced his terrible, terrible short film before the fairly-packed Bloor Theatre audience, but they turned out to be such sweet folk, giving him a decent hand when it came to its merciful conclusion. The short’s basically a five minute monologue of a man ranting and raving at the pig’s head on a post he thinks is his wife. I guess there’s a revelation at the end about what happened to his wife and why he chose to replace her with pig-on-stick, but it’s utterly irrelevant, and if it was supposed to be a climactic reveal, well I’ll be damned if I found any climax beyond the trill of it being over.

Additional awards for Swine: Best Director T-Shit — We’re talking Ghostbusters 1 logo on black. Simple and nice.

And that’s it for the shorts. Be sure to tune in later this week when we hand out awards in the Feature Film category. Who will win the coveted Biggest Balls award? You have to wait and see…

The Featureslaebmada

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Wednesday, October 31, 2007 10:02 am

    Seems like pretty slim pickings. I’m glad I only had to read about it, rather than actually watch it.

  2. Wednesday, October 31, 2007 9:11 pm

    These were just the shorts, man. This is a total of 40 minutes tops here. They showed these before the features, which, if you’d read the final paragraph, you’d see I’m gonna post about later on.

  3. James17930 permalink
    Thursday, November 1, 2007 5:35 am

    Culturatti Fight!

    And Beal — you gonna go back and re-tag all your previous ‘Festival’ entries under your shiny new ‘Festival’ category?

  4. Thursday, November 1, 2007 8:32 am

    Fine. I’ll hold judgement till I read Part II.

  5. Thursday, November 1, 2007 7:55 pm

    @James17930: No.

  6. James17930 permalink
    Thursday, November 1, 2007 9:17 pm

    But you did . . . (?)

  7. Thursday, November 1, 2007 10:53 pm

    Or did I?

  8. James17930 permalink
    Friday, November 2, 2007 2:17 am

    Someone did.

  9. Friday, November 2, 2007 9:06 am

    I did.

    Hey, what’s the deal making ‘Festival’ a subcategory of ‘Movies’? What about non-movie festival events, like Nuit Blanche?

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