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Review: Seven Shorts Showcase Rare Performances from Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Jason Alexander, Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh

Thompson on Hollywood By Maggie Lange | Thompson on Hollywood September 19, 2012 at 7:24PM

This fall, ShortsHD will present a collection of several brief films unambiguously titled "Stars in Shorts." Each of these otherwise unconnected seven films features big name talent including Judi Dench, Colin Firth, Tom Hiddleston, Keira Knightly, Kenneth Branagh, Lily Tomlin, Jason Alexander, and others. The seven films, reviewed below, will premiere in theaters on September 28th, followed by an iTunes/Pay Per View release on October 9.

Jason Alexander
Not Your Time, 2010
Director: Jay Kamen
Actors: Jason Alexander
Mood: Dark Hollywood satire

Like "The Procession," Jay Kamen's "Not Your Time" has a pitch perfect grasp of dark humor.  This short musical surveys the life of Sid Rosenthal (played by Jason Alexander), who dreamed of creating musicals but now censors expletives from movies before they show on airplanes.  After his latest Hollywood disappointment, in which a studio executive refuses to produce his movie, claiming that they liked it too much and feared it would conflict with the release of "Toy Story 12,"  Rosenthal decides to kill himself -- unless someone talks him out of it.  In an attempt to find someone who suggests that he keep breathing, he calls everyone he's worked with announcing his impending suicide, and finds himself in an absurd situation only Hollywood could produce.  The film is packed with a series of executives, directors, and producers all played by themselves including Amy Pascal, Sid Ganis, Joe Roth, Stuart Cornfeld, Jack Rapke, Lawrence Mark, Amy Heckerling, Neal Israel, and Chris Buck.

After School Special, 2011
Director: Jacob Chase
Actors: Sarah Paulson, Wes Bentley, and Sam Cohen
Mood: Uneven, awkward

The setting of "After School Special" is the most interesting aspect of this short film from Jacob Chase: a cheesy and cheery indoor playpen at a fast food restaurant.  It provides a bright and simple contrast to the uncomfortable awkwardness of the social scenarios playing out next to the jungle gym.  Written by Neil LaBute, the dialogue is intentionally stilted as an edgy divorced father (Wes Bentley) tries to woo his daughter's standoffish teacher (Sarah Paulson), while her eyes are clearly more focused on her young student (Sam Cohen).  

Julia Stiles
Sexting, 2010
Director: Neil LaBute
Actor: Julia Stiles
Mood: Catty and confessional

This well-executed eight minute short is essentially a monologue, as Julia Stiles plays a mistress confronting her boyfriend's wife.  In a overwhelming bout of nerves and catty one-upmanship, she brags about her lover's affection for her and then whimpers about his deceptive lies.  She prods, probes, instigates, pleads, whines, and breaks down.  She confesses she knows this woman's gym schedules, asks about her Pilates class, and then proceeds to inquire on the possibility of her lover's impending divorce. Stiles shines, as she impressively makes her way through a six-minute shot of her rant, ending in a well-timed twist.

This article is related to: Shorts, Short Film, Reviews, Colin Firth, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Judi Dench, Tom Hiddleston, Lily Tomlin, Sarah Paulson, Kenneth Branagh

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.