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

by Maggie Lange
September 19, 2012 7:24 PM
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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).  

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.


  • Iris Adams | September 24, 2012 10:15 PMReply

    I can't speak for the other films, but I did catch Prodigal at a screening in Texas, and it gave me goosebumps! The story, acting and filmmaking are all first rate, much better than what you expect from an indie short.

    Of course, Ken Branagh is the reason most people will see this film, and the Shakespearean delivers big-time with his trademark mix of intelligence, intensity and humor. The cafe scene in particular is great.

    As a fan of sci fi and mystery thrillers, I am definitely going to check in on director Benjamin Grayson to see what he does next.

  • jingmei | September 19, 2012 10:34 PMReply

    Several shorts plus together is still long. Anyhow hope this program trick is gonna attract more people.

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