By Robert BellJust because this is the second grouping of Celebrity Shorts at this year's festival doesn't mean that it's in any way inferior to its predecessor. In fact, a couple of short films in here blow away everything in the first program. As the title suggests, these are, in fact, short films featuring celebrities in some capacity. But don't let that deter you from a solid representation of banner filmmaking.
The first film, Meanwhile, isn't the best representation of the program, featuring a bunch of confection stand employees dancing for a couple of minutes. It's stupid, but the next short, Sexting, is exceedingly compelling despite the fact that it's essentially a single black & white shot of Julia Stiles delivering a monologue to the wife of the man she's been fucking.
Short documentary A 45 At 50th is quite candid and surprising, detailing actor James Cromwell's experience with the Black Panther part in the '60s. It leads well into the decidedly more light-hearted, albeit dark, How it Ended, wherein a terminally ill Debra Winger and her husband (played by Larry Pine) invite a young woman over for a seemingly innocent dinner.
Steve is one of the standouts of the program, featuring a Scottish Keira Knightley playing host to an exceedingly idiosyncratic neighbour named Steve (Colin Firth), who continually makes up excuses and complaints just so he can come in and chat. Balancing comedy and discomfort carefully, this short is one to seek out.
Similarly strong is the Rachel Weisz directed The Thief, wherein Rosemarie DeWitt is confronted by a home invader that winds up taking her to an ATM machine and grocery store to get cash. Based on a true story, their interaction takes some unexpected turns, which Weisz handles with surprising care behind the camera.
Also included with this program is seriously terrible short film The Dark Side, which features Peyton Manning trying to be funny in a send-up of The Blind Side. Fortunately, The Third Rule proves mildly amusing, following slackers Jason Biggs and Joel Moore on a quest to find meaning and money, as dictated by a self-help guru (played by Anthony Hopkins).