Official Selection 3: Who's the Boss?

Official Selection 3: Who's the Boss?
Control issues and power plays dominate this program of shorts, thematically, making for often-anxious viewing that occasionally dips into preaching. Fortunately, there are enough breezy, conflict-driven comedies and short animations to help the medicine and political didactics go down.

Speaking of animations, French short Jean Francois delves into the childhood psychology behind competition and ambition, showing a boy forever trying to live up to his father's expectations. It leads into the thematically similar Swimming Lessons, hailing from Singapore, capturing the emotional chaos that happens when parents struggle with an impending empty nest. A clever mirroring of childhood swimming lessons to present day parental clutch, along with heightened exasperations and believable impatience make this title stand out.

Somewhat less successful is Don't Walk out that Door, which certainly handles the idiosyncratic well, with a battle-of-the-sexes-style comic romp of wills, but generalizes too much about gender roles to do more than offer passing amusement. Perhaps its slight impression comes from the juxtaposition of Winter's Beginning, which may very well be the most uncomfortable viewing at this year's fest. A young boy accepts a ride home from a strange man in a white van. I'm sure you can guess the rest. That said, it's not exploitive or inappropriate, handling the material with the appropriate intensity and maturity.

The Orange doles out two minutes of allegory about an orange said to hold all the power in the world — it's sold for less than a dollar at a grocery store — while Bus starts with a random Sigur Rós sound byte and then rambles about the inefficiency and absurdity of Israeli-Palestinian border crossings. The recorded conversation template and erratic cinematography do prove stylistically intriguing, even if the short is very "high school World Issues."

It's better than Painting Paradise, however, which does the Waking Life paint job over footage of soldiers in Baghdad, making it look like a serene beach setting. Blah. Drop Dead!, on the other hand, delivers a few shocks and laughs when a man agrees to jump out of a plane on his 50th birthday, only to be strapped to someone that's just received news that his girlfriend is leaving him for his best friend. Will he open the parachute?

And last but certainly not least is Over the Fence, which could be described as a male Fish Tank, with a boy simultaneously coming-of-age while trying to protect his younger sister from becoming a drunken whore like his mother. A realist handling and impressive performances alone make me wish this one were a feature-length film. The material could certainly sustain it.