Official Selection 9: Bad Habits

Official Selection 9: Bad Habits
More than bad habits, this collection of shorts covers a lot in the territory of intention versus outcome versus foresight, showing people in the moment with themselves, not thinking about their effect on others. While there are a couple of titles that merely delve into minor dalliances, such as a grammatical lack of acuity or the evils of capitalism, this program dips into the nature of selfishness, repression and worldly disappointment, and hard knowledge with a unique soberness.

Fear of Snakes is a prime example of this, recounting Lorna Crozier's poem about fear substitution, with a girl exchanging terror with pity and identification when a boy nails a snake to a telephone pole. The visuals accompanying this gut-wrenching poem aren't literal, but show the obscured whimsy of childhood with outdoor skylarking. Something about this short really stuck with me.

Similarly disturbing is Herbert White, which follows a man's mundane life with quiet tension. By sheer virtue of the man being portrayed by Michael Shannon, we can assume nothing good is on the horizon, and it's interesting to see director James Franco (a member of that Freaks and Geeks clique) tackle subject matter well beyond his peers.

Missed Aches (a play on the word "Mistakes") takes an animated journey through grammatical mishaps, starting out cleverly, but devolving into scatological jokes and genital preoccupation. It is, however, a welcome diversion, considering that the next short, Redemption, takes a closer look at two drug addicts looking for some worldly solace.

Slipping back towards amusement, Patchwork looks closely at the Quilting Guild of Saguenay to find conspiracy and capitalistic evils, with an ousted president and a secret regime of moneymaking terror and nepotism. There is nothing more horrifying than an elderly French-Canadian woman with an agenda.

The Lighthouse may be short in duration, showing an animation of seagulls flying into a lighthouse, but actually covers a lot of philosophical ground by questioning and expanding upon the nature of good intentions and the bigger picture. It gives us something to ponder while Happiness is Hate Therapy shows a therapy group bickering about the many things they hate.

The last short in the program clocks in at nearly half-an-hour, documenting an antisocial Czechoslovakian academic's attempts at internet dating. Because he's so miserable, and so unbelievable unaware of what he has to offer versus what he wants (why do 60-year-old men seem to feel entitled to 30-year-old woman? Do they not have a mirror?), watching him run around in circles is both frustrating and fascinating. What amuses are his internet ads that describe his ideal mate down to her breast-type, along with his eventual request for execution, which, I might add, is quite brilliant, even if he's a deluded misogynist pig.