Nickel and gold

The Ninth Annual Nickel Film Festival is upon us! With so many films to choose from, we enlisted Adam Clarke and Michael Collins to compile a list of recommendations. These are the highlights selected after hours of watching screener copies of the fest’s impressive line-up.

10 Days
Newfoundland (20 min.)
dir. Christian Sparkes

A guy who’s never wrestled before has ten days to learn the sport—and lose 14 pounds—so his school can win a tournament. This film could’ve gone wrong. It could’ve been a zero-to-hero high school sports feel-good flick, with a scrappy lead who makes new friends, bonds with his dad, deals with his mom’s death, and gets the girl in the end. But instead, it plays it cool. It does the unexpected and it underplays the pathos, gentley nudging heartstrings instead of predictably tugging. A winner. Saturday, June 27, 7:30 pm MC

Change It: The Rooms ­Animation Series
Newfoundland (6 min.)
dir. Jason Sellars

In the proud tradition of Squawk Box and The Groove Tube, this collection of snippets of animation created by the students at the Rooms gets brownie points for being delightfully weird. With some of the cartoons only clocking in at a few seconds, there’s never a moment where the hyperactive silliness wears out its welcome. The segments about robots and the insanely catchy tune about dinosaurs (“dinosaurs go RAWR!”) are highlights. Saturday, June 27, 1 pm AC

Newfoundland (9 min.)
Dir. Jordan Canning
Neil Butler stars as a pianist who experiences a sudden, erratic paralysis in both his hands, which twist and lock up in ever-changing contortions as his life steadily unravels before him. This blackly comic short, the latest offering from local director Jordan Canning, was first available on Youtube when it was shortlisted for the Cannes-sponsored National Film Board competition. Countdown is one of the most remarkable films in the Nickel this year and is well worth seeing on the big screen, where Canning’s astounding eye for detail and Butler’s rich performance can be fully appreciated. Wednesday, June 24, 7:30 pm AC

Date with the Dead
Newfoundland (19 min).
dir. Justin Madol
For this project, local production company Black Market Films wrangled some top talent in the form of Andy Jones, here taking a turn as a dotty mad scientist in this comedy/horror. His disturbingly ditzy daughter and her perpetually bewildered (ex)boyfriend hole up to take a last stand against the ravening brain-hungry horde — but who’s the real monster here? With the exception of Jones, the people on both sides of the camera are in the first quarter of their careers, and Date with the Dead shows promise of what’s to come. Thursday, June 25, 10:00 pm MC

Wales, UK (13 min.)
dir. Sally Pearce

In a dull, grey house full of dull, grey things, Mother, Father and their little daughter are sitting down to their usual humdrum existence. The cereal, toast, newspapers and coffee are put out the way they always are as part of a routine that’s surely been in the house for as long as they have lived in it. Nothing exciting ever happens in the house… save for the fact that it’s infested with cartoon elephants. Elephants is a hilarious mix of live-action and animation that perfectly captures the feel of a cartoon with its off-kilter humour. A perfect short for kids, who will adore the animation, and adults, who can keep an eye out for the many nice visual gags throughout and the film’s Roald Dahl-ish story. Saturday, June 27, 1:00 pm AC

A Gentleman’s Guide To Kidnapping A Lady
Newfoundland (7 min.)
dir. Harbourside Studio

You are a hopeful, up-and-coming villain of the moustache-twirling variety who longs to hold a maiden! You see the gentleman clown strolling through Bannerman Park with such a gal by his side! He picks her a fresh daisy and now is your chance! What do you do? See this short! Thrill…to unexpected hijinks created by the Community Youth Arts group at Harbourside Studio. Gasp…at its silent film pastiche! Marvel…at Bart Pierson’s leotard! Wednesday, June 24, 10 pm AC

Gone Fishing
England, UK (14 min.)
dir. Chris Jones

We’ve got to close the fishing ponds! There’s a pike on the loose! Repeat: there is a pike on the loose! Chris Jones’ hilarious short tells the story of Goliath, a pike so fearsome that he’s known to scarf down ducks at the pond and the occasional fisherman’s finger. It is also about funerals, reunions and the poignancy of memory. There won’t be a dry eye in the house after seeing this one. Tuesday, June 23, 7:30 pm AC

Of Best Intentions

Ireland (15 min.)
dir. Brian Durnin

A gentle-voiced narrator explains a little about Thomas Midgley Jr.—inventor of both leaded gasoline and CFC’s—before launching into the lives of three modern Dublin-area residents, seemingly unrelated. We’ve a vain, fussy corporate exec whose ex-wife just attempted suicide, a doddering old lady who’s misplaced her glasses, and a homesick surgeon from India. Their lives, and the story of Midgley, collide unexpectedly. Superb and striking visuals combine with Irish humour, wry and dark as you could like it. A real treat. Saturday, June 27, 7:30 pm MC

Out of the Blue
Ireland (9 min).
dir. Michael Lavelle

Effortlessly whimsical and dialogue-free, this Irish offering is equal parts comedy and pathos, overplaying neither element. The male lead’s face is a wonder to watch. It is like a giant baby’s, capturing our attention from frame one. He runs into the surf, ice cream cone carefully held aloft, to rescue a TV set that’s floating to shore. Like the best magic realism, the mechanics and meanings of the wonderous events are not addressed. The story merely exists, and we believe it fully, like the best of dreams. Thursday, June 25, 7:30 pm MC

Australia (4 min.)
dir. Luke Randall

A robot that does not want to perform menial labour and repetitive tasks? DOES NOT COMPUTE. Reach presents us with a tiny, bulb-like robot, shackled down by the length of his power cord that would do anything to go outside and, like Countdown, was a top ten finalist in the NFB short films competition and it’s easy to see why. Luke Randall’s bittersweet CGI animated short has a Pixar-ish quality, which is no small praise. Tuesday, June 23, 7:30 pm AC

Ontario (20 min.)
dir. Mark Roussel

More time-loopy than Donnie Darko, a man in 2008 and a woman in 1978 converse through a TV screen during a winter storm. How the night proceeds on either end of the timewarp will change both of their lives forever. Dialogue is a little unrealistic at times, but the underlying headfuck is satisfying enough to ignore that. This is an ambitious film and it largely hits its mark. Thursday, June 25, 10 pm MC

North Carolina, US (13 min).
dir. Christopher Holmes

Engaging and weird. Hans Christian Anderson does West Virginia in this tale of irate hillbilly versus creepy-ass birds. Tread the winding forest path to WTF with this subtle and scary film. The verdant woodland itself becomes the foe, waging psychological warfare against the gun-toting bumpkin. Super-quick camera cuts, superb sound effects, and strange props are used to heighten the creep-factor at just the right moments. Just don’t eat those ambroisa-like berries. Thursday, June 25, 10:00 pm MC

Nova Scotia (16 min.)
dir. Jason Eisner

The best thing about the 2007 film Grindhouse was the handful of fake coming attractions which effectively mimicked and spoofed the glory days of b-movie trailers with their lurid excess and gravelly-voiced, over the top announcers. The best of these trailers was Hobo With A Shotgun, submitted by a trio of Halifax filmmakers for a contest. That lead directly to the same team making Treevenge, which not only manages to out-do its predecessor, but it’s sure to be the favourite at the Nickel’s horror-themed night. Even if you’re normally not a fan of horror-comedies, you owe to yourself to see Jonathan Torrens get beaten to death by a deranged Christmas tree. Thursday, June 25, 10:00 pm AC