If only more liquor companies thought as cinematically as Jameson, we’d never run out of stunt-ish yet carefully crafted short films to watch on the internet. They’ve put on something called the First Shot contest, which teams up-and-coming filmmakers from around the world with no less a luminary of stage and screen than Kevin Spacey. Above, you’ll find The Ventriloquist, fruit of the labors of American writer-director Benjamin Leavitt. Spacey stars as the titular street performer, working every day the same empty L.A. street corner, longing for the same coffee-cart girl, and falling into an ever more combative relationship with Mr. Higgins, his politically incorrect, Charlie McCarthy-era throwback of a dummy. Open Culture readers will, of course, already know that Spacey has what it takes for the role, having seen his nine impressions in six minutes.
Spirit of a Denture, written and directed by South African winner Alan Shelley, casts Spacey as a dentist and frigate enthusiast who one night finds himself alone in his office with an actual sea pirate. Envelope, below, by Russian writer-director Aleksey Nuzhny, dresses Spacey in a blandly garish outfit of Soviet casual wear. The year is 1985. The place sits somewhere behind the Iron Curtain. The character is a collector of international postal cancellation stamps, with only the return of a deliberately mismailed letter to New Zealand standing in the way of his grand project’s completion. Leavitt, Shelley, and Nuzhny know how to draw on Spacey’s peculiar strengths as an actor: his askew-everyman mystique, his distinctively fine command of seemingly bland features, his seamless assumption of voices and mannerisms that few other players could take on with dignity. Even certain A‑list filmmakers, as moviegoers know all to well, can’t quite manage that.