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.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.
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