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Tropfest a study in contrasts: film culture vs. Strip nightlife

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Tim Bullock’s dark “Buried,” one of the short films featured at Tropfest.

The Cosmopolitan’s Boulevard Pool is probably the last place you’d expect to find a festival of short films, but the Australian institution Tropfest held its first-ever American event there this past weekend, mixing Vegas flash (bikini-clad cocktail waitresses, a DJ spinning between film programs, appearances by celebrities and up-and-coming musical artists) with a dedication to the humble craft of short filmmaking.

Sunday night’s all-star competition, featuring highlights from the Australian festival’s 20-year history, had the hit-and-miss quality of most short-film showcases, although most of the entries were at least moderately entertaining. I would have picked Nash Edgerton’s technically impressive “Luck” or Tim Bullock’s darkly amusing “Buried” as the best of the bunch, but the judging panel (led by actress Toni Collette) chose Sean Ascroft’s one-note “The Story of Bubble Boy” instead. Host Rob Corddry handed the trophy to a baffled-looking Ascroft, capping off an evening that was both awkward and exciting in its juxtaposition of film culture and Strip nightlife.

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