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There’s a certain alchemy to a good short film. Marrying a novel conceit with sharp dialogue and clear execution all within 20minutes is far more difficult than generally acknowledged. Keeping with the tradition of many of the festival’s past showcases, this year’s Showcase manages to consistently avoid all three criteria, with a few bright spots mixed in.

Stanley Pickle: A one-note allegory on the importance of being one’s self, Stanley Pickle provides an unbelievably earnest life lesson about what it means to be an individual in a society filled with automatons.

Adventure Girls III: 100 percent pointless advertisement for a web series involving school girl vampires. The entire short is posted as a trailer on the D.C. Shorts website.

Bip Bip: Proving that not every spool of French cinema oozes high-minded ennui, Bip Bip is a goofy five-minute diversion into the newfangled world of watches that will likely have you glancing at yours.

Bot: Pixar’s greatest sin is having igniting the imagination of those who will never come close to matching their wit or heart. Here, an animated mad scientist learns the dangers of hubris through an impressionable bag of bolts he’s brought to life.

La Tragedia Del Hombre Hueco (The Hollow Man’s Tragedy): Proof that no one should be allowed to write a screenplay after they’ve been dumped. The story of slighted lover whose heart goes missing after a painful split. Working tag line: Breaking up is heart to do.

Protect the Nation: A well-intentioned if slightly by-the-numbers look at the many struggles faced by a young South African boy.

Miyuki’s Wind Bell: Perhaps due to its shoddy company, this slow, thoughtful story about the mystery of family rises above the muck.

The Winking Boy: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly remade by someone who thought the original was too boring, The Winking Boy spares us the terror of being trapped in one’s own body and plays mutism for laughs, with hilarious hi-jinks and randy nurses aplenty!