Friday, February 17, 2012

A Reel Review: The 2011 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films

All five nominees for Best Animated Short have two things in common; first, they are all filmed on location in their scripted settings (Ireland, New York, India, Norway), and take advantage of their surroundings perfectly. And second, they are all very, very good…making this category one of the most competitive of the year.

The nominees are:


Young Damian is forced to serve as an altar boy at an important mass, and must either conform to the status quo or give up his passion for football.

The genius of PENTECOST is that it is set up like a formulaic sports-film; only instead of athletes in a stadium overcoming great odds, it is an altar boy in a church overcoming great odds. There is even a remarkable locker-room pep talk-type scene in which a priest tries to inspire his altar boys in the sacristy. Aside from the sports allegories, PENTECOST puts our main character in a tough situation and lets him find his own way out of it.


A drama in which a German couple adopts an Indian orphan, who suddenly disappears.

RAJU attempts to go through some emotional ups and downs as the happy couple meets their adapted boy for the first time, and then goes through the horror of losing him on the crowded city streets. The pacing in RAJU is sodden, and the emotional attempts fall a bit short. Still, RAJU goes through some neat
twists and turns, making for an interesting time in the streets of India.

(Northern Ireland)

An uplifting story of two childhood friends who are divided for 25 years after a love-triangle conflict.

THE SHORE stands out amongst the nominees not only because it is the longest (31 minutes), but because it is the only one with noteworthy actors (Ciaran Hinds and Kerry Condon). It is a powerful and enjoyable tale of the way time heals all wounds and conflicts, and despite the long-ish running time, is good enough that you wind up wanting more. Ciaran Hinds flexes his acting chops (and his Irish singing voice), and Belfast, Ireland is beautifully filmed.

An inventor creates a time machine, and gets caught up traveling around yesterday trying to fix his mistakes.

A hilarious time-travel romp which may not quite pass any tests in logic, but succeeds everywhere else. Sharply cut and acted, TIME FREAK prances along at a brisk pace, keeping the viewer fully engaged while never having to think too hard.


Seventy-year old Oskar is told that he only has six days to live, and wants to put things right with his brother who lives in New Jersey.

The bitter cold of Norway is felt right through the screen in this tale of redemption with a little sci-fi spin on it; Oskar’s only way of contacting his brother is through a giant tuba-contraption (which they built when they were kids) with the ability to be heard across the ocean. Despite the Angel of Death hanging over the film, it is a very funny film and overall lighthearted.


The Oscars will be awarded February 26th.

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