Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Reel Review: The Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films

Making a short-film can be a tougher challenge than putting together a feature-length. Not only do you have to tell an effective story in a short amount of time, but you also have to find time for your characters. After all, characters make the stories matter. This year’s batch of Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts embraces that concept and embraces it well.
JUST BEFORE LOSING EVERYTHING – A wife and her kids tries to make their escape from an abusive husband. 

Serious in tone, this quick tale takes place in the wife’s place of work…a Wal-Mart type superstore where she and her kids must play a tense game of cat-and-mouse while the husband lurks about. There is a constant building up of tension throughout this film, with subtle yet effective hints to the background of the characters and how they got to their dangerous predicament. No abuse is ever shown, but the effect can be seen right away on the characters.
THE VOORMAN PROBLEM – Martin Freeman (THE HOBBIT) plays a psychiatrist who visits and parlays with an asylum inmate who claims that he’s God (Tom Hollander, of THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN).

There is probably no better plot than a well-to-do person trying to get through the complex skull of a lunatic…especially when the lunatic understands things better than the good doctor, and that is the heart and soul of THE VOORMAN PROBLEM. The face-offs between Freeman and Hollander are a marvel to sit through, as they are well acted and directed and slowly builds up to a mind-blowing conclusion. Great potential for a feature film here.
DO I HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING? – A traditional family of four faces one disaster after another trying to make a family wedding on time. 

The plot for this fun little romp is paper-thin, but what makes it tick is how the personalities of the characters shine through so quickly. The pitfalls and roadblocks the family goes through in trying to get out of the house and make a bus on time are hilarious because every family in the real world has probably faced them at one time or another. It feels a lot like a TV sitcom episode, and that’s OK.
THAT WASN’T ME – A Spanish couple on a peacekeeping/medical mission to South Africa gets hijacked by child soldiers. 

This is an intense and brutal look at ten-year old kids who are being trained to kill in cold-blood with machine guns. We don’t feel too much for the characters as none of them last very long through all the bloodshed, but what makes this film work is the situation the kids are in; it is tough to hate them for being cold-blood killers when we see the upbringing and environment they were brought up in…they never really had a choice. For all the brutality it has, the ending is very heart-warming.
HELIUM – A hospital janitor befriends a young, dying boy. As their friendship grows, the janitor must complete a story before the boy’s time runs out. 

A visual stunner, HELIUM is all about the power of imagination and storytelling, and how those things can free your mind from the pain and suffering in the real world. As the child’s mind goes to fantastic places, the lines between reality and fantasy become blurred, and the ending is a magical one which will make the heart soar. Best potential for a feature.


The Oscars will be awarded March 2nd.

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