Wednesday, February 4, 2015

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

Each year, select theatres are given the opportunity to run the Oscar nominated live-action and animated short films. It’s not only a chance to gain an edge in an Oscar pool, but to also experience filmmaking in its purest form. After all, short films don’t have to bother with complicated budgets or meddling studios…allowing budding filmmakers to focus on story and presentation. Here is a review for all five of this year’s Live-action Nominees.

AYA – Two strangers, a man and a woman, meet at an airport…and he mistakes her to be his driver. And she, enchanted by the man, plays along.

A bit of an oddball as why the young woman plays along as a driver isn’t quite clear; is she lonely, bored, psychotic? It almost doesn’t matter…as once you get past that the film becomes about taking a chance on getting to know a stranger. The two play a game of chess in getting to know each other during the trip (90% of the film takes place in the car), and their destination brings the characters right where they need to be.

BOOGALOO AND GRAHAM – Two young brothers have the time of their lives when their kind-hearted father brings them home two baby chickens.

The funniest out of all the nominees, this is less about the chickens and more about the two inseparable brothers, and focuses a lot on family and how changes in daily routine can disrupt a quiet household. It’s a sweet film as the brothers care for their new chickens with love and face possible heartbreak when the chickens get too big to take care of. Out of all the nominees this probably has the most potential to be turned into a feature-length, as it would be very interesting to see the brothers grow up with their un-traditional pets.

BUTTER LAMP – A young photographer and his assistant photograph Tibetan nomads in front of various backgrounds.

BUTTER LAMP runs along as a comedy, as the photographer and his assistant swap out background after background for their portraits of peasant villagers…many of whom have never had their pictures taken before and have to be herded like cats. The point to the fun little romp isn’t made until the very end when the photographers pack up for the day and reveal why they had to use an artificial background out in the countryside. What they had been hiding had been hinted at during the sessions, and it’s only when the credits roll that you realize the film had several layers working at once. Brilliant little film.

PARVANEH – A young and conservative Afghan immigrant travels to Zurich to send money home and befriends a punk-rock girl.

Basically a fish-out-of-water story in which a conservative girl is exposed to a new culture, including dance clubs, dancing, booze, and boys. There’s not much of a plot at work here as the main character is just killing time with a new friend before the Western Union shop opens, but where it excels is with the two girls who are from two entirely different worlds finding common ground. No new territory blazed here but still a nice story.

THE PHONE CALL – A shy girl who works at a crisis-hotline center receives a phone call from a bereaved man who has just swallowed a bunch of pills.

The only film with a recognizable cast (Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent), is all about the helper and the helpless connecting with each other without seeing each other’s faces. The goal is to save the man’s life, but the film digs deep into both characters and how they got to the places they currently sit in. It’s the deepest film of the lot even if the story is thin, but the superb acting and character exploration makes it a hit. Sally Hawkins is great, as is Jim Broadbent…whose face is never seen in the film.


The Oscars will be awarded Feb. 22nd

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