Monday, February 11, 2019

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

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a Short Film as a motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less. Since 1974, the Academy has been awarding Oscars to the shorts that utilized that precious little time the best. With such tight constraints brevity is key, and with no need to fill time or stretch things out, it can be said that Short Films are the purest of all filmmaking. 
This year, the five nominees from across the world are a powerful and sobering bunch, with four of them taking on the serious subject matter of children being in situations they never should be in. Here are the nominees, and a Reel Review for each. 
The young son of a white supremacist witnesses his father and his skinhead friends beat a black man nearly to his death. 
The early goings of SKIN give us the impression that the film will be a morality lesson, as the eyes of a child present the ugliness of racism in horrific ways. Things get turned on its end however by the halfway point when the young son of the assaulted black man takes part in a revenge plot, and the results lead to two twists with cruel yet glorious irony. SKIN is very well acted, is presented in gritty realism, and has a lot of potential to be a feature length film. 
MOTHER (Spain)
A mother receives a phone call from her six-year-old boy who is stranded alone on a beach. 
This Spanish-speaking thriller is a closed-quarters film that takes place in the mom’s apartment and is limited to her and her own mother. It borders on a real-life horror film as the mom receives the phone call and his horrified to hear her son scared out of his mind, and the fear that the child is going through extends to his mom and grandmother. MOTHER is incredibly well acted, and the bulk of the film is done in one, single-take. If it has any flaws, it’s that it doesn’t have much of an ending and feels like the opening scene to something bigger. 
FAUVE (Canada)
Two young boys wander into a stone quarry with tragic consequences. 
Similar to MOTHER, FAUVE also feels like the opening, or middle scene to something larger, but it still carries a powerful punch. The tragedy the kids find has to do with thick mud that acts as quicksand, and the technical mastery to pull off the effect is stunning. Both boys are incredible actors, which makes FAUVE the most technically superior film of this year’s nominees. If only it had more of an ending…
An elderly woman begins to have feelings for her nurse. 
This LGBT entry has a lot of potential to be a feature-length film, and the acting from the two actresses is excellent. The film could have gone in several different ways, and the way it goes may not sit too well with the lesbian community. When the elderly woman finds out her nurse is a lesbian, we expect her to act with disgust, but we learn that she herself once loved another woman but could never tell her. It’s a solid first step, but then the idea turns into a sexual curiosity which leads the nurse to doing some very questionable things for someone in her profession. MARGUERITE feels like it would have worked better as a feature length because it sorely needs more time to explore the issues that it presents. 
Two young boys in Ireland who are up to no good while skipping school abduct a toddler for sinister purposes. 
This is based on the 1993 real life, shocking murder and torture of two-year-old James Bulger by the hands of boys who were 10 years old. It’s a half-hour docu-drama based on police interviews and recordings and does fine work in getting into the heads of the two kids who did things so unspeakable to the toddler, that most of the details are still under seal. The actors playing the young killers are outstanding, and despite how horrific and gruesome the murder is, it is presented in a way that lets our minds fill in the blanks and it leads to places we really don’t want to go. Not ever. Extremely well edited, shot, and acted…DETAINMENT may make an excellent feature length one day, but it doubtfully will be as riveting as this short. 
Read Reel Speak's review for the Animated Short nominees HERE 
The Oscars will awarded February 24th.

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