Sunday, February 21, 2016

The 2015 Oscar-Nominated Live-Action Short Films

The Live Action showcase this year was honestly a bit of a let down, mostly because of drama fatigue. Yes, these movies are usually about awful things happening to people in terrible situations (I still remember the Afghan movie about child-beggars from a few years back), but there is customarily a bit of levity to undercut the horror and heavy drama somewhere in the showcase (such as the Norwegian movie about the old man who massacres seagulls with machine guns and builds tubas to sound across the Atlantic). This year, it seemed like everything was a pile of pain and high drama, which just gets tiring after a while, as you watch awful climax after awful climax. Nevertheless, we have the films before us, and it's time to evaluate them!

The 2015 Oscar-Nominated Animated Live Action Films

Ave Maria:: A Palestinian-French film that is, of all things, a comedy, this one concerns a hardcore orthodox Jewish family who gets into a traffic accident at a West Bank convent of catholic nuns on Shabbat. The Jews can't use any technology on Shabbat, while the sisters have all taken vows of silence. Hijinx ensue, albeit not as many as I was expecting, and the entire thing is resolved through a nun suddenly possessing the advanced skills and tools to do something she realistically could have done at any point prior to the movie's commencement. Still, not every film has to be Hamlet, and this one's at least all right.

Shok::  Hey guys, did you know the war in Kosovo was horrible for children? Because it was! Shok is a movie about two Albanian boys in Kosovo dealing with efforts to alternately Serbify and eventually Ethnically Cleanse their village, and it is approximately as uplifting and warm-hearted as you would expect as a result. The film has a couple of quite good scenes, but overall it's nothing more than another "children in hell" flick, a sob-story archetype that the Oscars are not new to.

Everything Will Be Okay:  Longest of the movies on offer, this German film features handheld cameras documenting a father picking his daughter up from his ex-wife's house for the weekend, buying her toys, taking her to the amusement park, and then embarking on a complicated scheme to abduct her out of the country using falsified documents. Filmed more or less from the perspective of the daughter, an eight-year-old girl who slowly comes to realize what is happening, the movie is intriguingly well-made, but has the unfortunate quality of spending most of its runtime waiting for the character in question (the little girl) to catch up to what the audience already knows. Still, the film ends strongly, and has a true-to-life feel throughout.

Day One: A complex, multifaceted story about how much Afghanistan sucks, Day One follows an Afghani-American translator on her first day in-country with a force of US military personnel, as they try to track down a bombmaker allied with the Taliban and accidentally stumble upon the bombmaker's wife, currently in labor, whose medical situation necessitates treatment. Instantly, a hundred complexities of local custom, religious scruple, guest-laws, and medical training pop up, forcing everyone to struggle to figure out what to do. The situation is highly contrived, but the movie gets a lot across in a little time, and has a cohesiveness to it that the others on the same theme lack.

And the Havoc award for Best Live Action Short Film goes to...

Stutterer: Admittedly, this is a close one, and in many ways the best of a mediocre lot, but Stutterer was at least entertaining in a way that most of the other films were not. A typographer with a terrible stutter who has been in an online relationship that is suddenly coming offline stresses out over what to do to avoid revealing his crippling inability to speak. The setup isn't revolutionary, and the film ends on a rather pat note, but the film has an interesting style to it, and is written well enough to push itself over the top. Not a great year for the short films, but one perseveres.

Next Time:  The Coen Brothers take us back to Hollywood's golden age.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The General's Post Summer 2018 Roundup

Let's get back into the swing of things, shall we? The General's Post Summer 2018 Roundup Ant-Man and the Wasp Alternate Ti...