Oscar-nominated Short Films 2016

 shorst-live-2017BEST SHORT FILM NOMINEES 2016

 Another year, another batch of short films being considered for the coveted golden statuette. As always, it’s a mixed bag of offerings that runs the gamut from cute to sad to deadly serious. This year’s live-action shorts cover a wide range of subjects like love, immigrants, xenophobia, loneliness, defiance and dancing. The animated shorts consist of two CA, two hand-drawn and one digitally-produced rendering of linocut (designs cut into wood or linoleum surfaces).

 Overall, it’s a pretty strong bunch. Some work better than others. One of the live-actions (“Timecode”) is especially cute. Another (“La Femme et la TGV”) stars the still-resplendent French actress Jane Birkin (Blow-Up). One of the animated featurettes (“Borrowed Time”) focuses on loss; another (“Pear Cider and Cigarettes”) on impending loss. The latter film is particularly affecting.

Like previous years, what I’ll do is provide a brief description of each in the order in which they appear in their respective programs. I’ll offer up a few comments on each short and denote my favorite with a (*) symbol. My star ratings will appear at the end of each set of five.  

OscarShorts2017poster LIVE ACTION

*Sing (Hungary, 25 minutes, D: Kristof Deak). In life, everybody is called upon to make tough decisions, even young children. In this piece from Hungary, transfer student Zsofi (Dorka Gasparfalvi) is excited about being a part of her new school’s award-winning choir. That is, until the choir master (Zsofia Szamosi) takes her aside and tells her just to mouth the words. Why? She’s not a good enough singer but school policy doesn’t allow for students to be excluded so sacrifices must be made in order to ensure another win. This isn’t fair and the preteen knows it. When she tells her new best friend Liza (Dorottya Hais) about it, she decides it’s time for them to stand up against a corrupt system and defy authority. While I could easily see this as a feature-length film, it works beautifully as is. The two young actresses do a remarkable job in their roles. Easily the most satisfying short of the live-action collection.

Silent Nights (Denmark, 30 minutes, D: Aske Bang). This one centers on a lonely Danish woman, Inger (Malene Beltoft), who meets and falls for a Ghanaian immigrant, Kwame (Prince Yaw Appiah), while volunteering at a homeless shelter. What she doesn’t know is that he has a wife and kids back home that he regularly sends money to. It shines a light on the racism problem that infects every country in the world. Xenophobia is a universal thing. It’s pretty good but the ending is pretty contrived.

Timecode (Spain, 15 minutes, D: Juanjo Gimenez).  In this cute and slightly off-the-wall love story, two parking lot attendants discover they share a mutual passion for dance. Luna (Lali Ayguade) works the day shift while Diego (Nicolas Ricchini) works overnight. They start leaving each other video communiqués. It’s nice how it comes together at the end. Also, the final punchline is quite amusing. It’s charming but paper-thin.

Ennemis Interieurs (France, 27 minutes, D: Selim Azzizi). The program takes a serious turn with this drama about a French-Algerian man (Hassam Ghancy) applying for French citizenship. The French official (Najib Oudghiri) handling the matter turns the interview into an interrogation when he starts questioning the man about who he associates with. It’s set in the 90s, a turbulent time when fears of Algerian terrorist attacks were high. It’s very timely, especially in light of the recent controversy over Trump’s proposed new regulations regarding immigrants from Muslim countries. It’s dark, tense and compelling.

La Femme et le TGV (Switzerland, 30 minutes, D: Timo von Gunten). This final selection stars Birkin as a lonely small-town baker who looks forward to waving at the train that passes her house each morning. One day, she receives a note from the conductor telling her how much he looks forward to seeing her wave each day. They begin exchanging heartfelt letters which help her overcome her feelings of loneliness and isolation. The 70-year-old actress is still a delight to watch. It’s a sweet, funny and touching little film that would translate very well to feature-length.

Ratingfullstar1fullstar1fullstar1halfstar1

shorts-animation-17ANIMATED 

Borrowed Time (US, 7 minutes, D: Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj). The animated program begins on a melancholy note with an aged sheriff returning to the scene of a horrific childhood tragedy. As the memory comes flooding back, so do feelings of loss and guilt. The John Ford-inspired images in this computer-animated short are beautiful. The total absence of dialogue gives it a haunted feel. It’s short but effective.

Pearl (US, 6 minutes, D: Patrick Osborne). This one began life as a 3D virtual-reality video. In it, we see the evolution of a father-daughter relationship. He’s a street musician raising his daughter the best he can on his own. The whole thing is seen through the windows or inside the car they both drive/ride in at different points. It’s a clever way of telling a story type (parent-child relationship) we’ve seen countless times. The music they both make is pretty good. It’s my second favorite of the five.

Piper (US, 6 minutes, D: Alan Barillaro). You’ve probably seen this one if you have kids; it was attached to last summer’s Finding Dory. This Pixar offering is about a baby seagull who learns to overcome his fear of the water in a most unusual way. The computer-animation is flawless. It’s very detailed right down to the feathers on the titular bird. The birds look almost real. It’s a sweet and funny little mini-movie that’s sure to delight viewers watching it for the first, second or third time. It put a smile on my face.

Blind Vaysha (Canada, 8 minutes, D: Theodore Ushev).  This is the one that employs the art of linocut. It tells the story of a girl who was born with a very unique form of sight impairment. She sees the past out of her left eye and the future out of the right one. She cannot see the present. It makes for a very confusing, isolated life. I like the animation style. Much of it resembles a Van Gogh painting. While it’s visually striking, there’s not much of a story and it ends on a rather vague note. I like it but it’s my least favorite of the bunch.

At this point, we’re treated to three additional shorts before we get to the final one “Pear Cider and Cigarettes” which comes with a parental warning (for language, some violence, nudity, drug use and alcohol abuse). The three “Highly Commended” featurettes are “Asteria”, “The Head Vanishes” and “Once Upon a Line”. “The Head Vanishes”, about an elderly woman in the throes of Alzheimer’s is easily the best; it’s moving and brilliant in its depiction of the disease that comes with occasional moments of lucidity. “Asteria”, a humorous sci-fi piece will appeal to kids that like Home. The love story “Once Upon a Line” which uses stick figures and lines is just okay.

*Pear Cider and Cigarettes (Canada, 35 minutes, D: Robert Valley). In my opinion, this is the best of the animated shorts. Narrated by the filmmaker, it’s all about his best friend Techno, a hard-living, self-destructive alcoholic in need of a liver transplant. His drinking problem- and it’s a BIG one- makes him a less-than-ideal candidate for a transplant in his native Vancouver so he’s in China waiting on a shady doctor to find a suitable match. Robert reflects on their relationship from when they met as children and on through the years as Techno lived a wild lifestyle that would ultimately catch up with him. He goes to China to support Techno and make sure he doesn’t start drinking again. It’s a very compelling short that employs traditional ink-and-paint illustrations. The rock-infused score is a definite asset. It’s very funny and ultimately moving. It’s a testament to friendship and loyalty through thick and thin.

Rating: fullstar1fullstar1fullstar1halfstar1

Last Updated on Monday, 13 February 2017 20:32

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BEST SHORT FILMS NOMINEES 2015

shorts-live-action

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 February 2016 21:38

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The 2013 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Animated and Live Action)

 2013-Oscar-Animated-ShortsThe 2013 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Animated and Live Action)  Another year, another crop of short films competing for that coveted gold statuette. It still amazes me what these filmmakers can do with only a fraction of the running time typically allotted to feature films. Be it laughter or tears, they can often elicit an emotional response that movies with normal running times fail to achieve. At least one of this year’s live action shorts (“Henry”) put a huge lump in my throat. Once again, it’s a mixture of absurdist humor, stark realism and complex human drama that runs the emotional gamut (you’ll laugh, you’ll cry ….). As Oscar night (Sunday, February 24) approaches, arthouse theaters around the country are giving audiences the opportunity to see these films for themselves. As usual, they’re being presented as two separate features. This year, each collection is hosted by a previous winner in its respective category. Personally, I find this an unnecessary addition because the hosts aren’t really saying much of anything.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 February 2013 21:09

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Best Short Film Nominees 2014

 short-animated-2015BEST SHORT FILM NOMINEES 2014  

Well, it’s that time of year again. Like a kid eagerly awaits Christmas every year, I look forward to Oscar Night. I try and make it a point to see everything that’s nominated for a gold statuette by the night of the awards. That includes the animated and live action short films. This year marks a first as I went to see them on a weekend afternoon (as opposed to a weekday). The theater where they were showing may as well have been renamed Oscar central as all but one title are among this year’s nominees. The theater was almost full confirming that there IS an audience for short films. As usual, I saw all ten nominated shorts in one sitting. In general, I was pleased.

Last Updated on Monday, 02 February 2015 21:16

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Familiar

FAMILIAR reviewFamiliar (2012)   Fatal Pictures/Horror-Thriller   RT: 23 minutes   No MPAA Rating (violence, strong gory effects, disturbing themes)   Director: Richard Powell   Screenplay: Richard Powell   Music: Bernie Greenspoon   Cinematography: Michael Jari Davidson   Starring: Robert Nolan, Astrida Auza, Cathryn Hostick.    

Rating: fullstar1fullstar1fullstar1fullstar1

Here I am, about to expand my repertoire with my review of Familiar. It’s a first for me on a couple of counts: (1) I have NEVER had a filmmaker ask me to review his/her work and (2) I have NEVER reviewed a short film on a stand-alone basis. I was flattered when writer/director Richard Powell asked me to review his work. I certainly hope I don’t disappoint the man. Up until now, I have only reviewed short film collections like last fall’s Stars in Shorts and each year’s Oscar nominees for Best Short Film (live action and animated). With this review of Familiar, I’m about to enter unfamiliar territory.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 January 2013 22:57

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Best Short Film Nominees 2013

 oscar-shorts-2014-reviewBEST SHORT FILM NOMINEES 2013

This year’s crop of short films is quite good. As has become the tradition, I saw all ten films in one sitting. The five animated nominees are a feast for the imagination as they employ vastly different animation styles. The live action shorts run the emotional gamut from delightfully silly to deadly serious. All in all, it was an afternoon well-spent at the movies. What I’m going to do is offer a brief plot description and a few comments on each film in the order in which they appear in the program. I’ll end each set of five with an overall rating. And away we go!

                                                                        

 

 

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 03 March 2014 20:18

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