Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts (85th Academy Awards) (review)
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Should we find it odd that of the five mini dramas nominated for an Oscar for Best Live-Action Short, only one is an American production? In the animation and documentary categories, the only film that isn’t American is British… so should we presume that there’s a certain lack of urgency when it comes to short-form filmed fiction? In other nations, there are thriving arts councils and time slots on TV for short films — does the U.S. need to better support and give outlet to short fiction? (Consider that some of these films were made by American filmmakers who had to go overseas to make their shorts.) “Curfew” [IMDb], the only American production here, is a bittersweet little film, in which writer-director-star Shawn Christensen is interrupted mid-suicide by a phone call from his estranged sister asking that he babysit her little girl for a few hours; there’s black, unsentimental charm in how it goes about its themes of reconciliation and redemption. The Quebecois “Henry” [IMDb], from filmmaker Yan England, suffers just a wee bit in comparison with fellow Oscar nominee Amour: it’s a nicely observed tale of an elderly pianist (Gérard Poirier) who panics when his violinist wife disappears from their apartment on the eve of their performance of a new piece, though it’s immediately apparent from the film’s opening moments precisely what is really going on. “Buzkashi Boys” [IMDb], shot in Kabul by an international team of filmmakers (including American director Sam French), is about two young boys — a blacksmith’s son and a street urchin — who dream of better futures in this ruined city, perhaps as riders in the brutal national sport of buzkashi. My favorite film of the lot is the French-Belgian “Death of a Shadow” [IMDb], from writer-director Tom Van Avermaet, a steampunkish science fantasy about a man (Matthias Schoenaerts, unrecognizable from Rust and Bone) existing in a sort of purgatory in which he takes mysterious photos of people dying across time for a creepy collector and fancier of “the true beauty of death.” But the very best of the bunch — and the one I suspect will win the Oscar — is “Asad” [IMDb], a South African film by American writer-director Bryan Buckley, about a young boy in Somalia who has to choose between being a fisherman or a pirate… and he says he’s a terrible fisherman. It’s a child’s eye view of a violent world, yet it manages a weird whimsy as he finds magic — and an odd hope — in a harsh world.
See the official site for showtimes and locations across the U.S., Canada, and Europe.