I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
All the stories about women that are missing from the big screen? Some of them end up in short films — like three out of the five of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Live-Action Short — and it’s hardly a surprise that their fresh perspective results in stories that are new and original. My favorite among the nominees, and the one I suspect will win, is “Parvaneh” [IMDb], from Iranian-Swiss writer-director Talkhon Hamzavi. A lovely story about an unexpected friendship between an Afghani asylum seeker (Nissa Kashani) and a disaffected Zurich student (Cheryl Graf), its moments of great suspense are a poignant emotional complement to the gentle lessons the young women learn from each other that spring from the very different paths their lives have taken.
“The Phone Call” [IMDb], from British writer (with James Lucas) and director Mat Kirkby, is such perfect Oscar bait that a win by it wouldn’t be surprising, though. The always wonderful Sally Hawkins (Paddington) is a phone counselor at a crisis helpline who takes a call from a distraught man (the voice of Jim Broadbent: Get Santa) and tries to talk him through his pain. Achingly sad yet ultimately hopeful, this is a showcase for both actors at their most affecting.
From Israeli writers (with Tom Shoval) and directors Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis, “Aya” [IMDb] is a story of a woman (Sarah Adler: Marie Antoinette) who becomes unmoored from her own life when a random encounter at the airport with an intriguing stranger (Ulrich Thomsen: Mortdecai) sends her on a tiny personal adventure into a place of emotional mystery. It’s so rare to see films about women who don’t quite know what to make of their lives, which makes this one quite striking indeed.
I loved the ironic oddity that is “Butter Lamp” [IMDb], by Chinese filmmaker Wei Hu. The entire film takes place before a static camera in one location as a parade of Tibetan nomads pose for an itinerant photographer (Genden Punstock) in front of various photographic backdrops, of city streets, famous tourist locations, and so on. The notion of the present as a negotiation between the past and the future is on glorious display as the pull of tradition battles with a desire for the new in the multigenerational families who sit for their portraits.
The most familiar feeling of the nominees, “Boogaloo and Graham” [IMDb], is nevertheless still charming. From director Michael Lennox and writer Ronan Blaney, and set in 1978 Belfast, this is the tale of of two little brothers (Riley Hamilton and Aaron Lynch) who are given a pair of chicks by their father (Martin McCann: ’71), much to their mother’s (Charlene McKenna: Breakfast on Pluto) consternation. What sorts of problems can raising chickens in a war zone of a city cause? More than a few, it turns out.
See the official site for showtimes and locations across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.