Greetings again from the darkness. Oscar night is rapidly approaching, which means my annual pilgrimage to see the Oscar nominated Short Film Showcase has taken place. It’s always one of my favorite movie events of the year, and if you’ve never experienced it, I highly recommend you give it a try. You are guaranteed 10 high quality short films from around the globe, and they usually throw in a few more “commended” ones to enhance your time at the theatre. Here is my recap of this year’s nominations:
LIVE ACTION (alphabetical order)
AVE MARIA (Palestine, France, Germany) – In a year when the other four nominees are pretty serious in tone, this jocular, slightly satirical jab at religious extremism from filmmaker Basil Khalil is quite welcome. Set in the West Bank, Palestine, a quarrelsome Jewish family literally crashes into the sanctity of 5 cloistered nuns.
DAY ONE (USA) – set within the war in Afghanistan, director Henry Hughes’ film depicts the first day in the field for a rookie translator as she accompanies a squad in their capture of a suspected bomber. When the bomber’s wife is discovered to be pregnant, things take a wicked turn and spontaneous decisions must be made that rattle the religious, cultural and moral state of those involved.
EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY (Alles Wird Gut, Germany Austria) – I reviewed this one earlier in the year, and director Patrick Volrath’s film is just as gut-wrenching the second time. A desperate German father attempts to carry out an ill-conceived plan that will thwart his ex-wife’s attempts to prevent him from spending time with his young daughter. It’s well acted and emotional.
SHOK (Kosova, UK) – a bicycle stranded in the road brings back a flood of childhood memories from the Kosovo War for an adult man. Based on true events, this one from director Jamie Donoughue is a gut punch and reminder that nothing is as strong as the bond between friends.
STUTTERER (UK, Ireland) – my personal favorite of the Live Action nominees, this one will have you questioning how you view “disabilities” and your quick trigger on assumptions. Director Benjamin Cleary also provides insight into how insecurities play a role in the motives and actions of people.
ANIMATION (alphabetical order)
BEAR STORY (Historia de un Oso, Chile) – Director Gabriel Osorio Vargas offers up a very intricate and meticulous story of a former circus bear who tells his heart-breaking life story through a fascinating mechanical diorama. Along with the Russian entry, this is one of my two favorites in the category.
PROLOGUE (UK) – a beautifully drawn depiction of a brutal two-on-two battle between Spartan and Athenian soldiers from more than 2000 years ago. Director Richard Williams provides a taste of the violence and intimacy in hand to hand combat, and also the fallout from war regardless of the era.
SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM (USA) – Surely the most widely viewed of all nominees, as this Pixar production played before every showing of Pixar’s feature The Good Dinosaur. Director Sanjay Patel tells a semi-autobiographical tale of father, son and religion … complete with a real photo at the end.
WE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT COSMOS (Russia) – The power of friendship and human bonding is on display as two cosmonauts train together for a trip into space. Director Konstantin Bronzit offers a no-holds-barred look at grief and the lack of understanding by others. The right stuff from a Russian perspective looks pretty similar to ours.
WORLD OF TOMORROW (USA) – I first saw this gem from director Don Hertzfeldt at the Dallas International Film Society, and the simple animation can’t mask the complexity of the cautionary tale. Technology and our desire for immortality may not provide the idyllic future we imagine. This one is both frightening and funny.