On Sunday, I was able to review the 2011 Animated Short Films nominated for an Oscar, thanks to their theatrical release through ShortsHD. Released concurrently with the Animated Shorts were the Oscar-Nominated Live-Action Shorts, which I only now got a chance to see. For the most part, I think the collection of Live-Action shorts are far superior to the animated shorts I saw, if only because I reacted far more strongly to what I saw, for better or for worse.
Let’s do a run-down of the Live-Action Shorts nominated for an Oscar this year:
One of two Irish short films nominated for an Oscar, Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane’s Pentecost (Ireland) is perhaps the more glib. With an 11-minute runtime, we mostly get to know a clumsy, football-obsessed altar boy who becomes persona non grata after accidentally injuring the pastor one Sunday. But perhaps it’s unfair to label the boy as “football-obsessed,” seeing as every other person in the parish – priests and deacons included – share that enthusiasm. Pentecost is a fun waif of a film, gleefully conflating the joys experienced through beloved Sunday traditions like church and football. At the very least, this former Catholic altar boy was sufficiently amused.
5-Word Review: Catholics will LOVE it! | Grade: B
I don’t have kids, but even I will cringe whenever a movie depicts a parent’s realization that their kid has gone missing. Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren’s Raju (Germany/India) milks that dread for all its worth. Raju tells the story of a German couple visiting India to collect the child they plan to adopt. Their plans to complete their family take a horrifying left turn when their new son Raju suddenly goes missing. As the new father scours the streets of Kolkata in search of his boy, he discovers a horrifying truth reminiscent of the plot twist from Gone Baby Gone. Raju is more challenging than that Ben Affleck film, and for me, it leaves real impact.
5-Word Review: It’s a fairly tough watch. | Grade: B+
If any of these five movies have real star power to boast, then surely it is in this Ciarán Hinds vehicle The Shore (North Ireland). Directed by Hotel Rwanda and In the Name of the Father scribe Terry George, this story depicts Joe, an Irish-American immigrant who returns home to seek forgiveness from the ex-fiancée he left and the best friend he betrayed decades prior. This is the most uneven of the five films – I particularly didn’t care for Kerry Condon’s performance as Joe’s daughter – but it is also the most emotionally potent. I particularly liked the way the film resolves itself, pulling off an odd twist of a happy ending that actually surprised and touched me.
5-Word Review: It really worked for me. | Grade: B+
For some, Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey’s Time Freak (US) will come off as too gimmicky and perhaps a little too slight. I, however, found myself laughing quite a bit at the antics of an obsessive time-traveler who is trying to correct and re-correct every wrong step he takes throughout the day – be it an awkward encounter with a girl, a regrettable altercation with a dry-cleaner or even a botched conversation with his roommate and best friend. The moral is trite – don’t dwell so much on the past – but the execution is pretty damn fun.
5-Word Review: The funniest of the bunch. | Grade: B+
Loaded with quirk and an undercurrent of existentialism, there’s a really, really good chance that Hallvar Witzø’s Tuba Atlantic (Norway) – the story of a dying old curmudgeon named Oskar and his encounter with a Inger, a young Christian girl assigned to help facilitate his grieving process – is going to win the Oscar this year. I really, really hope it doesn’t. Almost nothing about this short worked for me – not Inger’s bubbly ambition, not Oskar’s… er… “unconventional” effort to reconcile with his brother, and certainly not the havoc he wreaks on those dozens and dozens of fictional seagulls he kills throughout the movie. Poor birds…
5-Word Review: Overpraised. Therefore, it will win. | Grade: C
Click here for my reviews of this year’s Oscar-nominated Animated Shorts. The Documentary Short films come to my town this Friday, and I plan on seeing them and sharing my thoughts right here at Film Misery. Check out the ShortsHD Official Site for information on where and when the shorts might be playing near you.