I’ve seen the Oscar Live Shorts a few weeks ago and they’re apparently bad crop but they show different emotions and they’re better than the animated ones. I ranked them, but doing that via Twitter limits the discourse towards whoever’s favourite short or whatever, so for completist’s sakes I’m writing about each in the order I’ve seen them.
Pentecost (Ireland) - Peter MacDonald – It’s the most visually pleasing of the bunch, the digital photography deepening the hues of the leaves and the brick walls of the setting. It reminds me of Albert Nobbs cinematography in some ways, showing us that the trees in the British Isles makes North American ones look malnourished. But it plays out the same joke that becomes tedious even in its ten minute running time, an 11-year-old altar boy named Damian (Scott Graham) in the late 20th century and those around him bringing up comparisons of mass to football. The deacons as coaches, the boys as players, the Archbishop’s mass as the big game. Meh.
Raju (Germany/India) – Max Zahle and Stefan Gieren – A couple (Wotan Wilke Möhring and Julia Richter) come to India to adopt a child named Raju. The husband and Raju go out to Calcutta before they leave for Germany but he loses the child, leading to a big reveal. The camera loves Möhring’s face as he observes the city’s squalor-filled third world streets with wonder, not revulsion. The movie deals with colonialist issues so it’s not going to win in some people’s eyes. If you’re filling your Oscar ballot with your mind and not your heart, pick this movie because the Academy loves important issues and this movie fits that bill.
The Shore (United Kingdom) – Terry George – Ciaran Hinds and Kerry Condon lend their talents as a San Francisco father and daughter Jim and Patricia visiting his hometown Northern Ireland, having left because of the turmoil decades beforehand. But this is more about the personal secrets between him and the other townspeople, specifically his best friend (Conleth Hill), an alcoholic who works as a seafood harvester, married to a woman (Maggie Cronin) who used to be Jim’s girlfriend. The bucolic tone makes sense in the beginning but it unfortunately stays on that. Nothing happens, the storyline feels chopped up as funny anecdotes and the ending makes me feel like Hinds’ character is a terrible person.
Time Freak (United States) – Andrew Bowler – I read another blogger’s column about these shorts and asked why would the protagonist make a time machine and keep coming back to a specific day within the present and not visit Ancient Rome. With all due respect, listen. If you visit Ancient Rome, you would die, everyone from the present day would die from an extremely violent and disgusting moment of human history. While prosperity and safety was only given to 1% of the population of previous eras, our generation is the most advanced and we can only go downhill from here. And short filmmakers are poor, they don’t have money for costumes and period sets. Our mistakes, big or small, haunt us if only in the faintest sense. This is what neuroses are like. Besides, I’m part of the Youtube generation. I have no idea what my forebears looked for in their shorts but I look for compelling – read, hiLArious – storylines so this one gets my vote. But not for my friends who find the next as their favourite.
Tuba Atlantic (Norway) – Hallvar Witzo. We’re spending a few minutes with a curmudgeon named Oskar (Edvard Hægstad) who likes to shoot birds. His seaside existence is interrupted when a doctor announces his impending death. Fortunately his mean-spirited nature, which governs the movie’s tone, is counterbalanced by a perky blond Death Angel (Ingrid Viken) who comforts him in his last days while ensuring that he goes through all five stages. I like this interesting concept, heightened by Oskar’s regression into his childhood inventions like the titular tuba, a quirk that’s successfully played. His progress parallels her growth as an angel. Witzo is an exciting filmmaker and I can’t wait for his next movie.
The Oscar-nominated live action shorts are playing in Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for the next few afternoons and evenings, as they have been for the past two weeks. Pictures via TIFF.