2013 Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts
I want to thank Scott for posting his Oscars pics and finally motivating me to post this.
As with the Live Action Shorts, these were all terrific films. It was a great show, which was appreciated all the more since the entire show ran around four hours. It had an intermission. I haven't been at the movie theaters for an intermission since I saw a special screening of Gone With The Wind about 10 years ago. Just to give you a heads up, I think the vote will be a two way fight between Open Heart and Mondays at Racine. OK, here we go--
Kings Point is, in my mind, the weakest entry. The image looked really flat, it is not as emotionally compelling as some of the others, and it's a slow burn. Having said that, it really is this old school documentary, and some of this fits into the type of story they are telling. The doc follows a group of people in a rest home in Florida. Many of them are just sort of abandoned their by their families and this story is of them pretty much waiting to die and how they approach relationships. So there is some pretty cool stuff here, and with the Oscar voters being an older crowd, the subject matter, and perhaps this older style approach may win them some votes. But ultimately, for me, the story could have been much tighter, better produced and more compelling.
Monday's at Racine
Monday's should be hard to beat. To me, this was hands down the best story told, and it was very emotional and compelling. The story follows women fighting cancer at various stages, but it is held together by this salon that opens up on Mondays to give free services to woman going through cancer treatment. With their hair falling out and the difficulties it presents to their relationships with their spouse and, let's be honest, I know a lot of girls who just generally fell better after a day of being pampered. But it also operates as this, sort of, underground support group.
The way the relationships are woven through the salon and then we follow them back home (sometimes with footage they shot themselves), the story is really terrific. The pacing is great too, it didn't drag and kept me along the whole time. However, I think the biggest knock against this film is that documentaries on American (predominately white), middle class women is a field that is perhaps over saturated.
Inocente follows a homeless Latina girl in SoCal. She is a talented artist who is given the opportunity to have her own art gala. The film also explores her illegal immigration into the US, as her family ran from an abusive husband/father.
The film is very well produced (it had some help from MTV) and Inocente (the girl) was a terrific character, but that's about where it ends. The doc really struggled to find it's identity and it's story. Was this a film about her path out of poverty? Was it about her relationship with her family? Was it an awareness piece for homelessness or immigration? It had threads of all of this in the film, but it never made any resolve to any of these issues. The end just, sort of, floats off, leaving us with these loose ends. And it deals with this very difficult relationship between her and her mother. You know there is more going on than meets the eye, but sadly a lot of it leaves a mystery. Oscar voters will have the appeal of the minority, immigration, poverty and hope of a rags-to-riches/American Dream story, but the film just seems to have too many set backs.
I don't think Redemption has a shot at winning, but I loved it. The movie follows people in New York "canning." Basically these homeless people make their living by picking recyclables out of the trash and turning them in for money.
There is no unifying story, as there is in Mondays. The production is better than Kings Point, but not as slick as Inocente. The film is not rally to promote canning or end homelessness. And all of these things can (and to the Oscar voters, I believe will) make it feel like a middle of the road documentary. But what is amazing about this film are the deeply rich character and this eye opening culture. You really get a sense of dynamic relationships, personal histories and the tense feeling of not meeting ends meet, or meeting it, only to have it taken from you. So again, not terribly emotional, but really rich.
Open Heart follows kids in Rawanda as they travel to Sudan to receive treatment at a clinic that provides free life-saving surgery for kids with heart conditions. The film addresses this problem (which can sadly often be prevented with something as simple as penicillin), follows the kids as they leave their families for the first time to go to a foreign land and be operated on. When the kids leave the parents don't even know if the problem is repairable, so they have to be prepared to be saying goodbye forever. The film follows the kids through their surgeries and return home and also address the challenges faced by the client, both the medical problems they are their to address and those of working under a troubled and corrupt government.
This has everything the Oscar voters could want and the picture is solid. The story doesn't address any distracting subplots, it delivers a compelling story, it addresses a social need in this world, at times it is emotional but the pace ebbs and flows and keeps us interested - it's solid. I have no problem with this picture winning. My only gripe is that it really feels too safe of a film. It didn't really try to be clever, or approach something from a unique angle or innovate. But again, it's solid.
So I'm torn, I would like to vote for Monday's or Redemption because I like the unique, rich storytelling they provide. But I think Open Heart is the most solid and voter-likable piece. We shall see!
It seems like a lot of service project/charity kind of subjects. It's good to get the word out on stuff like that. The Academy likes voting for third world problems over middle class white people problems, I assume, that's why I think Open Heart will win. I'd probably watch all of these if I could, I hope HBO picks a few of them up, or at least the winner (like they did last year with Saving Face). Thanks for the write up, Jeff! Makes me feel a little more secure in picking Open Heart.