2015 Oscar Nominated Short Films - Live Action
Here is my annual review for Best Short Film! As usual, I don't seem to have a strong record in picking the shorts, so I will do the best i can to help you pick a winner! Overall, I enjoyed the show. The movies were mostly slow moving dramas, so be advised.
Parveneh opened the show with this slow starting Swiss film about an Afghani teen who recently immigrated to the country and desparatly needs to send funds back home for her father's surgery. Since she has no ID, she convinces a nearby white girl who appears to be homeless to help out. The white girl agrees for a fee but a setback forces the girls to wait until morning for the transaction and will kill the time bonding till the next day.
The white girl turns out not to be homeless but actually from a well to do family. She is privileged but shuns it and is even a cutter. Needless to say there is plenty to contrast here between the girls race, economic status, privileges and so on. It was a decent film. The Oscar bait was so thick you could feel it. The racial, economic and immigration issues that it deals with will go a long way with the LA Oscar voters. The downside to this film is that we really feel like we have seen this film a few times by now and it was not overly compelling or emotional.
You can watch the trailer if you want, but you really need to see this one to appreciate it. Butter Lamp is told entirely through the lens of a photographer from the city who has gone out to a rural area of the Chinese countryside to take staged family photos with the locals with pre-made backdrops. We are really just eavesdropping on them for a while.
There is no typical story with a protagonist and antagonist with clearly defined act breaks and so on. With just one shot and the entirety of the action being the setting up of photographs, the film moves very slowly. At the same time, however, you find yourself observing all that you can, soaking it all in and, yes, even following threads of story as we move along. Unique storytelling, very well done.
The Phone Call
The British film follows a woman at a crisis call line as she receives a call from an older man. The man has taken too many pills with the intent to commit suicide but does not want help, he just wants someone to talk to. The woman is desperately trying to figure out clues from whatever information she can get from the man before time runs out.
The story is simple, emotional and moving. The film is almost entirely her sitting at her desk, so everybody involved in the production really had to be on their "A" game to make this piece moves and have a cadence, without dragging and getting too boring. The film ebbs and flows beautifully. Although the film is not terribly surprising or groundbreaking in anyway, it is still a solid and moving film.
By far the longest film in the show, running at about 40 minutes, is the Israeli film Aya. A woman is at the airport waiting to pick somebody up when a driver waiting for his passenger needs to run out to his car. He gives the sign with the incoming passenger name on it to the woman to hold for him. While he is gone, the man arrives and the woman decides to continue the charade and just pretend to be his driver. She takes the man on a very long trip into Jerusalem (The airport must be far from the city). Over the course of the trip her witty spontaneity rubs off on the very tight, conservative man.
We are left with some twists at the end but ultimately we really are not left with a character who seems changed by the events of the story and in the end I think the story would have been more interesting from the man's perspective. There are no deep social or political connotations to the film, it is largely a slow moving character study and again, at nearly 40 minutes, the voters might be turned off at that point.
Boogaloo and Grham
The show ended with a crowd pleaser! This charming little film follows two boys who are given little chickens by their father. The children raise these chicks as pets and are head over heals in love with them. This contrasts with Mom, who is entirely against it and contrasts with the environment they are in, 1970s' Belfast with "The Troubles" going on around them like an occupied country.
The acting is terrific and the boys, in particular, are really fun to watch. The movie was shot in four days and although it looks terrific, you could see a shot here and there that might have felt rushed.
Although Ireland has done good in this area recently with The Shore winning just a few years ago, and having just won the BAFTA for short film, I think Boogaloo might be too much of a popcorn film to win Oscar voters over.
Again, by and large I enjoyed the show. In terms of picking a winner, I would eliminate Aya first. It is long and doesn't seem to hit the right cords. Otherwise here is my pick:
Will Win: Butter Lamp - It hits all of the right notes, it tells a compelling and unique story and it seems to be getting good reviews online. I think The Phone Call is right there with it though. Oscar voters really like conventional storytelling and this fits the bill and is certainly more emotional and moving. In that regard, I think The Phone Call is a much safer bet. I'm going with my gut on this one though, all in on Butter Lamp.
Could Surprise: Parveneh - It just has all of the ingredients. Again, I don't think it is as potent or dynamic as the other films, but all of the other ingredients are there so I'm not going to fall out of my seat like I did when Inocente won best doc back in 13. You could put Boogaloo here too. Boogaloo is just too damn charming to win an Oscar, which is a shame. If it does win, I won't be terribly upset to take a shot and mark one wrong on my predictions sheet.
Doesn't look like there's too many laughs this year!
The first one seemed kind of boring, so did the 40 minute long one. I couldn't really get a feel for how Butter Lamp actually looked based on the "trailer", but the way you described it made it sound pretty darn interesting.
There's actually a crisis call center short film in the Short Documentary category as well this year. I watched it on a whim last year, it was pretty devastating. But it was also about ex-military folk contemplating suicide, and I'm not sure how dark this fictional one got. The documentary one is probably still OnDemand if you have HBO, because it was an HBO doc short.
Nice reviews, Jeff! Gives me a better feel for how these things look when I throw down my votes this year. I'll be hitting up the Animated Short showcase tomorrow or Friday!