I’ve just watched all of the animated, all of the live action and all of the documentary shorts. ¬†I will attempt to review them with the caveat that — and this is very important, readers — what I like hardly ever wins in these categories.
At first pass through all of these, two things stand out: the first? There is no bad apple. ¬†They are all pretty great. ¬†The second? Although there is one American short among the live action, it is remarkable that so many of them are British – this goes for animated too. ¬†The American ones seem more cynical, less hopeful, less sentimental – and of course, we’re seeing the same thing play out in the Best Picture race this year: the one British film is the most sentimental and will likely win on February 27. ¬†One wonders why, with all of the film schools and all of the film students in this country, there aren’t more American filmmakers. ¬†One wonders! Are we just less educated? Are we too locked in to our directorial icons and therefore have to template out to say, a Tarantino or a Scorsese or a Woody Allen? ¬†I don’t know the answer.
Either which way, here are my reviews, rankings and predictions (take the predictions with a grain of salt).
1. Wish 143 – This is one of those stories that could have been a by-the-numbers, overtly sentimental cliche. ¬†Like another nominated film, The Crush, this one stands out because of the direction and acting. ¬†It is the story you kind of expect told in an unexpected way. ¬†And it broke my heart in two. ¬†The film stars Samuel Peter Holland as a cancer patient with a tumor growing larger and larger. ¬†All he seems to want is to lose his virginity. ¬†He tries to hook up with an old girlfriend but she’s already with someone else. ¬†He tries hookers but they think he’s too young. ¬†The surprises, small but meaningful, unfold from there. ¬†It is, in many ways, your Oscar-grabbiest of all of them — nothing like a terminal disease or a disability to put the audience on your side from the get go, but I thought this one showed that you can tell a sentimental story uniquely, without resorting to cliches. ¬†Like Mike Nichols’ film for HBO, WIT, Wish 143 gets right down to it: what does a person really need when they’re on the brink of dying?
2. The Confession -by far the most interesting — if most of the live action shorts deal with the same tool kit: a girl, a guy and a god, Confession has the God part covered. ¬†It is about confession itself as a tool for forgiveness. You can’t be forgiven unless you confess your sins. But how do you confess sins you can’t even believe, let alone say out loud? Of the five films, this has the most distinctive thumbprint to it. ¬†My only problem with it is a personal flaw in my own makeup – and it was what prevented me from really appreciating Of Gods and Men — if you aren’t a believer it is harder to feel the full impact of the story. ¬†It isn’t that one needs to feel things to appreciate films and certainly The Confession is probably the one that will carve the most distinctive path for its director, but the power of the story depends on a knowledge of and an appreciation for the Catholic view of God, sin and confession. ¬†The plot is essentially two English kids play a prank but the prank gets out of hand and bad things happen as a result. ¬†One little thing leads to a much bigger thing until it snowballs. ¬†To say anything more would be to ruin it. ¬†Great flick.
3. The Crush – This probably has a good chance of taking home the gold because it’s the sweetest, most endearing of the bunch. ¬†You can’t help but fall for the two main characters – a pretty teacher and her besotted young pupil. He is deeply in love with her, she is engaged to a jerk. ¬†Unraveling her engagement is his goal. ¬†It’s just a charming movie, top to bottom. ¬†I can see it appealing to the majority of voters who see all five. ¬†There will be many who go for The Confession, and a good many moved by Wish 143, but there could be an overall preference for this film as there is nothing particularly offensive about it and it is a sweet story well told.
4. Na Wewe – another charming short about warring African tribes and some citizen who get caught up in the crossfire. In many ways this is a lot like the animated film The Gruffalo, which is about the choosing of victims and the getting out of harm’s way. ¬†In Na Wewe it all comes down to defining who you are — if you are on one tribe or another and how can anyone tell really? ¬†It’s really great, unpredictable and moving. ¬†It, like any of these five, could easily win.
5. God of Love – this was my least favorite if only because a lot of seemed familiar. ¬†What I really liked about it, though, was the ending. ¬†And I like the general message, “You can’t control who you love and you can’t control who loves you.” Boy, truer words were never said, eh? ¬†It’s a sweet movie about what it means to seek love and to find the right person, etc. ¬†It isn’t as deep as the others because really, romantic love complexities aren’t all that deep – it’s pretty simple. ¬†but it’s very well executed and quite sweet.
PREDICTION: The Crush — dark horse would be The Confession – favorite is Wish 143
1. The Lost Thing - I’ll confess it right now that animated shorts, animation is general, is not really my thing. ¬†But the one that engaged me most on all levels was this one. ¬†I loved the personality of the “lost thing,” a funky little strange something that is found by a young man. It’s great animation meets an original story. ¬†I liked it because it kind of created its own reality and didn’t really draw from anything out there in the known world. ¬†Again, it’s a longshot for the win – the frontrunner in this category is the Gruffalo which really can’t lose.
2. The Gruffalo – handsomely mounted, the most “professional” looking one of the bunch, and don’t those usually do well? ¬†Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, but this one has the added benefit of having big named stars attached, like Helena Bonham Carter. ¬†The Gruffalo is an adaptation of a book. ¬†It’s about a little mouse who keeps himself from getting eaten by saying he’s about to meet up with a Gruffalo — and the Gruffalo is whatever the predator the mouse is facing’s worst fear realized. ¬†The yarn gets twisted and wound and morphed into something else entirely.
3.¬†Madagascar, A Journey Diary - this is a really beautiful travelogue, really. ¬†We fly around the world essentially. ¬†It features incredible perspective animation – really jaw-dropping stuff. ¬†What it lacks in conflict and story it makes up in great visuals.
4. Let’s Pollute - this one is all about our consumerist culture and how it’s sold to us on a daily basis. ¬†We’re sold endless amounts of products that do nothing but pollute our planet. ¬†It’s nicely executed, well animated and makes an interesting point by exposing marketing for what it really is.
PREDICTION: The Gruffalo – dark horse is The Lost Thing, which is also my favorite.
Next up, Doc shorts.