LIVE ACTION SHORTS

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The shorts category is always joked about by people predicting the race because they have traditionally been only seen by the Academy voters. In recent years that has changed so that journalists get to watch and review them and they open for the public to see. They are not to be missed. They are worth a trip to the theater and worth every penny. More info on their release below.

All five are excellent choices and none are by American filmmakers. This should be worrying to people in this country when it comes to storytelling. Have Americans forgotten what a good story is? Have they forgotten how to tell them? Are they not teaching them well at the hundreds of film schools all over the country? Is it just that these directors make the kinds of films Oscar voters respond to? I don’t have the answer but I certainly can’t argue with the result.

Three out of the five center around female characters that aren’t love stories. The women are not props but actual people. All of them are surprising, unexpected, and deeply moving. I’d say that all five are better than most of the feature length films up for Best Picture. They are certainly more original and tell more compelling stories. Watching these five films you are taken all over the world – while also showing that the ties that bind are universal. Whiplash, for instance, is based on a short film and really, it should be a short film – it’s designed to be.  Yet it makes a pretty good feature. Similarly, a few of these live action shorts could really be extended to features while some fit the format of short better.

Most people are going to say Mat Kirkby’s The Phone Call will win. It stars two well known actors, Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent. Hawkins carries the whole thing playing a social worker on a suicide hotline trying to keep Broadbent on the phone long enough to keep him alive. It is an actors showcase but wow, is it great to watch Hawkins go through the range of emotions as she tries to reach out to this man and ultimately becomes personally involved in the outcome. It is about her, not about him, which is the reverse of how it would be told over here. Because of the big names and its accessible narrative this would be a good choice to predict for the win.

Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun’s Aya is about an Israeli woman who is standing at the airport and is handed one of those signs drivers hold up to pick up passengers.  On the fly she picks up a man and pretends to be his driver. Most of the story is the two of them in the car – he tries to shut her out with headphones and abrupt conversation, while she tries to reach out to him, to make a connection. She isn’t hitting on him, she makes that clear, but she is wanting some kind of exceptional experience.  The two of them make for interesting opposites – their dialogue and action completely unpredictable. It’s wonderful.

Another tearjerker is Michael Lennox’s Boogaloo and Graham about two brothers who adopt two baby chickens that they fall in love with. The struggle comes when they have to get rid of the chickens. The magic in this is both the charming boys, their cute little chirping hens, and the diary entries read in voice over. It is its own kind of coming of age story but it is also about the enormous capacity we have to love both our own and our animals friends.

The other standout and major threat to win is Hu Wei’s extraordinary Butter Lamp, wherein Tibetan nomads are placed in front of various backgrounds by a photographer. Families, couples, old and young. The locations behind them are cleverly symbolic – like the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China. Wei said of his film, “I wanted to reproduce the device to photograph characters against various backgrounds. It is a practice still very popular in China. I wanted a uncluttered movie, between fiction and documentary, reality and dream, modern civilization and traditional habits, Chinese ideology and Tibetans beliefs. Today’s world is complex, conflicts are everywhere, including Tibet, but I did not want to offer a positive or negative judgment, i just wanted to show today’s changes, in its sometimes unknown reality.” Butter Lamp is the most internationally acclaimed of the five and enters the Oscar race as one of the two frontrunners. It is unforgettable in its visual brilliance as well as the playful nature of the families being photographed.

But to me the best of the five and the one I think that should really be made into a feature is Talkhon Hamzavi’s Parvaneh. It’s about an Afghan immigrant named Parvaneh who takes the train to Zurich to send money to her family back home. She is denied because she has no ID and must ask people randomly on the street to help her wire funds. The one she selects is a punk rock teenager with ripped stockings and bleach hair named Emily, obviously the polar opposite of Parveneh. What a brilliant way to highlight the differences and the surprising similarities of two teenage girls. So much story is packed into its 40 minutes or so that it leaves you wanting to know so much more about each of them. This is the film I would urge everyone to watch — though honestly, all five are worth the time, but Parvaneh surprised me the most.

The Phone Call, Aya and Parvaneh illustrate beautifully what our Best Picture race, and our film industry here, is so sorely lacking: that willingness to be a part of the universal human experience where women and men are worthy of our time and attention.  Do not miss these five live action shorts. They really do show that story still matters and can still captivate and enthrall, no green screen required.

Today we’re looking at the Live Action Short category

ShortsHD is once again bringing the wildly popular OSCAR® Nominated Short Film program (Live Action, Animation, and Documentary) to theaters across the globe beginning 30th January.

The theatrical release of The OSCAR® Nominated Short Films has met enthusiastic audiences ever since its launch 10 years ago giving people around the world an opportunity to see the nominated films prior to the OSCAR® Awards ceremony on 22nd February.

The OSCAR® Nominated Short Films program will open in over 350 theaters throughout the US and Canada starting 30th January and will continue to expand in the following weeks. A list of participating theaters is available by clicking the DATES AND LOCATIONS tab above.

Together with the theatrical run, the nominated short films will be available on Vimeo OnDemand, iTunes® Stores in 54 countries, Amazon Instant Video®, Verizon and will be released across the US on VOD/Pay Per View platforms.

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Starting on February 22, the shorts nominated for the Oscars this year will be available on VOD and iTunes, as well as in theaters. We got an early look at them and as usual they are all exceptional. First up, the Live Action shorts. Predictions at the end of the piece. My short reviews in order of preference, not how I think the Academy will vote.

5. “Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)” (Directors: Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari, Finland/Finnish). Synopsis: Sini tries frantically to get her family ready to leave for a wedding, but her husband and two children are interfering with her efforts. All of the ways one incident can be screwed up in contained this very funny, lively short. Well acted, tightly paced screwball comedy fits a small story into the frame of a short film. It wouldn’t be in this category if it weren’t good, and of the five it is probably your most reliable crowd pleaser. It is probably too light, however, to win the big prize.

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Just as it was great to go into Gravity knowing as little as possible, I think there’s really no need to describe what you’ll see in Jonás Cuarón’s short film Aningaaq that serves as a companion piece to the sensational film he and his father created. Stop reading and just watch it. Alright alright, there’s this tease from himself:

“It’s this moment where the audience and the character get this hope that Ryan is finally going to be OK. Then you realize that everything gets lost in translation.”

The short tells a story so poignant and forlorn on its own, Warner Bros has submitted it for Oscar consideration as Best Live Action Short. I say ‘apparently’ because I’m posting it before watching it. That’s how confident I am that we’ll love it. (Thanks, Rob Y)

Word went out to Academy members today about a big change in ballot procedure for three categories. Until now, members who wanted to vote for Best Documentary Feature, Live Action Short or Animated Short would need to trek to designated screening locations where they got their hands stamped as certified proof that they’d seen all the nominated films before voting. (Not 100% sure about about the hand stamp part, but I like the image). Previously this meant Oscar winners in these three categories were always selected by a relatively small number of members with lots of time on their hands. But that’s all history. Now each voter will be sent screeners for each the nominees. If that sounds like an expensive burden to place on filmmakers whose movies don’t ordinarily have lavish FYC budgets, don’t worry; the Academy is covering the cost. (Gold Derby)

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that 11 live action short films will advance in the voting process for the 85th Academy Awards®. A tie in the nominations balloting resulted in 11 films being shortlisted. One hundred twenty-five pictures had originally qualified in the category.

The 11 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production companies:

  • “A Fábrica (The Factory),” Aly Muritiba, director (Grafo Audiovisual)
  • “Asad,” Bryan Buckley, director, and Mino Jarjoura, producer (Hungry Man)
  • “Buzkashi Boys,” Sam French, director, and Ariel Nasr, producer (Afghan Film Project)
  • “Curfew,” Shawn Christensen, director (Fuzzy Logic Pictures)
  • “Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw),” Tom Van Avermaet, director, and Ellen De Waele, producer
  • (Serendipity Films)
  • “Henry,” Yan England, director (Yan England)
  • “Kiruna-Kigali,” Goran Kapetanovic, director (Hepp Film AB)
  • “The Night Shift Belongs to the Stars,” Silvia Bizio and Paola Porrini Bisson, producers (Oh! Pen LLC)
  • “9meter,” Anders Walther, director, and Tivi Magnusson, producer (M & M Productions A/S)
  • “Salar,” Nicholas Greene, director, and Julie Buck, producer (Nicholas Greene)
  • “when you find me,” Ron Howard, executive producer, and Bryce Dallas Howard, director
  • (Freestyle Picture Company)

The Short Films and Feature Animation Branch Reviewing Committee viewed all the eligible entries for the preliminary round of voting at screenings held in Los Angeles.

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“Je Pourrais Être Votre Grand-Mère (I Could Be Your Grandmother),” Bernard Tanguy, director-producer (Rézina Productions)
“Love at First Sight,” Michael Davies, director and Sandra Gorel, producer (Spellbound Films)
“Pentecost,” Peter McDonald, director (EMU Productions)
“Raju,” Max Zähle, director and Stefan Gieren, producer (Hamburg Media School/Filmwerkstatt)
“The Road Home,” Rahul Gandotra, director-producer and Ameenah Ayub, producer (London Film School)
“The Roar of the Sea,” Ana Rocha Fernandes and Torsten Truscheit, directors (Niama Filmproduktion GmbH)
“Sailcloth,” Elfar Adalsteins, director-producer (Berserk Films)
“The Shore,” Terry George, director-producer (All Ashore Productions Limited)
“Time Freak,” Andrew Bowler, director and Gigi Causey, producer (Team Toad)
“Tuba Atlantic,” Hallvar Witzø, director (The Norwegian Film School/Den Norske Filmskolen)


Preview clips for all 10 Oscar-nominated shorts, both animated and live-action, have come online so everyone can see a sample. Shorts International and Magnolia Pictures are releasing the three categories theatrically on Feb 11. (Separate admissions.) They’ll all be available Feb 22 on iTunes and VOD.

Check out these brief clips for 5 Oscar nominees for Best Live Action Short after the cut, and vote for your favorite above.

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