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.