Last night I went to see the Live Action Oscar Nominated Short Films over at the Cineplex. This is the first time that I have ever done this (again, I’d like to thank my former job for opening up my eyes to the complex art of the short). I have to say, the genres are pretty all over the place. But with the Oscars only a couple of days away, here’s my breakdown.
Kavi is an absolutely heart-wrenching film set in India about a seven year old boy who is forced to work in a brick kiln with his family instead of going to school. I was loving this film right until the end when I was hit in the face with a cricket bat with the filmmaker’s message – it was literally spelled out on the screen that millions are forced into modern day slavery. Look, I think it’s great that director/writer/producer Gregg Helvey wants to shed light on this horrific and very real problem; however, I can’t stand it when films spoon-feed their themes and messages to the audience – we’re a lot smarter than you give us credit for. Most are considering this the front-runner as it’s already picked up the 2009 Student Academy Award, as well as a few others.
The mood was brightened by the darkly comedic film, The New Tenants. For me, this is the front-runner. It had everything I wanted in a film, but in a nicely packaged 20 minutes – witty dialogue, great acting, a nice pace, slick production value and VINCENT D’ONOFRIO! The film is about new tenants Frank and Peter who find themselves caught up in the messy aftermath of the life of the former tenant of their new apartment. Said mess includes a mistress, a jilted ex-husband, a heroin addict and cinnamon buns – guaranteed fun for all!
Next up was a suspenseful Australian short called Miracle Fish. The short follows young Joe on his eighth birthday. Joe is ridiculed and bullied by his peers because his single mother is on welfare; me thinks the Academy has a thing for impoverished young boys…which is as weird as it sounds. The film’s slow start is necessary in order to build suspense, and the payoff is a good one, even though you might see it coming. Miracle Fish has won a slew of awards, but has big competition from the first two.
Probably my least favorite of the bunch was an Irish film called The Door. It follows one family’s struggle in the aftermath of Chernobyl – the film is as bleak as it sounds. While I can’t say that the film struck all the right chords (it took me a while to figure out that the film was referencing the Chernobyl disaster of 1986), it was probably the best-looking film of the bunch. It featured some absolutely gorgeous shots and very beautiful imagery. Watch the whole film here.
Finally, the delightful Swedish comedy Instead of Abracadabra closed the bill. The film follows a twenty-five year old man living with his parents as he pursues a career in magic. The entire audience was howling at this hilarious film (and with good reason). As my movie-going companion noted, “it’s like Napoleon Dynamite meets Gob from Arrested Development,” which is as amazing as it sounds. Though I loved the film, I think it might be a little too silly for the Academy. But I have to say, I was impressed at how well the Swedish film translated – are all Swedes this funny? After spending the majority of last week assembling Ikea furniture, I have to say yes.