random reviews, recollections & reminiscings

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

REEL REVIEW: 2007 Oscar-nominated Live Action Shorts

The Oscars are upon us and this year I was able to do something for the first time in preparation for next Sunday night. I was actually able to go out and watch all five nominated Live Action Short Films. Last Friday, in a bizarre reversal, my wife and I had to cancel our babysitter due to my wife's migraine. So after our daughter was down for the night, I wound up going out to the movies with our babysitter. Before you get any ideas, it helps to know a little more. I had a greenlight from my wife, our babysitter is a good friend from church and she's around my mother's age. Paulette is an actress friend who shares the same passion for film that I do and we decided to make the most of the evening and head on over to the Landmark Theatres where both the Live Action and the Animated Short Films are showing.

Every time I watch the Oscars I have no idea what any of those Short Films are about. This time I'll at least know what the Live Action nominees are. All five films were shown for a regular $10.00 admission price. With all films being as great as they were, we definitely got our money's worth (well, Paulette's money's worth since she wound up treating me for my birthday). Alright, I'll look at all the nominees and then I'll let you in on my criteria for a good short film.

The 2008 Academy Award nominees for the category of Live Action Short are as follows and in order of appearance....


Tanghi Argentini - Belgium (2006) ****

written by: Anja Daelemans
directed by: Guido Thys
unrated
14 min.
language: Dutch


Tanghi Argentini

ACADEMY AWARDS HISTORY:

This is the first Academy Award nomination for Guido Thys.
This is the second Academy Award nomination for Anja Daelemans.
She was previously nominated for:
  • FAIT D'HIVER (2002) -- Nominee, Short Film (Live Action)

FILM SYNOPSIS:

An office clerk with a desire and need to tango enlists the support of a workplace colleague as he prepares for a date.

That's the only description listed for this gem and that's all I'm gonna give. This short was just that....short yet lacking nothing. If you ever get the chance to see it, you'll see what a clever, funny and refreshingly sweet story.



At Night - Denmark (2007) ***

written & directed by: Christian E. Christiansen
produced by: Louise Vesth
unrated
39 min.
language: Danish


At Night

ACADEMY AWARDS HISTORY:

These are the first Academy Award nominations for Christian E. Christiansen and Louise Vesth.

FILM SYNOPSIS:

The time is Christmas and New Year. Three girls between 18 and 20, are hospitalized with cancer. All three of them have serious problems, not just in terms of health, but also in terms of their relationships with their nearest and dearest. The girls find a haven in each other's company, where they are free from the fear of death and loneliness. A substantial part of the film describes their sense of humor, unrestrained candidness and uncompromising zest for life.

Truly a remarkable accomplishment in writing, acting and overall design. It's a real subject that has touched everyone at some point in life and this is a great look at three young woman who turn to each other for support and love as they face an uncertain future. Very moving but the longest short of the bunch (more on that later).


Il Supplente - The Substitute - Italy (2006) ***

directed by: Andrea Jublin
language: Italian
unrated

Il Supplente (The Substitute)

ACADEMY AWARDS HISTORY:

This is the first Academy Award nomination for Andrea Jublin.

FILM SYNOPSIS:

The arrival of an unusual newcomer galvanizes the students in a high school classroom.
This was the movie that got Paulette and I bustin' with laughter. It had a hilariously unexpected story that seemed almost improvisational. Not surprising at all that this came from Italy seeing as how most comedy that I see coming from that country is very funny while often making a poignant claim about society. A little disjointed at times but it succeeds nonetheless.


The Tonto Woman - United Kingdom (2007) ****

written by: Joe Shrapnel
produced by: Matthew Brown
directed by: Daniel Barber
unrated
35 minutes
language: English


The Tonto Woman

ACADEMY AWARDS HISTORY:

These are the first Academy Award nominations for Daniel Barber and Matthew Brown.

FILM SYNOPSIS:

Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, a cattle rustler named Ruben Vega (Francesco Quinn, yes, that's Anthony's son) discovers a woman named Sarah (Charlotte Asprey) living in isolation in a desert shack after being held captive for eleven years by the Mojave Indians. Intrigued by her solitary existence, he sets out to find why she lives in such an inhospitable place. He uncovers a tale of kidnapping, betrayal and of a woman discarded by society. This is the story of a woman who comes to realize she can regain control of her life and decide her own destiny.
This was the most beautiful looking film of them all. While I may be a lil biased cuz of my love for a good western, the wide-open vistas of the dry landscape (filmed primarily in Spain) was breathtaking. It was a nice switch to see such a strong female character in a western short. It was one of the films that I really wanted to see more of, which is good and bad (more on that later as well).

Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets) - France (2006) ***

written & directed by: Philippe Pollet-Villard
unrated
31 min.
language: French
Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)


ACADEMY AWARDS HISTORY:
This is the first Academy Award nomination for Philippe Pollet-Villard.

FILM SYNOPSIS:

A pair of unlucky thieves find their fortunes have changed when they take in a deaf homeless boy.
Another hilarious short as you can tell by the above sentence. The film almost knows it's clever and a bit too cute for it's own good. Still, it's undeniably endearing and wacky.
One thing that stood out to both Paulette and myself even while we were in the theatre, is that these movies weren't all that short. Now, I think of a Live Action Short as being about 15-20 minutes max. Now none of them were bad, it's just that when you're sitting in a theatre watching a short and you find yourself invested in the characters after 20 minutes past, you start to wonder (well, at least I did) when this film will end. Just how "short" is this Short?
I tried to find out on Wikipedia, which only told me the following history....
This name for the Academy Award for Live Action Short Film was introduced in 1974. For the three preceding years it was known as "Short Subjects, Live Action Films." The term "Short Subjects, Live Action Subjects" was used from 1957 until 1970. From 1936 until 1956 there were two separate awards, "Short Subjects, one-reel" and "Short Subjects, two-reel". A third category "Short Subjects, color" was used only for 1936 and 1937. From the initiation of short subject awards for 1932 until 1935 the terms were "Short Subjects, comedy" and "Short subjects, novelty".
....hmmm, well that didn't help. No real description as to what (if any) are the time requirements of a Live Action Short Film. Is that a big deal though?
Well, yeah it became one for us as we discussed which one would be the best contender for Oscar winner. With that in mind and after much mulling, I came up with some criteria in order to ascertain a standout nominee. Since these films are called "Shorts" then a successful one should adhere to that. Crazy, I know.
A short film should be relatively short (15-20 minutes is decent to me) and not leaving you wanting more. The film gives just enough characterization and story that when it comes time for an end....you're not wishing it would continue. I mean that in the best way possible. You are content with the lil gem you were given. The problem I found with "At Night" and "The Tonto Woman" was that they were not only too long for me but they were so good that I wanted more. Say What? How is that a problem? Well, that doesn't fit the criteria I mentioned above. These two shorts were wonderfully done, unique dramas yet I woulda been fine seeing in a full feature format. The ones from Italy and France were a bit too cutesy for me. Although I laughed out loud more than once while watching these two yet it still didn't hold up to the surprising sweetness of "Tanghi Argentini".
Therefore, my pic would be the entry from Belgium. It may not be my favorite of the five but it did meet the critieria that we came up with. It'll be interesting to see what short is picked as the winner.


Cinematical's review of All the Oscar-nominated Shorts

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