2020 Oscar Nominated Shorts Live Action/Animation

The Documentary shorts were not playing at my theater so I will have to look for them, but here are just some brief comments on the two sets of Oscar Nominated Shorts that I did get a chance to see.

A Sister

This was a dramatic short based on a call to emergency services by a woman who is being sexually assaulted by an acquaintance and is being driven around by her assailant.  She has to make the call seem as if it is innocuous because she is in danger. It was quite taught and we never see anyone except the Emergency Services dispatcher clearly. It was quite tense.

Brotherhood

I can’t say it is an apology for the ISIS fighters in Syria but it is a different perspective which is certainly it’s intent. The lives of a family in Tunisia are affected by the choices made by one of the sons. The narrative takes a couple of twists that would be more meaningful to someone with knowledge of the internal legal system of that Middle Eastern nation. The whole experience has got to be miserable, lucky us we get to share it.

The Neighbors Window

This one starts off slightly salacious and then it’s tone shifts. The perspective we see for most of the story is  not the only one and that is the point. In the end it was quite moving. As a story it is very clever and the lead Actress was very effective, especially at the end.

Saria

Maybe the most depressing of the short films on the program. Particularly since it based on rel world events. An orphanage in Guatemala is more prison camp than home for teen girls. The young actresses are solid with very little backstory to inform their characters. You will be infuriated at the end of the movie, it is an advocacy docudrama that is only barely a fictional narrative.

Nefta Football Club

There is an element of danger is this second short film set in the Middle East.  In the end however it turns out to be the most comedic of the films and the one that you can enjoy on a pure entertainment level.

Instead of posting the individual Trailers, let me direct you to the site where you can see all of those trailers and find information about where they are screening near your location. Click Here.

Animated Shorts

This program included the five nominated films plus four or five others that I neglected to write down so my memory will be hit or miss on those.

Daughter

 

This was done in an interesting medium but not necessarily one that is attractive. The abstract nature of the story makes it somewhat hard to relate to despite the universal themes that it appears to be drawing on. Obviously done with meticulous care because each frame looks like stop motion although I can’t say for sure that it is not a combination of computer and hand drawn work.

 

 

Hair Love

This was a Kickstarter funded project and the animation looks very traditional. There is a twist at the end that will tug on the heartstrings a bit, and it ends up being one of the least depressing of the animated shorts on the program. There is a good chance this will be the winner because of it’s take on the complicated relationship of those with African heritage and their hair in Western Culture.

Kitbull

This was my personal favorite although it is unlikely to win. This was done by some of the folks at Pixar and it is as usual, a perfect blend of sentiment and art told without words. I am a sucker for animal stories and this features two animals that I found charming and well personified by the artists.

Mémorable

This French entry may be the most depressing animated film I have seen in a long time. It is a Twelve minute mediation on the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, told using a form of claymation. It looks odd at times but it is very effective at conveying the confusion and desperation of those suffering from the disease and those who love them. It is sad to think about the number of people who will experience some of the things depicted here.

Sister

This one was the most surprising of the animated shorts. It comes from China and there is a reason that is the source of the story. The animation is stop motion with fuzz covered figures that look like stuffed versions of people. The relationship of a brother to his sister in this ultimately sad story is explored with some humor but a lot of pathos.

Recommended

Henrietta Bulkowski

A young woman with a severe back deformity, which forces her to always look down, seeks to become a pilot, even if she has to build her own plane. It features a vocal performance by Actor Chris Cooper. The animation is odd, it looks like stop motion using dolls. I’m not sure why it would not have made the cut against some of the other films that were included.

Hors Piste

The most clearly comic film included in the animated shorts. It is reminiscent of a Looney Tunes Roadrunner cartoon, with a series of unfortunate incidents befuddling a mountain rescue team. The computer animation is excellent, and you will cringe and laugh simultaneously.

Maestro

The shortest of the short films, it is basically a musical interlude performed by a number of critters that you might find in the backyard or nearby woods. The animation is very detailed computer work. I guess I’m just a sucker for the animal tales because I loved this one as well.

There was at least one other short that played in this mini-festival, but I can’t remember it at the moment. If it comes to me I will come back and share it.

I can include at least two of the animated films here for you to watch, as they are available on YouTube.

 

2018 Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action

DeKalb Elementary

Three of the shorts this year are not short on one thing, and that is tension. This film focuses on what is essentially a two person sequence that could easily have been a massive tragedy. A disturbed young man arrives at a school and a confrontation ensues with the school’s receptionist playing mediator. This is apparently based on an actual 911 phone call, the two actors are excellent but special mention should be made of actress Tara Riggs who maintains a level of composure while also being frightened to death. Her character is the kind of everyday hero we hope is present in our lives somewhere.

The recent shooting at a school in Florida will be on everyone’s mind right now and the tie in to this movie is unavoidable. Because of the timeliness, I suspect this must be the film that will be favored for the award next Sunday.

The Silent Child

It turns out that this movie is basically a public service announcement, disguised as a drama. There is a disturbing phenomena among families with children who have special needs and the schools they attend. This is a British film so it may model the culture and schools there more than it does in the U.S. Here I see parents who are aggressively assertive in trying to care for their children’s needs. Our school system creates an expectation that all are welcome. It was a little hard for me to believe the character of the mother in this story, although I am sure there are instances like this. In the U.S. the Social Worker would file a report that accuses the parents of neglect and the story would proceed in a very different manner. We are less polite.

Because it seems so unique an anecdote, I don’t know that it is as convincing as it wants to be. The special needs tutor and the little girl in the story are both very solid. I thought the child performance seemed really effective for the circumstances. Everyone else came across as a little too pat and almost caricatures of indifferent people.

My Nephew Emmentt

This is another historical film based on an actual incident and it is one that most of us will have heard of. The murder of Emmentt Till, a young black man from Chicago who has moved in with his family in Mississippi is one of the turning points of the civil rights era. The facts that took place after his murder are not the subject of this startling film. Rather this story focuses on the sense of impending doom that a family could feel and do nothing to prevent.

For a short film, this one felt the most deliberate and slowest. The actor playing Mose Wright, the Uncle, looks dignified but also beaten down by time. He can sense doom coming but despite the nightmares and the reasoning, he ends up in a defensive position with survivor’s guilt to come. This movie looks like it was shot through a bronze filter in some of the night time scenes. It is even more haunting as a result.

The Eleven O’Clock

This was a straight out comedy. It feels so different in tone that you might wonder how it got nominated, but I can actually explain this pretty well. The actors have incredible timing and they play their parts to a tee. The script reminds you of a screwball comedy, with maybe Cary Grant and the Marx Brothers thrown in for good measure. It gets to the point and makes you laugh without having to have a lot of exposition. It is like a very well told joke, with just the right amount of detail thrown in to make it sparkle.
Mistaken identity plots have been around for as long as there have been movies, so you may be able to tell where this is going after a few short minutes. Don’t worry, that will not detract from your enjoyment of the film at all. The escalating frustrations of the two main characters is simply great to soak up and laugh at.

Watu Wote

This is another film that builds tension for it’s whole duration. The story does have to rely on a series of title cards to set up the events we are going to witness. It is a harrowing trip being taken by people who just want to get on with their lives, but they live in a part of the world where bad things happen everyday and everywhere. This is also a film based on real events and to think that these things happen in the world we live in is frightening. The subject concerns conflicts between Islamist terrorists and Christians living in Kenya.

A simple bus trip is never going to be simple in the part of the world where roads are not always paved, there may not be a hotel available, and you pray for an armed escort getting on the equivalent of a Greyhound. People with different faiths are all subject to risks in this world. One woman’s experiences of tragedy sometimes blind her to the wellspring of human decency that can pop up anywhere. The film is dedicated to a man who stood up to oppression and represents the faith he adheres to in a most reasonable manner. If the Award is going to go to a politically and socially charged film, this could also be a dark horse.