I’ve never really followed the short film Oscar race. I saw a few shorts here and there, but never really cared enough to see the five nominated shorts compiled together in theaters. When this category is announced during the Oscar telecast I’m usually getting more queso dip in my friend’s kitchen or taking a shit, preferably in a bathroom.
These were five live-action shorts nominated by the Academy out of surely hundreds of submissions, so I was a little disappointed that only two were good. It makes me want to watch more of the 2015 life action submissions. Surely there were better shorts than at least three of these ones, deemed the cream of the crop. This category might be the weakest #OscarsSoWhite has to offer. I will be reviewing the five shorts in the order they were presented to me at the ridiculously overpriced $14 screening. Thanks Camelview, you goshdarn jerks.
Palestine / France / Germany
In Arabic, Hebrew and English w/ English Subtitles
What starts out as a quirky little story about nuns in the middle of a vow of silence trying to communicate with each other, quickly turns anti-semitic when a car full of Jews crash into their convent. Complaining of course, the Jewish family gets out of their car and doesn’t really care that they accidentally decapitated a Virgin Mary statue. A young nun goes out to help them and they complain more, especially the grandma. The adult male Jewish man needs to call a tow truck, but he can’t operate the phone because he’s not allowed to operate electrical equipment for religious reasons. The nun has to dial it for him and we get to listen to him argue about money on the phone, while the grandma breaks Jewish dietary laws by drinking water from a kitchen with a lovely looking prosciutto in it. I guess I just didn’t like the idea of the Palestinian nuns being portrayed as martyrs while the Jewish family was just this loud, destructive force that found a million things to bitch about. Even without this sour anti-semitic slant, the story of two religions trying to put aside their differences to work together is such a bullshit, schmaltzy premise that the old out-of-touch whores of #OscarsSoWhite would eat up like free samples at Costco. The first two minutes of this short are actually pretty funny and the acting is solid enough. Plus, it’s only 15 minutes. Grade: C- ***PREDICTED WINNER***
UK / Kosovo
In Albanian and Serbian with English subtitles
Predictable but extremely powerful, Jamie Donoughue’s Shok begins with a man coming across a bicycle in the middle of the road which takes him back Citizen Kane-style to his childhood during the Kosovo war in 1998. Two fantastic performances by the lead child actors and dialogue that never seems inauthentic or forced make it all the more tragic the film resolves on such a cliche note. Grade: B
EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY
Germany / Austria
In German with English subtitles
After two disappointing shorts about really heavy world issues, it was interesting that Germany’s Everything Will Be Okay, about a contained domestic issue, was so much more effective. More than effective, Everything Will Be Okay is just about perfect. The story of a divorced father trying to kidnap his eight-year-old daughter is an absolutely riveting and emotionally draining half hour, imbued with so much honesty and tension it will break you apart, piece by piece. The two lead performances are both outstanding, but it’s young Julia Pointner (pictured above), who steals the film with her disappointed and hurt glares at her father. Sometimes it takes someone as un-jaded as an eight year old to see through all the bullshit of a divorce and resulting custody battle. Grade: A
Coming off the pure cinematic bliss that was Everything Will Be Okay, I was forced into the festering shit pile that was Stutterer. A Wes Anderson hipster love story stripped of any creative and compelling visual flair, the short follows a young attractive dude with a really extreme stutter. He falls in love over Facebook, but when presented with the opportunity to meet his online sweetheart he fears she’ll be repulsed by his inability to speak properly. The dude coaches himself into meeting her and when he finally does, the film ends one of the most saccharinely sweet, mind-blowingly stupid and sadly predictable notes possible. The only decent thing about the short is the performance of the lead actor, which is actually pretty convincing. It’s a shame he’s working with awful material. My advice for the filmmaker would be to edit the short down to about 90 seconds, and make a really shitty but effective Facebook commercial with it. This guy has a real future in social media commercials. Grade: D-
USA’s entry into the live action short race is an incredibly well-acted but very awkwardly constructed. Zero Dark Abortion might have been a more appropriate title for it, since it follows an Afghani interpreter for the US Army who is tasked with cutting up a pregnant woman’s dead fetus in order to save her life. A nauseating premise somewhat redeems itself along the way but ends on a sour note. Layla Alizada gives a powerful lead performance and the dialogue isn’t ever really ham-fisted or over-the-top in a way military movies tend to be. It’s just the premise…why was this short made? Grade: C+
Well, that’s it unfortunately. I wish the nominees were better. Everything Will Be Okay was one of the best short films I’ve ever seen, and completely undeserving of being surrounded by these other shorts. It makes me really wonder what great live action shorts were submitted and rejected by #OscarsSoIncapableOfCompetentlyAssessingMedia. I heard Night of the Slasher was fantastic, did anyone see that? In all honesty, I’d nominate Netflix’s Kung Fury over Ave Maria, Stutterer and Day One. Tomorrow I’ll post my reviews of the Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts. They were a lot more consistent.