FILM: Oscar Live Action Shorts

Review by Pete Mason

The Oscars are only a week away now, and while the popular categories for Acting, Directing and Writing may have simple name-recognition, there are a dozen or more over-looked categories, both on the film and technical sides of the annual awards. The Oscar Short Films are one of those categories and showcase incredible talent among unknown filmmakers. Fortunately, Albany’s Spectrum 8 Theatres give a screen to these rarely seen films, both the live action and animated short films.

I went to see the Live Action films once again this year, and the five films are an array of talent, stories and settings, with two films rising above the others. Ranging in length from seven to thirty minutes in length, and divided by interviews and insight from Oscar-nominated directors for feature length and short films, including last years winner for “Curfew,” Shawn Christensen, these films tell a story in a succinct manner and can leave an impact in only a short period of time.

“Helium”

Alfred is a young child with a terminal disease and confined to a hospital bed for the rest of his days. A custodian, Enzo, sees the look of despair and emptiness in this boy’s eyes and creates Helium, a world where he will travel to in his sleep. Visiting the boy and building upon the story helps Alfred find something to look forward to, with an ending that will bring you to tears. (Denmark, directed by Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson)

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“The Voorman Problem”

The only movie with an actor some might recognize (Martin Freeman of “The Hobbit”), Voorman is an inmate in a prison where his fellow inmates have taken to worshipping him like a god. Freeman is a psychiatrist brought in to see if he can be committed to an asylum and taken off the warden’s hands. This dark comedy’s god takes immense pleasure in the human condition, leading to a twisted ending. (England, directed by Mark Gill and Baldwin Li)

“Just Before Losing Everything”

A tense tale of Miriam and her two children who are plotting their hurried escape from her abusive husband and set in a supermarket is edge-of-your-seat stress leading up to the final frame. With the final straw broken, but Miriam resolute, she enlists the support of her co-workers and supervisors to help her get out of town with time working against them. Her husband shows up at the market amid her harrowing escape. (France, directed by Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras)

“That Wasn’t Me”

The tension from the previous film is put to shame with this film set in Africa, following a team of doctors who run into a camp of child soldiers. Calmly talking their way past two boys holding machine guns (and no more than 10 years old), a stand-in for Joseph Kony takes the three doctors hostage, accusing them of trying to kidnap child soldiers. Brought to a camp and chained up, the doctors are surrounded by gun-wielding children, one who shoots too soon and sets in motion a gun battle between the child soldier and the army. (Spain, directed by Esteban Crespo)

“Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?”

This quick, seven-minute comedy of errors involves a wife waking up late and rushing to get to a wedding with her husband and kids, regularly beckoning the title question. Funny and worth a viewing, although the story and ending was predictable from the outset. (Finland, directed by Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari)

Go see these unrated films before the Oscars on Sunday evening (March 2). “That Wasn’t Me” is likely to win the Academy Award for Best Short Live Action Film, while “The Voorman Problem” could upset.

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