FILM: Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts
Reviews by Pete Mason
I have never seen any of the live action shorts that are nominated for an Oscar, at least intentionally, before the Oscars ceremony. Knowing that the Spectrum 8 Theatre offered a chance to see these films – as well as the animated shorts – I took advantage to see some of the rarer films that were considered the best of the best in 2012.
With intermittent breaks with Luke Matheny, who won in 2011 for the short “God of Love,” we gain an idea of what smaller filmmakers are like and how their experience is at the Oscars in this overshadowed category. Three of these films deal with death, while four of them deal with finding your purpose in life. In two of the five where these themes overlap, we have what I would consider the two front runners for Oscar.
“Death of a Shadow” (Belgium/France)
A devil-like figure’s art gallery is filled with the shadows of the dead. These are killed by a photographer, Nathan Rijckx, who was killed during World War I but given a second chance if he can capture 10,000 shadows to replace him. Nathan has a crisis of conscience as he finds his true love Sarah who was left behind when he was killed. Faced with the choice to take her new love away, he sacrifices himself so she can be happy.
An aging piano player copes with the death of his wife and coming to terms with reality, in what might as well be a companion piece to the Best Picture nominee “Amour.” This film was touching, but deeply sad and depressing, and a look at producer/writer/director Yan England’s own experiences with his grandfather, Maurice England.
Featuring the heaviest subject matter of them all – suicide – writer/director/producer and actor Shawn Christensen is in the midst of ending his life, having struggles with drug abuse and detachment from his family, when his sister calls as a last resort to watch his niece. He finds his purpose as he reconnects with his sister and her daughter, saving him. Definitely one of the most powerful and memorable of the films.
“Buzkashi Boys” (Afghanistan/USA)
The national sport of Afghanistan is, to put it bluntly, Goat Polo! Riders on horseback take a goat carcass and attempt to score points by getting it in a circle. Two kids, Rafi and Ahmad, admire the men who play this historic cultural game, but Rafi is stuck as a blacksmith’s son. He attempts to avoiding his pre-determined place in life, a noble ideal, but quite depressing and without an uplifting ending as one would almost expect in a film set in a region of the world typically beset by poverty and war.
“Asad” (South Africa/USA)
Somali youth are either pirates or fisherman, working for soldiers in a repressed and violent society. A young boy, Asad, admires the spoils of the pirates, but also the ability to catch fish, which the elderly Erasto is capable of doing. In the end, Asad makes his big catch a unique one but again, the film ends with little conclusion.
The two films that combine the two main themes are “Death of a Shadow” and “Curfew,” but the one that does it better – and in a real life situation – is “Curfew,” and that is the one I would expect to be the winner on Sunday night.