a theatre, film & pop culture review
Let’s break it down, shall we? In this category, we have: an overcoming/fighting a disability/disease short. An artsy-hipstery-student-filmy-overly-self-aware-love-story. A genocidal confrontation about war and acceptance and (the) brotherhood (of man) in central Africa. The Crush minus Alicia Silverstone plus an adorable-yet-creeptastic 10-year-old boy. And a kids-with-killer-instinct film raging with Catholic guilt.
It’s an odd, yet predictable assortment, which is not to say unenjoyable for the most part. The Confession is a beautifully shot, wonderfully acted (by one of the child actors, anyway), terribly scripted guilt trip with one horrible plot twist after another: the boys accidentally kill a stranger and then one boy accidentally kills the other…and then confesses (sort of). Na Wewe is essentially a 19-minute Hotel Rwanda (with a bit of Lost tossed in for good measure — think Mr. Eko) that’s the socially conscious “ethnic” film that sometimes wins all the votes….and sometimes is totally ignored (though the fact that this one ends “happily” with all the Tutsis in one piece gives it a good sentimental shot with the Academy). God of Love is some talented hipster’s NYU thesis film, and it’s an utterly charming (and an unlikely nominee), black-and-white romantic comedy about a lovestruck Brooklyn-based lounge singer who discovers a package of passion-inducing darts (plus it has that quirky brunette from Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson!). [Side note: I looked up the director, Luke Matheny– who turns out to also be the star of the film — directly after writing that last sentence and he IS a Brooklyn-based filmmaker and it WAS his NYU thesis film. No joke.]
Which leaves us with the Academy’s sure-to-be-fave and my personal pick. Wish 143 is the King’s Speech of the Live Action Shorts category, which is to say it’s a film about (not) overcoming a disability (disease). And just like The King’s Speech, the only thing noteworthy about the film is its terrific lead performance by Samuel Peter Holland, the 15 year-old hornball with cancer who’s Make-a-Wish is to lose his virginity. This amounts to the most touching scene in the short: when David’s finally introduced to a prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold who will grant his wish, he discovers he really just wants someone to touch (hold) him, because no one else will due to fear of his fragility/mortality. While the film does have a sturdy sense of humor to balance out its bathos, it’s still a little too much for this cynic-critic.
The Irish The Crush won me over because it maintains a starkly charming sense of humor even while purposefully muddling its characterizations. The young boy endearingly/creepily crushing on his teacher starts out as the cutest thing since Freddie Highmore in Finding Neverland and gradually evolves into a possibly obsessed killer. While the stunt-like ending may (unhappily) remind some of a M. Night Shyamalan-esque trick, the film does, in its final scene, masterfully build tension and uncertainly, much like that famous (or famously disappointing) director’s films.