Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

Oscars 2012: Best Live Action Short Film

Note: This is my personal ranking, listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite. Prediction for the actual winner is in orange.

 

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

1.THE SHORE

2. TUBA ATLANTIC

3. RAJU

4. TIME FREAK

5. PENTECOST

Thankfully, Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane’s Pentecost tied for shortest runtime at 11 minutes, though I wish it was shorter. An Irish lad can’t seem to do right by mum and dad — he just keeps mucking up his alter boy duties. Though he lacks the appropriate piety, he loves him some football (that’s soccer, to you Yankees). Naturally, then, the filmmakers think it’ll be a hoot to create a visual analogy between the sport and the religious ritual — huddling before a mass/game, the pep talk by the priest/coach, etc — and while I’m sorry to say it got a quite a few laughs when I saw it, it all comes off as rather juvenile. Catholicism and football aren’t exactly innovative themes for an Irish film, now are they?

Time Freak ties my favorite football flick at 11 minutes, and it’s a little bit cuter, though no more clever. This feels like the post-grad film school project — like last year’s winner, God of Love, only not as charming or stylistically well done. Andy Bowler and Gigi Causey’s silly one-joke short follows one Brooklynite (it’s never said, but you know he is) who invents a time machine and obsessively goes back to the same morning — that morning — in order to alter the minutia of his actions: tries to be kinder to the dry cleaner who promises his shirt and doesn’t deliver (but ends up yelling at him every time), stubbornly insists he’ll say just the right thing to the cute yoga girl he’s crushing on (but he only sounds like more and more of an idiot). You get the point.

Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren’s Raju is self-important with social commentary about a German couple adopting a — ultimately kidnapped — Indian boy and too slickly empathizes with their inner struggle to-return-to-his-birth-parents-or-not-to-return (the Lifetime-y twist  is surely something A. Jolie would endorse). The adorable boy could be the live version of La Luna‘s tot, all saucer-sized eyes and shy silence, but what the piece has going for it is its reliance on the visual — those gorgeous colors, throngs of people, bustling markets — over the audio (the minimum dialogue). In fact, it flows quite nicely — I could even handle the kidnapping plot point — until the wife says, repeatedly, what you already know she’s thinking — and was certainly best left unsaid (Isn’t he better off with us? We adopted him legally! He’s ours!). Oy.

Tuba Atlantic is super-Scandinavian: a cranky old geezer who gleefully shoots gulls because he has nothing better to do is visited by a naive young thing from the “Jesus Club” to help him die (though she’s never had success before — they always live!) after  he finds out he has six days left to live. Oh, and he’s built a huge-ass tuba on the ground of his tundra-like home so that one day, when a big enough breeze blows through it, the glorious sound will reach his estranged brother all the way in America. Sardonic and sentimental, it’s that winning genre of the serious-but-not-too-serious. If it weren’t for our other Irish contender, I’d think Hallvar Witzø’s wry work was a shoe-in.

Written and directed by two-time Oscar nominee Terry George (Hotel Rwanda, In the Name of the Father), The Shore is this year’s prestige piece in the category, starring the ubiquitous (this award’s season anyway) Ciarán Hinds as a Northern Irishman returning home after 25 years of exile to share his roots with his daughter and make amends with an old friend and flame. George obviously possesses a great love of  his homeland and its people, capturing beautiful wide shots of rolling, green hills and rocky cliffs under troubled skies in between intimate scenes of old and dear friends reminiscing ’round campfires or belly up to the pub bar. The only nominee that feels like a complete film, The Shore subtly explores Ireland’s political troubles by layering them within its complex character relationships, carefully and exquisitely unspooling each like a good ol’ fashioned Irish yarn. A lovely and touching short, it’s sure to win.

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This entry was posted on February 15, 2012 by in Award Predictions, Film Reviews, Oscar-Nominated, Short Films and tagged .

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