Opening Friday at Landmark's Keystone Art Cinema, The
Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2011: Live Action and Animation offer a wide variety of choices. Ed likes some better than others, here are a few of his thoughts on each.
Standouts: The Crush and Na Wewe
The Confession (U.K., 26 minutes). Nine-year-old Sam is worried
that he has nothing worthy to say at his first confession at church. The plan
he and his best pal cook up to commit a little sin takes a seriously wrong
turn. Then things get even worse. The short is easy to watch because the
performances are so natural, but the second twist is a real eye-roller. So much
straining simply to be ironic!
The Crush (Ireland, 15 minutes). Not the most original
short, but certainly the most charming. Eight-year-old Ardal
Travis (Oran Creagh, son of writer/director Michael Creagh) declares his love for his teacher. When he meets
her fiancé and determines him to be a jerk, he challenges the man to a duel.
The utter sincerity of the kid is what sells the story. Reminiscent of Rushmore, only without the affectations
that some found alienating.
God of Love (U.S., 18 minutes). Raymond Goodfellow
is a crooner who literally hits the bullseye while he
sings ("he melts hearts while he throws darts"). He's a loser at love, though,
until he finds some magic darts and... oh, never mind.
The comedy is clunky, but Luke Matheny, the actor who plays Raymond, has a
great face and a winning, self-deprecating style.
Na Wewe (Belgium, 19 minutes). A tense confrontation in
1994 Burundi gets more and more complicated as the minutes tick by. The
absurdity of thinking in terms of "us vs. them" is made clear without becoming
ham-handed. Good acting all around as well, plus a compelling song by Belgium
Wish 143 (U.K., 24 minutes). A
15-year-old boy's last wish is to lose his virginity. The mix of comedy and
drama works primarily because the filmmakers steer clear of sentimentality.
Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2011: Animated offers one clear winner, Madagascar, Carnet De Voyage,
plus two bonus cartoons along with the nominees.
Carnet De Voyage
(France, 11 minutes). A gorgeous, exhilarating vacation in 11 minutes. Drawings made in a
sketchbook by Bastien Dubois during a trip to Madagascar
come to glorious life, including images from La Famadihana,
a celebration/ceremony which means "the turning of the dead." It has solemn
moments, but the film is full of life, with beautiful, detailed art accompanied
by festive music. What a treat.
Day & Night (U.S., 6 minutes). Pixar's
entry reminded me of the '60s-era Warner Bros. cartoons that tried to be
contemporary - it's clever and certainly held my attention, but felt less
substantial than most Pixar shorts. Still cute, however.
The Gruffalo (U.K./Germany, 27 minutes). Entertaining fairy tale
chronicling the adventures of a traveling mouse bluffing scary animals with
tales of the fierce Gruffalo... then guess what he
Let's Pollute (U.S., 6 minutes). This
satiric ode to pollution is too smug for my taste. No thank you.
The Lost Thing (Australia/U.K., 15
A boy finds a creature that looks like a cross between a tentacled
animal and a clay pot. The story of their time together is poky, but the visual
payoff is nice. Like many of the films this year, both live action and
animated, the lighting is muted. Apparently overcast skies are more authentic
than sunny ones.