Wednesday, February 17, 2016

MD Reviews: Short Cuts 2015, Part 2


Once again, ShortsHD The Short Movie Channel (a.k.a. ShortsTV) has theatrically released this year's Academy Award nominated animated, live action and documentary short films. These special programs are usually the only way for most movie fans to see these otherwise illusive short film nominees that can make our break your office Oscar pool. In the second of three parts, Movie Dearest takes a look at this year's five nominees for Best Live Action Short.

Let me start by saying that this year's five nominees for Live Action Short are arguably the best lineup out of all the categories this year and quite possibly the best slate of nominees this category has every seen. All five are extremely accomplished in telling a diverse set of stories and none suffer any of the symptoms of the dread "short film syndrome" that have often plagued their predecessors:

  • None are too quirky for their own good.
  • None abruptly end just as the story becomes interesting.
  • None have a twist ending just for the sake of having a twist ending.
  • None leave you scratching your head wondering what the heck was that all about.
  • None leave you thinking "How was that nominated?".

Hailing from all over the globe from all first-time nominated filmmakers, this year's Live Action Shorts range from a modern day romance to harrowing tales of war. As with the Animated Shorts, I've matched each Live Action Short with a complimentary feature film nominee for your double feature pleasure.

Ava Maria, Basil Khalil and Eric Dupont (France/Germany/Palestine, 15 minutes).
"Jews have violated the Virgin!" When the car of an Israeli family has an accident outside a West Bank convent on the Sabbath they find themselves at the mercy of the nuns — who have taken a vow of silence — for help. A highly amusing yet respectful take on clashing religions, Ava Maria cleverly uses stereotypes (the frugal Jew, the stern Mother Superior) to relate its moral that we all, despite our ideological differences, can get along... if we have to.
Watch trailer.
MD Rating: B+
Pair it with: Embrace the absurdity and head to Sweden for a visit with The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.

Day One, Henry Hughes (USA, 25 minutes).
An Afghan-American woman, a military interpreter on her first mission in Afghanistan, must bridge cultural and gender divides when the pregnant wife of the bomb-maker her unit has apprehended goes into labor. The urgent, "you are there" feel of Day One is authentic; Hughes based it on his own experiences in Afghanistan. As the interpreter, Layla Alizada gives an affecting performance, serving as the audience surrogate in this literally life and death story. Both she and Hughes are ones to watch.
Watch trailer.
MD Rating: A-
Pair it with: Sicario, for a "women in war" two-for-one.

Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gert), Patrick Vollrath (Germany/Austria, 30 minutes).
A divorced father takes drastic measures to be with his young daughter. Reminiscent of Just Before Losing Everything (a previous nominee in this category), Everything Will Be Okay slowly builds tension to its inevitable, devastating denouement. Simon Schwarz's powerful performance as the dad makes you empathize with him even though what he is doing is wrong, while Julia Pointner (in her first screen role) naturally conveys the confusion and fear of a daughter watching her father crumbling before her eyes.
Watch trailer.
MD Rating: A
Pair it with: Room, 2015's other story of a desperate parent fighting for their child.

Shok, Jamie Donoughue (UK/Kosovo, 21 minutes).
Two young boys' lives are forever changed by a bicycle during the Kosovo War. A shattering tale of friendship amidst inhumanity, Shok (Albanian for "friend") is the very first Academy Award nomination for a Kosovan film, feature length or otherwise. And very well-deserved; from the acting of the two leads (Andi Bajgora and Lum Veseli) to its stark cinematography, this is an expert production. In this embarrassment of riches of a category, this would be my pick for the winner.
Watch trailer.
MD Rating: A
Pair it with: Another look at a war-torn European country, Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom.

Stutterer, Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage (UK, 12 minutes).
A lonely man finds comfort in an online relationship that masks his speech impediment... but then she wants to meets him. In this age of dating apps and websites, love has found a new way to make connections, and the sweet yet not sappy Stutterer shows that technology can help those isolated by their own self-perceived drawbacks find their own "happily ever afters". It also shows that the man who doesn't want to speak may indeed have lots to say.
Watch trailer.
MD Rating: B+
Pair it with: The other old fashioned (not that there's anything wrong with that) British love story Brooklyn.

Click here for part 1, the Animated Short Film nominees.

Coming soon: Part 3 takes a look at the five Oscar nominees for Best Documentary Short Film.

Reviews by Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest, The QuOD: A Who's Who of Who's Out and the Out Movie Guide.

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