Thursday, March 24, 2022

If We Picked the Oscars 2021

Borrowing a page from Siskel and Ebert from back in the day, we here at Movie Dearest are once again presenting our own version of "If We Picked the Oscars"! These aren't predictions, but what movies, actors, directors, et al that we would vote for if we were members of the Academy. We also chime in with our picks for the "egregiously overlooked" non-nominees in each category as well as what we deem are the "Worst Nominations of the Year".

So without further ado, the envelope please...


The nominees for Best Picture are: Belfast, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog and West Side Story
CC: One would be forgiven for questioning (as I do) whether the Academy needed ten nominees this year per their more recent regulations. Nevertheless, this is a strong list with the possible exceptions of the fairly familiar Dune and Nightmare Alley, not to mention West Side Story.  But I would be remiss if I didn't vote for my #1 film of last year, The Power of the Dog.
KH: Sixty years after the classic story of the Sharks vs. the Jets first hit the silver screen, Spielberg's West Side Story proved you can catch lightning in a bottle twice, and it deserves to catch Oscar gold for a second time as well.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: There were three spectacular movie musicals released in 2021 that I hold in equal esteem: Cyrano, In the Heights and Tick, Tick...Boom!  They are all stronger accomplishments in my opinion than the dated, unnecessary West Side Story remake.
KH: In a year with so many great movie musicals, it's disappointing to see only one in Oscar's top 10. Two other New York-based musicals, In the Heights and Tick, Tick... Boom!, should of been contenders too.

For their final voting, Academy members are asked to rank the Best Picture nominees from #1 to #10, so here are our rankings:
CC: 1. The Power of the Dog, 2. Belfast, 3. Drive My Car, 4. Don't Look Up, 5. Licorice Pizza, 6. King Richard, 7. Nightmare Alley, 8. West Side Story, 9. Dune (Sorry to say I haven't been able to watch CODA yet.)
KH: 1. West Side Story, 2. Belfast, 3. The Power of the Dog, 4. Drive My Car, 5. King Richard, 6. Dune, 7. Nightmare Alley, 8. CODA, 9. Don't Look Up, 10. Licorice Pizza


The nominees for Best Actor are: Javier Bardem in Being the Ricardos, Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog, Andrew Garfield in Tick, Tick… Boom!, Will Smith in King Richard and Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth
CC: I am a "Cumberbitch" and feel he is past due for Oscar recognition (he should have won for The Imitation Game), but I was truly blown away by singing and dancing Andrew Garfield in Tick, Tick...Boom!
KH: As Phil Burbank in The Power of the Dog, Benedict Cumberbatch created an indelible portrait of a despicable man drowning in self-loathing and unrequited lust that you still somehow feel sorry for in the end.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Similar to Andrew Garfield above, I was very impressed by singing and dancing Peter Dinklage's affecting performance in Cyrano.
KH: Udo Kier gave the performance of his career as a has-been hairdresser on a mission in Todd Stephens' Swan Song.


The nominees for Best Actress are: Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter, Penélope Cruz in Parallel Mothers, Nicole Kidman in Being the Ricardos and Kristen Stewart in Spencer
CC: This is the most difficult category for me out of all of them this year. Colman was great as usual but I found her film lacking. Chastain and Kidman were superb emotional/dramatic doppelgangers but their prosthetic makeup was distracting. Cruz was excellent but she has won previously. Therefore, I would vote for Kristen Stewart's lovely, understated turn (pearl-eating dinner scene aside) in Spencer as the gone-too-soon Princess Diana.
KH: After eliminating the leading ladies of three of my least favorite movies of 2021, that leaves Chastain and Cruz. They both gave amazing performances, but I like to spread the wealth around and Penélope already has her Oscar, so my Eyes are on the the prize for the overdue Jessica Chastain.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: While Paul Thomas Anderson's nostalgic Licorice Pizza is overrated in many ways, musician Alana Haim proves herself the real deal cinematically and should have been recognized here.
KH: Talk about overdue... Tessa Thompson was breathtaking, brilliant in Passing.

Don't Look Up

The nominees for Best Supporting Actor are: Ciarán Hinds in Belfast, Troy Kotsur in CODA, Jesse Plemons in The Power of the Dog, J.K. Simmons in Being the Ricardos and Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Power of the Dog
CC: Kodi Smit-McPhee blew me away with his gay-positive performance in The Power of the Dog, even if his character could be a budding psychopath... work that anthrax, girlfriend!
KH: With a subtle defiance lurking under a naive countenance, Kodi Smit-McPhee delivered a surprising, subtle turn as the hero ... or was he the villain? ... of The Power of the Dog.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Mark Rylance was deliciously bonkers as the Steve Jobs/Elon Musk-esque genius in Don't Look Up.
KH:  In Belfast, Jamie Dornan was a devoted father and a dreamboat of a husband... how could anyone resist him crooning "Everlasting Love"?

Drive My Car

The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are: Jessie Buckley in The Lost Daughter, Ariana DeBose in West Side Story, Judi Dench in Belfast, Kirsten Dunst in The Power of the Dog and Aunjanue Ellis in King Richard
CC: Although she's no Rita Moreno (who is?), Ariana DeBose does make a terrific Anita in West Side Story.
KH: A star was born last year and she wore a banana yellow dress with a burst of crimson petticoats when she did it: Ariana DeBose, an Anita for a new millennium in West Side Story.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: What?!?  Perennial nominee Meryl Streep was overlooked for her Trump-lampooning president in Don't Look Up???  There had to have been a conspiracy against her... recount!
KH: With not one but two delicious femme fatale performances (both in Best Picture nominees), Cate Blanchett should have been nominated for either Don't Look Up or Nightmare Alley (my pick would be for the latter).


The nominees for Best Directing are: Paul Thomas Anderson for Licorice Pizza, Kenneth Branagh for Belfast, Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi for Drive My Car and Steven Spielberg for West Side Story
CC: Jane Campion, with her anti-toxic masculinity powers at full throttle in The Power of the Dog.
KH: Fuck Sam Elliott: Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Broadway wunderkind Lin-Manuel Miranda made a truly impressive film directorial debut with Tick, Tick...Boom!
KH: Almodóvar. Parallel Mothers. Viva Pedro!


The nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are: CODA, Drive My Car, Dune, The Lost Daughter and The Power of the Dog
CC: The Power of the Dog, Jane Campion's faithful yet somewhat deeper adaptation of Thomas Savage's 1967 semi-autobiographical novel.
KH: Jane Campion, again, for The Power of the Dog.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: How could West Side Story rack up so many nominations while neglecting Tony Kushner's critically updated script?  I'm calling Officer Krupke!
KH: Tony Kushner took Arthur Laurents' original 1957 book for West Side Story and made it relevant for today without sacrificing any of its innate innocence or grit.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

The nominees for Best Original Screenplay are: Belfast, Don’t Look Up, King Richard, Licorice Pizza and The Worst Person in the World
CC: I loved Belfast but found Kenneth Branagh's autobiographical tale somewhat derivative of John Boorman's 1987 classic Hope and Glory. My vote would go to the observant, funny and undeniably timely Don't Look Up by Adam McKay and David Sirota.
KH: With his nominations this year for Belfast, Kenneth Branagh has now been nominated in more categories than any other artist in Academy history, yet he has yet to win... let's fix that here with his autobiographical homage to his homeland.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Fran Kranz's unjustly neglected Mass proved to be a potent exploration of such interwoven topics as grief, guilt, religion and parenthood.
KH: Almodóvar. Parallel Mothers. Viva Pedro!


The nominees for Best Cinematography are: Dune, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, The Tragedy of Macbeth and West Side Story
CC: This category would nearly represent the one vote I would have gave to Dune, if it weren't for Ari Wegner's gorgeous, more naturalistic work on The Power of the Dog.
KH: With West Side Story, this is Janusz Kamiński's sixth nomination for a Spielberg film and should be his third win.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Seamus McGarvey's lovely, similarly naturalistic work on Cyrano.
KH: There were so many monochromatic movies in 2021 they could have split the category between black and white and color like they did for years back in the day. Regardless, it's a crime that Eduard Grau's phenomenal photography for Passing was overlooked.

King Richard

The nominees for Best Production Design are: Dune, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, The Tragedy of Macbeth and West Side Story
CC: Big sets (I'm looking at you, Dune) aren't necessarily better.  I was most impressed by the appropriately nightmarish period carnival sets of Nightmare Alley.
KH: Taking viewers on a journey from ragtag carny tents to the Art Deco realms of the wealthy, Nightmare Alley was vintage Hollywood style done right, courtesy of production designer Tamara Deverell and set decorator Shane Vieau.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Jade Healy's historically accurate yet otherworldly work on David Lowery's excellent Arthurian fantasy The Green Knight.
KH: Last Night in Soho transported you back to swinging mod London and back.

Licorice Pizza

The nominees for Best Costume Design are: Cruella, Cyrano, Dune, Nightmare Alley and West Side Story
CC: Cruella had my vote upon my first glimpse of her garbage truck-delivered gown!
KH: Paul Tazewell reinvented the iconic looks of West Side Story; he should win for costuming the "America" number alone.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: It's a little gay indie sadly overlooked in all Academy categories, but Todd Stephens' delightful Swan Song (not to be confused with last year's sci-fi mortality flick of the same name starring Mahershala Ali) attires star Udo Kier in an assortment of increasingly iconic looks.
KH: One thing that House of Gucci got right was its 70s fashions: shoulder pads, wide collars and all.


The nominees for Best Original Score are: Don’t Look Up, Dune, Encanto, Parallel Mothers and The Power of the Dog
CC: Even without memorable songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Germaine Franco's sensitive score for Encanto would make it a winner. (Btw, Franco is somewhat surprisingly the first woman to score a Disney animated feature film.)
KH: I was thrilled when Alberto Iglesias' Herrmann-esque score for Parallel Mothers was nominated and would love to see it win.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Hans Zimmer's score for the James Bond thriller No Time To Die may have referenced too many previous Bond themes to be eligible, but it does so masterfully.
KH: His Dune tunes did get nominated, but Hans Zimmer's No Time To Die score should have been too.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines

The nominees for Best Original Song are: "Be Alive" from King Richard, "Dos Orugitas" from Encanto, "Down To Joy" from Belfast, "No Time To Die" from No Time To Die and "Somehow You Do" from Four Good Days
CC: I hated "No Time To Die" when I first heard it a full year before the film's COVID-delayed release.  However, Billie Eilish's understated vocals grew on me, and the song ultimately turned out to suit the film pretty perfectly.
KH: At least this year they threw in some opening credit songs along with the end credit ones, but that just makes it easier for the songs that are actually a part of the story to stand out more, and that applies to just one this go round, Encanto's "Dos Orugitas" (turn on the subtitles, you'll cry), which will make 2021 MVP Lin-Manuel Miranda an EGOT winner as well.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: We don't talk about Disney and the Academy absentmindedly neglecting "We Don't Talk About Bruno".  No, no, no.
KH: I don't get Disney's recent strategy to just submit one song for its animated musicals, but Encanto surely deserved more than one tune in the mix, from "The Family Madrigal" to "Surface Pressure" to, yeah, even that one "About Bruno".

Nightmare Alley

The nominees for Best Film Editing are: Don’t Look Up, Dune, King Richard, The Power of the Dog and Tick, Tick… Boom!
CC: I go with the musical razzle-dazzle of Tick, Tick...Boom!
KH: Sports films usually do well in this category, so I'll go with King Richard for the win.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: The dance numbers in West Side Story are equally razzle-dazzling yet strangely omitted here, especially given that it is a Best Picture nominee.
KH: The absence of the choreographed action of No Time To Die and the choreographed dances of West Side Story here is baffling.

No Time To Die

The nominees for Best Sound are: Belfast, Dune, No Time To Die, The Power of the Dog and West Side Story
CC: I bought a D-Box herky-jerky theater seat for the first time in which to view No Time To Die.  I still have the bruises to prove the effectiveness of this Bond film's explosive sound.
KH: I'd go with the Bond film here too, No Time To Die.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Either Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings or Spider-Man: No Way Home. I'd also be happy with a nomination for the completely neglected Eternalswhich I enjoyed sonically and visually more than either of those other Marvel flicks.
KH: Let's throw some award love Marvel's way for either Black Widow or Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Parallel Mothers

The nominees for Best Visual Effects are: Dune, Free Guy, No Time To Die, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Spider-Man: No Way Home
CC: The effects in likely winner Dune are more realistic but I'm partial to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' more fantastical dragons and soul-sucking vampire bat thingys. (And shirtless Simu Liu is also a deserving "special effect.")
KH: Dune did have some spectacular effects, but my vote goes to the crazy comic book action of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Eternals, per my Best Sound note above.
KH: A giant lizard and big ape fight it out on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean... and they nominate Free Guy instead of Godzilla vs. Kong?

The Power of the Dog

The nominees for Best Makeup and Hairstyling are: Coming 2 America, Cruella, Dune, The Eyes of Tammy Faye and House of Gucci
CC: Cruella's black and white hair design plus Emma Thompson's tight buns (ahem) get my vote.
KH: The cosmetic magicians behind The Eyes of Tammy Faye transformed Jessica Chastain into the infamous Mrs. Baker, tear-smudged mascara and all.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: While their Lucy and Desi makeup are also distracting at times, how did Tammy Faye get nominated here but not Being the Ricardos?
KH: The Benedict Cumberbatch movie where he didn't wear a cowboy hat or a cape, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, had some truly excellent prosthetics work.

Raya and the Last Dragon

The nominees for Best Animated Feature are: Encanto, Flee, Luca, The Mitchells vs. the Machines and Raya and the Last Dragon
CC: This is a toughie as I liked all these nominees to greater or lesser extent. Flee may be the more socially significant, yet I'd lean toward The Mitchells vs. the Machines.
KH: If only I could vote for both of the Disney movies in their 2021 Girl Power Double Feature, Encanto and Raya and the Last Dragon, but when push comes to shove my pick would be the former.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Vivo, which also features fun tunes by Lin-Manuel Miranda à la Encanto, could have been nominated over Luca and I wouldn't have complained.
KH: Wow, it looks like I only saw five animated movies last year, and these are them.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

The nominees for Best International Feature Film are: Drive My Car (Japan), Flee (Denmark), The Hand of God (Italy), Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (Bhutan) and The Worst Person in the World (Norway)
CC: Despite its excessive three hour running time, Drive My Car is the clear and deserved winner here.
KH: Although I too think that that run time was a tad overindulgent, I've got to give it to Drive My Car for taking me along on its unexpectedly fascinating journey.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Parallel Mothers, one of the few Almodóvar films to not be nominated in this category. (Spain didn't even submit it!)
KH: Almodóvar. Parallel Mothers. Viva Pedro!

Spider-Man: No Way Home

The nominees for Best Documentary Feature are: Ascension, Attica, Flee, Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) and Writing With Fire
CC: Flee gets my vote here rather than in the Animated Feature category. I do hope it wins at least one of the three categories in which it is nominated!
KH: My knowledge of the 1971 uprising at a certain New York state prison didn't go much farther than that famous Al Pacino quote from Doy Day Afternoon, so I found Attica enthralling and, ultimately, nightmarishly bone chilling.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Procession presented a uniquely personal, healing perspective on the sad history of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests.
KH: The Academy's stuffy documentary branch rarely recognizes artist biographies like the delight- and insight-filled Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go for It.

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

The nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject are: Audible, Lead Me Home, The Queen of Basketball, Three Songs for Benazir and When We Were Bullies
CC: In our current US political climate where bullies reign supreme, When We Were Bullies serves as a potent antidote.
KH: It's a tough choice for me between the inspiring The Queen of Basketball and the heartrending Lead Me Home, with my vote eventually going to the latter, a shocking, eye-opening exposé on the reality of homelessness in America today.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker... see my interview with its director, Ryan White!
KH: Although I found its framing device unnecessary and a bit too pandering to modern sensibilities, Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker was an illuminating profile of the iconic artist.

Tick, Tick... Boom!

The nominees for Best Animated Short Film are: Affairs of the Art, Bestia, Boxballet, Robin Robin and The Windshield Wiper
CC: Sorry to say I haven't yet seen any of these, so must defer.
KH: I found Affairs of the Art to be hysterical and I loved the old school pencil-drawn animation.
Egregiously Overlooked:
KH: It was a bit surprising that Disney's Us Again was left out of the running here.

The Tragedy of Macbeth

The nominees for Best Live Action Short Film are: Ala Kachuu – Take and Run, The Dress, The Long Goodbye, On My Mind and Please Hold
CC: The only one of these I've seen is The Dress. It features a strong story and lead performance; I only wish it had a happier ending.
KH: This year's batch was mostly underwhelming, but the heartbreaking performance of Anna Dzieduszycka in The Dress gets it my vote.
Egregiously Overlooked:
KH: The powerful When the Sun Sets is better than most of the final nominees combined.

West Side Story

And now for our own special category of dishonorable mention, the Worst Nomination of the Year:
CC: Fanboys will hate me but I found Dune plodding, lifeless and no more comprehensible than David Lynch's much-maligned 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert's truly great novel. It is incomprehensible to me that it landed among the Academy's nominees for Best Picture. Some members have clearly been ingesting too much spice.
KH: From the first trailer for Being the Ricardos it was obvious (at least to me): Javier Bardem looked too old to play Desi Arnaz during the production of I Love Lucy (there's around a 15 year age gap between the two). That fact could probably be overlooked if his performance was anything more than the proverbial "hotblooded Latin Lothario" (admittedly part of the blame for that must go to Aaron Sorkin for writing and directing him that way). And yet, here Javier is, a Best Actor nominee. Honestly, I could have included Bardem's two nominated co-stars, Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and J.K. Simmons as William Frawley, along with him for this ignominious honor, but at least they acted their age in this woefully misguided project. Watch Amy Poehler's documentary Lucy and Desi (also streaming on Amazon Prime) instead.

Being the Ricardos

And so the final march to Oscar glory begins. Tune in to the Big Show this Sunday to see who wins, as well as which nominees are rocking the best (and worst) gowns, hottest escorts and most heartfelt acceptance speeches.

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine, and Kirby Holt, creator, editor and head writer of Movie Dearest.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Short Cuts 2022, Part 3: Oscar's Documentary Short Subject Nominees

For the 17th year, ShortsTV presents this year's Academy Award nominated animated, live action and documentary short films at a theater near you (watch the trailer here). In the last of three parts, Movie Dearest takes a look at this year's five nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject.

American shorts in general and those produced by Netflix in particular dominate this category this year, which is usually more international. Nevertheless, this is the strongest batch of nominees in the short film categories, which tackle a wind-range of relatable topics, from substance abuse to bullying to homelessness.

And the nominees are...

Audible, Matthew Ogens & Geoff McLean (US, 39 min.), trailer.

Amaree McKenstry-Hall faces a daunting senior year as the star player of the Maryland School for the Deaf football team. A diverse cast (including a gay cheerleader) and a distinct lack of spoken dialogue (naturally) sets this Critics' Choice Award nominee apart from the pack. Questions about fitting into the world at large and what it means to be a member of a team make its message a universal one.

Oscar Connection: Fellow 2021 Oscar nominee CODA also deals with the subject of deafness.

MD Rating: 8/10


Lead Me Home, Pedro Kos & Jon Shenk (US, 39 min.), trailer.

Filmed over three years in three cities – Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle – where homelessness has become a "state of emergency", the battered faces and broken spirits of those caught in its grip tell their stories. Aerial photography captures the stunning omnipresence of the displaced, those of all races, ages and backgrounds (including a trans youth). Heartbreakingly powerful and eye-opening; "where are they supposed to go?"

Oscar Connection: Pedro Kos was the editor of Waste Land and The Square, while Jon Shenk was a cinematographer on Crip Camp and No End in Sight, all Oscar nominated documentary features.

MD Rating: 8/10

The Queen of Basketball, Ben Proudfoot (US, 22 min.), trailer.

A forgotten sports legend, Lusia "Lucy" Harris was the first and only female basketball player to be drafted by the NBA, among many other superlative accomplishments. She was also a humble, gregarious woman, with a winning smile and infectious laugh on full display in this Critics' Choice Award-winning profile that, following her death earlier this year, serves as a fine tribute to her legacy, and one that ensures that anyone who watches it will never forget her.

Oscar Connection:  Ben Proudfoot was nominated last year in this category for the equally terrific A Concerto Is a Conversation.

MD Rating: 8/10


Three Songs for Benazir, Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei (Afghanistan, 22 min.), trailer.

In a displacement camp in Afghanistan, Shaista and his new bride Benazir are expecting their first child. Wanting to provide for his family, Shaista seeks to enlist in the National Army, but circumstances force him to take up another job that proves equally dangerous. This, the one cinéma vérité (and only non-American) entry this year, deftly shows that not all naive young man become casualties of war on the battlefield.

Oscar Connection:  Fellow nominee this year Flee, the first film to be nominated for three feature Oscars (International, Documentary and Animated), also takes place (partially) in Afghanistan.

MD Rating: 7/10


When We Were Bullies, Jay Rosenblatt (US, 36 min.), trailer.

When an unexpected reunion awakens the memory of a 5th grade bullying incident, the filmmaker tracks down his former classmates to help him understand why it happened... and why they were all complicit in it. An interesting concept – revisiting childhood trauma from the point of view of the antagonist – ultimately feels self-serving, and the director's ample use of animated cut-outs to illustrate the schoolyard event is trite and tedious.

Oscar Connection: For playing the ultimate bully in The Power of the Dog, Benedict Cumberbatch received his second Best Actor nomination this year.

MD Rating: 5/10


Coming soon: A Movie Dearest annual tradition: "If We Picked the Oscars".

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

Friday, March 18, 2022

"Power" is Top "Dog" at 13th Annual Dorian Film Awards

And the 2021 Dorian Film Awards Go To...


Best Film

Best Director: Jane Campion

Best Screenplay: Jane Campion



Best LGBT Film

 Best Documentary

Best LGBT Documentary

Best Animated Film



Best Non-English Language Film



Best Unsung Film



Best Film Performance: Kristen Stewart



Best Supporting Film Performance: Ariana DeBose



Most Visually Striking Film



Best Film Music


Campiest Flick



Pedro Almodóvar



Ariana DeBose



Rita Moreno


Presented by GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, the 13th Annual Dorian Awards honor the year's best in film. GALECA is comprised of over 200 gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and ally entertainment journalists in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK, including myself and Movie Dearest contributor Chris Carpenter.

Congratulations to all of this year's winners!


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Short Cuts 2022, Part 2: Oscar's Live Action Short Film Nominees

For the 17th year, ShortsTV presents this year's Academy Award nominated animated, live action and documentary short films at a theater near you (watch the trailer here). In the second of three parts, Movie Dearest takes a look at this year's five nominees for Best Live Action Short Film.

This year's international slate includes several previous nominees and even a couple of winners. Trauma, largely to the disenfranchised, is the unifying theme of these five shorts, with the first three in particular featuring intense, disturbing imagery, so be forewarned.

And the nominees are...

Ala Kachuu – Take and Run, Maria Brendle & Nadine Lüchinger (Switzerland, 38 min.), trailer.

The title refers to the practice of "bride kidnapping" that still takes place in Kyrgyzstan today. When Sezim defies her rural family and moves to the capitol city of Bishkek, she falls victim to this barbaric act and struggles to escape her enslavement by a man she doesn't even know. Truly an important subject to shed light on, but unfortunately the film undercuts its urgency by squeezing the entire narrative into the short form format.

Oscar Connection: 1932 (90 years ago!) was the first year Oscars were awarded to short films, and one of those first winners was Hal Roach, of Swiss decent like the nominees here, for the Laurel & Hardy classic The Music Box.

MD Rating: 6/10

The Dress (a.k.a. Sukienka), Tadeusz Łysiak & Maciej Ślesicki (Poland, 30 min.), trailer.

Julia (Anna Dzieduszycka) leads a lonely life as a motel maid aching to break free from the cruel constraints society has placed on her as a little person. When a friendly trucker asks her out, she has four days to find the titular garment for her big date. Dzieduszycka gives a stunning, lived-in performance that is equally defiant and heartbreaking, impelling the viewer to share Julia's darkest moments all the way through to an ambiguous denouement.

Oscar Connection: Maciej Ślesicki was previously nominated in 2013 for his heartbreaking documentary short Our Curse.

MD Rating: 7/10

The Long Goodbye, Aneil Karia & Riz Ahmed (UK/Netherlands, 13 min.), trailer.

An average day unfolds in the home of a large British Pakistani family until, without warning, the household is besieged by masked gunmen and all are thrust violently into an unspeakable nightmare. Billed as it is as a "companion film" to Riz Ahmed's hip hop album of the same name, this is most definitely not a music video; what it is is disorientating and confusing (has something like this actually happened??), before suddenly veering into... performance art, with Ahmed's character spouting a postmortem, pseudo-rap monologue directly to the camera. What was presumably intended as wake up call to the possibility of an encroaching race war instead comes off as pretentious self-aggrandizement.

Oscar Connection: Riz Ahmed was a Best Actor nominee last year for Sound of Metal.

MD Rating: 5/10

On My Mind, Martin Strange-Hansen & Kim Magnusson (Denmark, 18 min.), trailer.

A man walks into a bar and wants to sing an Elvis song on the karaoke machine... What sounds like the start of a joke actually turns out to be the only one of this year's nominees that offers some sort of happy... OK, bittersweet... ending. Although the set up is a tad contrived and the obstacles thrown in the path of our hero couldn't be more innocuous, this low budget effort manages to make it all worthwhile in, literally, its last seconds.

Oscar Connection: Martin Strange-Hansen won this category for 2002's This Charming Man, while Kim Magnusson has won twice before, for 1998's Election Night and 2013's Helium.

MD Rating: 6/10

Please Hold, K.D. Dávila & Levin Menekse (US, 19 min.), trailer.

In the (maybe) not-too-distant future, a young man is arrested and finds himself trapped in a criminal justice system that is completely automated, manifested by a cutesy cartoon anthropomorphic "scales of justice" as his public defender. We've all been stuck on the phone screaming "connect me to a real person!", so the scenario here is very relatable. Yet, despite its rich satirical possibilities, the story stalls and the humor quickly loses its bite.

Oscar Connection: Please Hold is thematically similar to last year's Live Action Short Film winner, Two Distant Strangers. Both take a sharp look, with a tinge of black comedy, at systemic racial issues through the lens of a heightened alternate reality.

MD Rating: 6/10

Coming soon: Reviews of the Oscar nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject.

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.