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.

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