Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

19 February 2015

Oscar Nominees 2015: Part 12 of 12 (Live-action Shorts)

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11.
Part 12 of 12:

The Phone Call
1 Nomination
  • Live-action Short Film
Director: Mat Kirkby
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Edward Hogg, Prunella Scales

I had read somewhere, I think, that the live-action shorts this year were all downers. Not so! In fact, not one of them is a downer as far as I can tell. I honestly and truly loved them all, and have good things to say about each one. I'm beginning here with the surefire winner of this year's award, The Phone Call. The film stars Sally Hawkins and she is excellent as a crisis-center worker who answers a phone call from a man in distress. It's a lovely little film with a tense pace, but not too much actually to say in the end. Which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy the movie. It has a beautifully sweet ending, but it isn't nearly as intriguing or complicated as the other four films. In any case, this is still very good, and it's hard to begrudge it its win.
Will Win: Live-action Short Film
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Not ranked

Boogaloo and Graham
1 Nomination
  • Live-action Short Film
Director: Michael Lennox
Cast: Marty McCann, Charlene McKenna, Riley Hamilton, Aaron Lynch, Jonathan Harden

Boogaloo and Graham are two chickens, pets to young Jamesy and Malachy, who are living in Northern Ireland in 1978. Everything about this movie says that we are on our way toward tragedy, but Boogaloo and Graham, with its distinctly non-tragic title, doesn't go there. Instead, this is a lovely story about the sacrifice that a father makes so that his two sons can be happy. It's heartwarming and quirky, and the better for all of that. And it uses the Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers hit "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" liberally. That song always makes me smile.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Live-action Short Film
My Rating: Not ranked

Aya (איה)
1 Nomination
  • Live-action Short Film
Cast: Sarah Adler, Ulrich Tomsen

Binnum and Brezis's almost-feature-length film is about a woman who winds up driving a man from Ben Gurion into Jerusalem. The two people connect in an intriguing way and their conversation and awkwardness are fascinating. Sarah Adler herself gives an inscrutable, complex performance, and the film gazes at her mystery, trying to figure her out. This isn't a film with easy answers about what we ought to do when we feel unhappy or trapped; instead, it opens up possibilities. But the things that happen when we follow down roads that are not planned are not always magical, and Aya doesn't think that they are; instead the movie just lets the weirdness occur.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Not ranked

Parvaneh
1 Nomination
  • Live-action Short Film
Director: Talkhon Hamzavi
Cast: Nissa Kashani, Cheryl Graf, Brigitte Beyeler, Alireza Bayram

Parvaneh is charming and small. It's about an Afghani woman working in Switzerland illegally who is attempting to send money back to Afghanistan to help her mother with her father's medical bills. Parvaneh herself is played beautifully by Nissa Kashani, and her interactions with people and the terror she feels dealing with the city of Zürich are palpable in the film. I spent nearly the entirety of the film worrying about her – who is going to steal this girl's money, when is she accidentally going to murder someone, why would anyone try to hurt this girl? But Parvaneh ends up being about friendship and communication, and the little it costs to be kind and helpful.

Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Not ranked

Butter Lamp (དཀར་མེ་)
1 Nomination
  • Live-action Short Film
Director: Hu Wei
Cast: Genden Punstock

This was my favorite of the short films. Hu's film is made from a single perspective. We watch a photographer take pictures of Nepalese families. It is a simple conceit, but a powerful one that functions as a portrait of a mountain village. It's smart and clever and I loved it as much for its intelligence and care as I did for the ways that the film's subjects stared right at the camera. This is not anthropology, and the film doesn't ask us to feel sorry for its subjects or to feel anything at all. But here they are, staring at me. This year's least sentimental short film will surely be the least favorite among Academy members (they are so predictable) but it was definitely my favorite.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Not ranked