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

23 February 2016

Oscar Nominees 2016: Part 10 of 11 (Best Live Action Short Film)


Stutterer
1 Nomination
  • Live Action Short Film
Director: Benjamin Cleary
Cast: Matthew Needham, Chloe Pirrie, Eric Richard

This film is about a man who stutters and his relationship with a woman he has met online. It is a slight thing, but I expect it to win the Oscar. None of this year's live action shorts functions primarily in English, but Stutterer is the most Anglophone of the films, and so I think it takes home the trophy. But this is not a very interesting film, actually. We follow a young typographer (although how he makes his living is not really explained) as he tries to communicate with various people, including his dad and a woman he has been chatting with for six months. This is your traditional heterosexual love plot with a happy ending. I was sort of bored, actually.
Will Win: Foreign Language Film
Could Win: N/A


Day One
1 Nomination
  • Live Action Short Film
Director: Henry Hughes
Cast: Layla Alizada, Alain Washnevsky, Bill Zasadil, Alexia Pearl, Navid Negahban, Shari Vasseghi, Yanellie Ireland

This movie is better than most of the others. It is emotionally powerful, and the acting (particularly by the two leads Alain Washnevsky and Layla Alizada) is really very very good. Day One follows a new translator for the U.S. military named Feda. She goes with a small squadron to find weapons or do something or other (where we are is not clear – evidently an Arabic-speaking country). From here there are several quick reversal and surprises. As a short film, this is a finely plotted little piece of work, but I found its politics a little stupid. The film is invested in a kind of secularism in which "science" and "American clear thinking" triumph over "silly Islamic customs" and "proper religious decorum". The script writers, of course, are in charge here and so of course things go the way they plot them to fall out. At the end of the movie when Feda tells her commanding officer "We should not have come here", I had to concur. This has a chance of beating Stutterer for the Oscar, and it is certainly a better film, but I suspect it will lose out to the love story.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Live Action Short Film


Shok (Friend)
1 Nomination
  • Live Action Short Film
Director: Jamie Donoughue
Cast: Lum Veseli, Andi Bajgora, Kushtrim Sheremeti, Eshref Durmishi, Xhevdet Jashari, Astrit Kabashi, Armond Morina

This was my favorite of the live action shorts. Shok is a film about two Albanian boys living during the war in Kosovo. The movie is a serious examination of the dangers of everyday life lived under military rule in which human beings have no rights whatsoever. The film is ostensibly about friendship (hence its title) and its main subject is the relationship between the two boys as they negotiate a kind of ethical living based on loyalty and courage. I didn't love any of this year's shorts, but this one is the most mercilessly directed, and one of only two films that does not finally succumb to a kind of sentimentalism. It is way too hard-hitting of a film to win the Oscar, but Donoughue is a very good filmmaker, and we should expect good things in the future.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A


Ave Maria
1 Nomination
  • Live Action Short Film
Director: Basil Khalil
Cast: Maria Zreik, Shady Srour, Maya Koren, Ruth Farhi, Huda Al Imam

This is a delightful little film. In the West Bank, a Jewish family's car breaks down near a little cloister where five nuns who have taken a vow of silence are living. We mostly spend time with a young novitiate named Marie, who seems to be a kind of rebel among the nuns. She also happens to be something of a car mechanic. This is an irreverent little tale, and like Day One, advocates a kind of secularism. It's fine to have religion, each of these films says, as long as you are willing to let your principles go every once in a while. So the Jewish family operates a phone on Shabbat and drinks water that isn't from a Kosher kitchen, and the nuns speak in order to get things done and help this family. This is all quite contrived, of course, but it is charming enough, and I found its irreverence to be rather a delight.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A


Alles Wird Gut (Everything Will Be Okay)
1 Nomination
  • Live Action Short Film
Director: Patrick Vollrath
Cast: Simon Schwarz, Julia Pointner, Gisela Salcher, Marion Rottenhofer

Eh. This movie wants to be a kind of mystery tale, where we don't really know what is going on until halfway through its running time, except that where we are headed is actually quite obvious from early on in the movie. So for much of the movie, it is operating under this idea, even though that idea is no longer viable. I found this very frustrating. In many ways, too, this film asks us to sympathize with a man who really is behaving foolishly in the extreme. The other thing that is weird qbout this movie is that it is a sort of male version of the amazing 2013 short film Just Before Losing Everything (Avant que de Tout Perdre). And who needs a male version of that movie? To be honest, and this is a little odd, the live action short films just weren't that great this year. Usually they are some of the best of the year's Oscar-nominated pictures, but this year... sort of a let-down.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A