Oscar Nominated Short Films…anyone that has ever done an office Oscar pool is familiar with these categories. These are the nominees with names of films you’ve never heard of and if you’re like me you usually pick the one that sounds the most Oscar-y or the one with the craziest title. For the past few years, the Academy has been packaging these films and presenting them in theaters or for download online to give audiences a chance to see these and maybe make more than a blind guess.
Below are my mini reviews of the five live action short film nominees for 2014.
A friendship between a hospital janitor and a terminally ill boy sets the stage for this short drama that’s high on emotion…and manipulation. I’m a sucker for a tearjerker and didn’t mind Helium’s overt attempts to not just tug on our heartstrings but grip them so hard they nearly detach. It helps that the film looks great and features strong performances from top to bottom. Why are foreign child actors so much more believable than the ones we find in Hollywood films? Tiny Pelle Falk Krusbæk is a charmer and the film is counting on that for the final moments to work. I didn’t care much for the effects heavy finale which is cheap in both execution and in visuals…but up until then I was happily along for the ride.
The Voorman Problem
The only short film entirely in English, The Voorman Problem features two familiar faces in the lead roles. Martin Freeman (The World’s End, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) is a psychiatrist called in to examine a prisoner (Tom Hollander, About Time) who claims to be a god. Handsomely produced with that deft BBC design suggesting Freeman filmed this during his lunch hour from Sherlock, there’s not a lot to the film though it’s clever enough to keep you interested. I’d like to see this one expanded a bit though I’m not sure it has the kind of tricks up its sleeve necessary to fill a full feature.
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)
I rolled my eyes right before this one started once I saw the length (30 minutes) and that it was in French. When I think of short films I make the mistake of having in mind something that runs around 15 minutes so I sunk a little lower in my chair as this began. A half hour later not only was I sitting upright in my seat but was perched right on the edge of it as well. I’m resisting giving too much away about this one and the less said about it the better – just know that it was a wholly unexpected triumph of a film that created the kind of breathless tension major Hollywood films only dream of achieving. The entire slate of nominees is worth watching for this one alone – and I can only hope this takes the prize on Oscar night.
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)
Two Spanish aid workers are detained by a cache of African soldiers, many of them not yet teenagers in this hard-hitting and tense drama. Though it loses steam in an out of place bombs and guns detour and whenever it jumps forward in time, the film is successful when documenting the heinous activity committed by children brainwashed by adults into targeting the wrong enemy. Strong performances abound in this one, especially Alejandra Lorente as she fights for her survival in some nightmarish incidents.
Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)
After two tense films, this final comedic nominee came as a nice breath of fresh air thanks to its short running length and crackerjack pacing. It goes to show that you can create just as lasting an impression with a film running less than 10 minutes as you can with one twice that long. From Finland, this zany gem follows a family rushing to get ready for a weekend wedding and how their disorganization leads them astray. Remember that opening of Four Weddings and a Funeral where characters run around like chickens with their heads cut off…this follows the same mold but finds new ways (and an unexpectedly excellent ending) to bring the laughs.