Every year at this time the Detroit Film Theatre (DFT) shows the Oscar nominated shorts – animation and live action – over two weekends, the first having just concluded. Next Thursday and Saturday it will also screen the five Oscar nominated short documentaries. Of course Detroit isn’t the only city to be screening these films. But it certainly is a highlight of this area's movie year and the screenings are usually packed. Most buy their tickets online. Herewith my capsule reviews, and star ratings:
Sanjay’s Super Team (USA - Sanjay Patel): An Indian father and son decide to share the same living room space. The son, Sanjay, wants to watch video games – loud. His dad wants to pray at his Hindu altar. The clash sets little Sanjay on an unprecedented game-like voyage….Heart warming but the fantastic imagery becomes a tad boring. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
World of Tomorrow (USA – Don Hertzfeldt): For some reason this film has been getting a lot of media buzz and I can’t figure out why. The cartoons are stick figures with geometric backgrounds. A little, girl, Emily, is taken on a tour of her future. The voices are garbled, but maybe that’s the point. This future is unsettling but hardly startling, even for apocalypse fans. 2 out of 5 stars.
Bear Story (Chile – Gabriel Osorio): A sweet fatherly bear is stolen from his family by Brownshirt type circus masters. A technical masterpiece and an enormously heartwarming story. But the message is animal rights, or at least a polemic against the capturing of animals for zoos. So if you don’t agree politically you might feel like a bad person. 3.5 out of 5 stars. (This has won scores of festival awards and will likely be the Oscar winner.)
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos (Russia – Konstantin Bronzit) (photo above): Astronauts in training are separated when the rocket takes off – one is chosen and the other left behind - separated physically and emotionally. Whimsically entertaining if slightly long. 3 out of 5 stars.
Prologue (UK – Richard Williams): An incident in the Peloponnesian War is witnessed by a small child. Is this clash, 2400 years ago, predicting the human race’s future wars without end? Good graphics and a poignant story but the animation is not particularly stand out. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Now, for the live action shorts:
Ave Maria (Palestine/France/Germany—Basil Khalil): A delightful comedy that pitches a Jewish family, waylaid on the Palestinian West Bank, up against Catholic nuns in a monastery. Some sight gags and absurdist humor, all excellent until the final scene, which goes over the top. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Shok (Kosovo/UK—Jamie Donoughue): Two boys during the 1990’s Serbian invasion of Kosovo form a friendship while their town is occupied and ethnically-cleansed of Albanians. Poignant, heartwarming, and sad, and a return to a not so distant past of the atrocities of the Balkans. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Everything Will Be OK (Germany/Austria—Patrick Vollrath) (photo above): An excellently acted drama about an estranged father’s attempt to kidnap his daughter. 4 out of 5 stars. (My pick for Oscar.)
Stutterer (UK/Ireland – Benjamin Cleary): This is also well acted and a heartfelt romantic story about people with a not that uncommon speech disorder, one we probably should be more aware of. 4 out of 5 stars. (Will probably win Oscar.)
Day One (USA – Henry Hughes): A US-Afghan woman joins the US Army as an interpreter in Afghanistan and encounters two especially harsh events during her first day in the field. Good acting and direction, influenced by true events. 3.5 out of 5 stars.