Monday, February 20, 2017

Oscar nominated shorts - animation & live action

This wasn’t the best crop of Oscar animation and live action shorts. But a weekend viewing at the Detroit Film Theatre (with Oscar nominated documentary shorts coming up next weekend) winnows the better from the just okay. I didn’t see anything bad but nothing spectacular either. 


Borrowed Time (USA - Andrew Coats & Kou Hamou-Lhadj) This Old Western story is about a sheriff and his underling who come under attack and must fend for themselves, with mixed results. Years later the boy is now the sheriff but has never gotten over the trauma. I’ll give the film an A for emotion but C for leaving the viewer confused about the disconnect between a long-ago event and a now grown man’s continuing grief. (Two out of five stars)

Pearl (USA – Patrick Osborne) Many of us of a certain age can remember growing up with tape decks and driving around the country, hitting the open road and letting our freak flags fly. But maturity settles us as a next generation has its own lifestyle and music totems, though sometimes there’s a connection between the generations. (Three out of five stars)

Piper (USA – Alan Barillaro) Leave it to Pixar and Disney to come up with a lifelike imitation of a sandpiper chick’s first tentative moments into the world of scavenging for food, and being bashed by tsunami type waves that get more than its feet wet. This film is charming of course but doesn’t transcend beyond that. (Two and a half out of five stars)

Blind Vaysha (Canada – Theodore Ushev) This National Film Board short has all the earmarks of the thousands of others you’ve seen – and likely dismissed out of boredom – for years. The story is commendable – about a woman who sees both the past and the future – but fails to hold one’s attention and delivers a not unsurprising message. (Two out of five stars)

Pear Cider and Cigarettes (Canada – Robert Valley) (photo above) This, the longest of the five, is also the best. Most of us have grown up with a charismatic friend and this story is about one such individual who descends into a miasma of self-abuse. The film is accompanied by offhand sometimes comic narration and realistic visual evocations. (Four out of five stars)

What should win the Oscar: Pear Cider and Cigarettes; what will win: Piper


Sing (Hungary – Kristóf Deák). A new girl in school wants to be part of the award-winning choir. But when she’s told she can’t sing a rebellion ensues in this allegory of corruption and resulting justice. (Two and a half out of five stars)

Silent Nights (Denmark – Aske Bang) Here is a contemporary story of the clash between African migrants and Western society. But the film eschews clichés and informs that prejudice, and immoral choices, are not the monopoly of any particular race. (Three and a half out of five stars)

Timecode (Spain -  Juanjo Giménez Peña) This won Cannes’s Palme d’Or for best short film. It’s delightful and takes you to a story you weren’t expecting. But its whimsy is just a little too pat. (Two and a half out of five stars)

Enemies Within (France - Sélim Azzazi) (photo above) This is a taut, well-acted mini drama of a police interrogation of a man who may have terrorist ties. (Four out of five stars)

La Femme et le TGV (Switzerland – Timo von Gunten) Based on a true story, British actress Jane Birkin plays a woman who’s fixated on waving every day to a passing high-speed train, eventually developing a relationship with the engineer. It’s whimsical, charming and perhaps most likely to appeal to, shall we say, certain people of a certain age. (Two and a half out of five stars)

What should win the Oscar: Enemies Within; what will win: La femme et le TGV  

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