One of the most nebulous categories at the Oscars, short films are typically anyone’s guess – because the average movie fan never actually sees them. Only in recent years has Shorts International Magnolia Pictures been releasing the Oscar-nominated short films to theaters – which is a great idea – but still, how many people are going to pay to go see short films?
Thankfully, I was sent a DVD of the Oscar-nominated live action shorts and animated shorts for my reviewing pleasure – and your reading pleasure. Below are the five Oscar-nominated live-action short films, ranked in order from worst to best. This is my first year reviewing such films, so don’t bet too much money based on my rankings.
Oh, and Shorts International and Magnolia Pictures are releasing the animated shorts and live action shorts this Friday, February 11, 2011. They’ll also be available on VOD and iTunes starting February 22, 2011.
5. Na Wewe (Live Action – Belgium – 2010)
Set during the 1994 civil war in Burundi, a small Central African country bordering Rwanda, a bus full of passengers is stopped by a group of Hutu rebels looking to kill any Tutsis on board. The passengers proceed to explain their cases to survive.
This mildly entertaining short film looks great and features believable performances, but it’s too heavyhanded to be considered funny and too whimsical to be taken seriously. More than anything a drama – each character faces death at the hands of rebels – Na Wewe almost hits the mark, but director and co-writer Ivan Goldschmidt bit off more than he could chew. Not bad, but not great, either.
4. Wish 143 (Live Action – UK – 2010)
A fifteen-year-old boy with only months to live is granted one wish from the Dreamscape Charity. But David doesn’t want to go to Disneyland or meet Gary Neville; what he really wants is an hour alone with a naked woman.
A touching drama featuring a good performance by Jim Carter, Ian Barnes’ Wish 143 is a somber tale about a kid looking to get laid. Unfortunately, the most interesting part of the story – his attempts to get his female friend to help him out – is merely a subplot. When all is said and done, Wish 143 is a very good movie that just doesn’t leave a lasting impression.
3. God of Love (Live Action – USA – 2010)
Lounge-singing darts champion Raymond Goofellow finds his prayers are answered – literally – when he receives a mysterious package of passion inducing darts. But the woman he loves is already in love with his best friend.
The lightest of the five live action shorts nominated for an Oscar this year is God of Love, a beautifully filmed black-and-white movie that entertains and delivers a strong message, even if it is ultimately forgettable. Featuring an entertaining performance by Luke Matheny, God of Love presents an interesting story – one that could be used for a full-length feature – but not a lasting impression.
2. The Confession (Live Action – UK – 2010)
Quiet and sincere 9-year-old Sam is worried about making his first confession. His conscience is clear, therefore he cannot hope for any relief from the experience. He and his friend Jacob decide to remedy that situation, but their initially innocent prank turns unexpectedly tragic.
Director Tanel Toom’s short is a beautifully filmed and acted piece that begins innocently enough and quickly turns disturbing. Since I like movies like this, The Confession really resonated with me. The scene of the dying girl in the car is simply stunning, and things just get worse from there.
Unfortunately, the final turn in the story seems heavy handed and unnecessary, which leaves an unsettling taste on the tongue.
1. The Crush (Live Action – Ireland – 2010)
Ardal Travis is in love. There’s just one problem. He’s an 8-year-old schoolboy and the object of his affection is his Second Class teacher, Miss Purdy. But when her boyfriend arrives on the scene Ardal is heartbroken. His reaction, though, is a little unexpected. He challenges Miss Purdy’s boyfriend to a duel. To the death.
In this surprisingly engaging short film, director/writer Michael Creagh has created a mini-masterpiece. What starts off as a cute and unremarkable story about a kid in love with his teacher quickly turns into a gripping and extremely satisfying battle of wits. The climax will bring a smile to your face, even though the film is ultimately quite serious. This is the best live action short film of 2010.