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Cinematic Saturday: Award Winning Shorts

October 30, 2010

Note: I am back from a short bloggin’ break and will be making a few changes. I also have a quick question. What are some of the movie review blogs, including book blogs that also discuss films, that you would recommend?

A Collection of 2005 Academy Award Nominated Short Films

This is an eclectic collection of live action and animated short films. It was my first foray into watching shorts. It seems to be a challenging format for directors to work with — like a short story, a short film has to tell a compelling story with less words and fewer images, often conveying its message in a few brief, pivotal moments.

Our Time is UpDirected by Rob Pearlstein Dr. Leonard Stern (Kevin Pollak) is a high-priced therapist who seems, like T.S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock,  to measure out his life in coffee spoons. Similarly, his therapeutic approach is non-directive and very slow. When asked when a patient can expect to make progress, he says soothingly “all in good time.” However, a strange twist of fate causes him to drastically change his style in favor of brutal honesty and forcing patients to leap headlong into their fears.

This film was clever and funny. It certainly didn’t avoid stereotypes, but it used them playfully, which I enjoyed. I wished there had been more — more of a story, greater development of the main character, just more.

RunawayDirected by Ulrike Grote This was a lovely German film about a single man and struggling architect crossing paths with a little boy who, inexplicably, calls him “Daddy.” The child’s mother, Kathrin, does turn out to be someone from his past. But when he goes looking for her, she seems to have mysteriously disappeared. I loved the delicate balance between comedy, mystery and tragedy and the gently unfolding relationship between the man and child.

The Last FarmDirected by Rúnar Rúnarsson In this Icelandic film, an aging man may be forced to leave his farm behind. He struggles to keep his autonomy and his ability to leave on his own terms. This movie offered gorgeous landscapes and a short but poignant look at aging, loss, and the determination to maintain dignity and a sense of control over ones fate at a point where ones choices are being whittled away.

Six Shooter Directed by Martin McDonagh Brendan Gleeson, who many of us know best as “Mad Eye Moody” of Harry Potter fame, is amazing in this tragic, bloody Irish film. He plays Donnelly, who leaves the hospital just after his wife’s death and boards a train. He meets a troubled young man who, with an incredible lack of basic human decency, taunts a pair of bereaved parents. Despite this cruelty, Donnelly is drawn to the boy and feels some compassion toward him.

This is a compelling movie, largely because of the acting. The pain felt by people on that train is palpable. I found it difficult to even look at the bereaved parents. And Donnelly’s reactions were subtle and incredibly authentic. It’s definitely not a movie for the faint of heart, though.

CashbackDirected by Sean Ellis Ben (Sean Biggerstaff) is a young man working his way through art school by working the night shift at a supermarket. He passes the time with funny commentary on how his coworkers survive their boredom and by fantasizing about seeing — and drawing — female customers in the nude. I didn’t find this film incredibly riveting, but it was funny and clever. And as an added bonus, it offers gratuitous nudity. (Alas, female nudity only)

BadgeredDirected by Sharon Colman Two noisy crows disturb a badger’s hibernation. He is unable to quiet them, but fate intervenes. This movie showcases unusual animation.

The Moon and the Son: An Imagined ConversationDirected by John Canemaker This autobiographical film explores a man’s struggle to reach some sense of resolution after his Italian immigrant father dies. He is still haunted by his father’s anger, verbal abuse, and criminal acts. In an imagined conversation, illustrated by drawings, actual photos, and newspaper clippings, his father tells of his own childhood struggles and explains why he made some of his choices. There is a great deal of raw pain here, as John grapples with his memories and the contradictions of his father’s life, and it offers no real resolution.

Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper MorelloDirected by Anthony Lucas I was fascinated by this steampunkish fantasy adventure. Set in a dark, smoky Victorian world of iron dirigibles  and steam-powered computers, it’s crafted with elegant silhouetted images. Jasper Morello is a disgraced aerial navigator who has been given one more chance. However, in launching this adventure, he must leave behind his beloved in a city being decimated by the plague. I won’t give away any more, but I thought the unusual animation and storytelling were magnificent.

Another Question: Have you watched any short films and,  if so, do you enjoy this type of movie? Which ones do you recommend?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2010 2:49 am

    Sean Biggerstaff is absolutely adorable.

  2. October 30, 2010 11:51 am

    I love “Badgered” and “Six Shooter.”

    There’s an amazing one that was nominated for an Oscar in 2008, should’ve one but lost to one about the Holocaust. It’s called “On the Line” and it’s about a security guard’s obsession for a woman he watches on video. It’s haunting and devastating, and Reto Caffi deserves to be ranked alongside his presumable mentor, Michael Haneke.

    Also, there’s another one called “When the Day Breaks,” an animated short where animals have human qualities. I remember liking it, though I haven’t seen it for a while.

    I like some short films a lot, but sometimes I wish they had been expanded into features, because the exposition level given is small. They can be mysterious, though, in this way, and that’s a good thing in my book.

    One thing I hate, though, is when they put a short film before a feature. It puts me out of the mood. Maybe that’s why I liked the films better on average at NYFF that I saw without a preceding short than those that had one.

    • October 30, 2010 2:56 pm

      Thank you, Nick. I will look for “On the Line” and “When the Day Breaks.” I feel the same way you do. I wish good shorts were expanded into feature-length movies; on the other hand I think leaving a lot unsaid — and the sense of mystery that creates — is often a good thing.

  3. October 31, 2010 4:19 am

    I own this one too! I think it’s the only short film DVD I have. The Jasper Morello one is absolutely fantastic in my opinion. I think there are more, but I haven’t seen them.

    • October 31, 2010 3:35 pm

      I saw a bunch of short film collections, from different years, on Amazon, though only the 2006 is available at our video rental store. I definitely want to watch more of them, including the shorts Nick mentioned. Trisha, I’m glad you loved Jasper Morello as much as I did. 🙂

  4. November 1, 2010 12:46 am

    A friend of mine from college does a film review/news blog called Film Misery. I think Alex writes really thoughtful and entertaining reviews –

  5. November 1, 2010 6:58 pm

    Thanks, Kim! I’ll check it out.

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