Saturday, February 21, 2009

Oscar Nominated Short Films 2008 (With an Exception of "La Maison en Petits Cubes")

I just downloaded the Academy's crop of Best Short Film nominees (both animated and live action) from Itunes. The only problem is that "La Maison en Petit Cubes" was not available. But I did see the 9 other nominees, and here are my reviews, which serve as Academy awards analysis:

Live Action

The best live action short film up for an Academy award was far and away Reto Cafi's "On the Line." This is a superbly crafted homage to the films of creepy director Michael Haneke, whose film "Cache" dealt with the subject of watching as this film does. Roland Weisnekker plays a security guard, who keeps an eye on an employee that he has a crush on. She lives in his area as well. On the line home from work, he sees that she appears to have a boyfriend. When he sees the man being brutally beaten, he steps off the train and doesn't intervene. This ends up leaving a scar on the relationship of the guard and his love. It deals with how love can be an empty matter sometimes, and does this through cameras. It's amazing how restrained and horribly haunting this short is. A

In second is Steph Green's adaptation of a Roddy Doyle story called "New Boy." This short juxtaposes a child's experiences in a poor African school with his preppy days in a Europe private school. The film has potential as a subject, but it's Olutunji Ebun-Cole's performance as the boy that makes it work, as well as good editing and direction. A-

Tied for third are two different films, both of which could have been better as feature length films. "Manon on the Asphalt" is a French elegy that intertwines a woman's memories with her lying on her deathbed of pavement after a bike crash. "Toyland" is a Holocaust short about a woman who is looking for her son and makes an attempt to save another from going to a concentration camp. It unwisely uses flashbacks to tell its complicated story and would have worked better longer. "Asphalt" needs more backstory for catharsis, since we hardly know the deceased. Still, both are polished, somewhat enjoyable films. Both B.

And lastly, "The Pig" is an annoying story about a man who becomes obsessed with a picture of a leaping pig during the time of his colonoscopy. He's so selfish, he complains even though his bed neighbor is a Muslim and his family is impartial to the drawing. It's made to come off as a smart, racial piece, but it doesn't work. Why does every short this year have to be foreign, racial, or both? C+


In front is a line-drawn charmer known as "Lavatory - Lovestory." A bathroom attendant receives flowers from an unknown lover and grows miserable since she does not know who it is. This short captures some priceless moments of love rarely caught in animation. A-.

Close behind is "This Way Up" directed by Adam Foulkes and Alan Smith. It's a madcap story about two undertakers who need to transport the body of an old lady by foot since their car is crushed by a huge rock. The attention to detail in this film, just like the film ahead of it, is pitch perfect, and there were some excellent moments. Although at one point drifting into acid-trip material, this one is good work. A-.

Then, there is quite a gap between the best two and the worst two. "Oktapodi" and "Presto," two tired Pixar shorts, one featuring an octopus chase very, very reminiscent of "Finding Nemo," the other is typical of a Disney lead-in (I saw this previously before "Wall-E"), in which, in slapstick fashion, a rabbit physically abuses its master with a magic hat for a carrot. Both of these films were pretty uninspired, both had a couple good moments, both were forgettable. B-.

So there you have it. My in-depth analysis. Sorry about "Petit Cubes," but you can't do everything.

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