Amir here. We had a look at the Oscar nominated animated shorts the other day. In the same vein, let’s go over the best live action shorts. As with the previous category, I don’t think this group lives up to the standard set in the past - I would vote for Luke Matheny’s God of Love over any of these choices - but that’s a really high bar.
Pentecost is an Irish comedy about a young altar boy who is grounded by his father after a mishap at the church. When the archbishop visits the local church, the boy’s given a second chance and promised that he can watch his favourite soccer team Liverpool play if he doesn’t screw up again. As someone who cares more deeply about soccer than the church, this film should have been exactly my cup of tea, but I can’t help but wonder how it slid into the top five. I sympathize with the childish sentiments of the protagonist and the film’s funny enough for such a small dose, but the filmmakers should probably be happy with their nomination.
Raju is the only nominee on the serious side. It tells the story of a German couple who are in India to pick up the child they have adopted. Things go awry on the busy streets of Kolkata, however, and dark secrets are revealed about the unfortunate circumstance of their decision. Though Raju effortlessly pulls off the tension in the first half and gives a sense of impending disaster early on, its drama feels unearned. The answer to the central ethical question of the film is so obvious that it seems answered immediately after it's posed. Nevertheless, since the film handles a serious issue, and to its credit is very well made, it might be a serious contender.
Speaking of unearned emotions, The Shore, the second Irish-flavoured entry, stars Ciarán Hinds as a man coming back to Ireland after 25 years of living across the pond. Tepid is the word I’d use to describe it. Director Terry George (of Hotel Rwanda fame) tries to make us feel the emotional charge of the reunion between three old friends, but fails to make any of the characters interesting enough to care for. The scenery is gorgeous and the actors do their best with what they’re given, but this film is only worth watching for Ciaran Hinds’ fantastic voice (and accent) giving us the backstory in a monologue.
Time Freak tells the story of a science student who builds a time machine only to remain tangled in a time web that takes him back to the same few minutes in his life. Of the five films, this is the one that feels least like an Oscar film but I wouldn’t count out its chances. The comedy works very well and the audience seemed to love every minute of it. There was a student film feel to it that I personally could not quite overlook but nevertheless, the new take on the old time machine premise was refreshing enough to give this film a fighting chance at the win.
The final entry is Tuba Atlantic, a Norwegian film about the unlikely friendship between a dying man and a teenage girl sent to be his death angel. The unmistakably Scandinavian absurdist comedy gives its characters more depth and meat to chew on than any other film in the race. Technically impressive, comically violent, and unexpectedly poignant, this is far and away the best film in competition. Quirky as it is, I think it’s ultimately a film everyone will connect with.
This category is tougher to predict than the animated ones. The Shore could potentially appeal to the older demographic, but Tuba Atlantic touches on the same themes and it’s different enough to stand out from the bunch. Time Freak might be a surprise winner. They were open to rewarding young hip comedies last year, weren't they? At the end of the day, I think if anyone can crash Tuba’s party, it will be the topical and dramatic Raju.
Will Win: Tuba Atlantic
Could Win: Raju
Should Win: Tuba Atlantic