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Oscar's Best Live Action Short Nominees. Predictions!

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:
Should Win:
Tuba Atlantic

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Reader Comments (5)

While I agree with you that it came to a quick conclusion, Raju was my favorite. I feel a little guilty saying this because short films should theoretically be self-contained, but I'd love to see a feature-length version of it because I was left wanting to know more about the wife's reaction to the film's final events.

Everyone's in love with Tuba Atlantic, and you're the third person I've heard use the words "technically impressive" while discussing it. I don't see that-- the seagulls dropping out of the air was used to humorous effect, but "technically impressive"? And the sounding of the tuba in the finale seemed really cheap to me-- I'd prefer Time Freak's time machine effect. But mostly, I just didn't connect to the main actor. Loved the Angel of Death though and it *was* funny.

I wouldn't be upset with any of them winning and agree with you-- my money's on Tuba Atlantic or Raju to win.

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Evan - I think Tuba used its cinematography and colour palette really well to incorporate the dreary atmosphere into its narrative. And its editing works perfectly in terms of comic timing. (Though in all honestly, all of them except for The Shore are neatly cut in my opinion.) The radio sequence in particular comes to my mind when I think of the editing.

February 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

I'm so glad someone else enjoyed Time Freak. For me, I thought it was the most enjoyable of the five, and though I'd be tempted to give my vote to Raju, I feel like if I had a ballot, Time Freak would probably get the vote. That said, I feel like this is a tossup between Raju and Tuba Atlantic, with Raju (as the only "serious" film) my prediction.

February 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Now for a contrarian view...

I thought these were all good, much better than the animated shorts, which is not the case in most years. I also thought "The Shore" was the best one. I teared up when Ciaran finally came face-to-face with his old friend for the first time.

"Pentecost" and "Time Freak" were both funny but felt slight. "Raju" I could see winning, as well as "Tuba Atlantic" (which was a close second for me). The audience I was with clapped, cried, and cheered for all of them -- each short was very well received.

February 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnthonyDC

Just saw these tonight and TIME FREAK got the best reaction from the audience I saw it with, but then again it was pretty clever and funny to boot. I do agree that TUBA ATLANTIC should be seen as the frontrunner. It has a nice blend of poignancy and humour the other films didn't have. Well, THE SHORE had it too, but IMO it's the least of the five films overall.

February 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.
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