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« In Two Weeks: "Best Shot" Returns! | Main | Let's Talk Costume Design »
Wednesday
Feb182015

Best Live Action Short: Sally Hawkins Takes the Lead

Glenn here again, and as if yesterday’s look at the Best Documentary Short category didn’t prove it, there really aren’t any hard and fast rules when predicting the short categories. In live action short especially they go with serious issues, except when they don’t. They frequently go foreign, except when they don't. They're not overly thrilled with big stars or Hollywood directors, except when they are. It’s all a bit of a gamble, really. This year’s contenders, however, seem a little easier to decipher in terms of what has the potential to win and what hasn’t a hope in hell. Sorry, Butter Lamp, but I think that means you. You will always be my winner.

 

The Nominees:

Aya, dir. Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis (40mins)
Boogaloo and Graham, dir. Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney (14mins)
Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak), dir. Hu Wei and Julien Féret (16mins)
Parvaneh, dir. Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger (24mins)
The Phone Call, dir. Mat Kirkby and James Lucas (21mins)

Right now it seems pretty hard to look past The Phone Call given it stars an Oscar nominee (Sally Hawkins) and an Oscar winner (Jim Broadbent) and is emotional in ways that many will find belies its 20-minute runtime. Despite the curio factor of both doc and live action short Oscars potentially both going to films about suicide prevention hotline operators, I still feel rather confident over that prediction. It's certainly feels like a more complete film than, say, Boogaloo and Graham, which has wisps of nostalgia floating through its brief runtime and its cute children with pet chickens, but feels relatively light-weight compared to the rest (it gets to The Troubles right in its final shot, which seems like a more logical place to begin, but maybe that's just me).

I was a fan of Parvaneh about an Afghani girl in Switzerland and her friendship with a partying street kid, which feels like the most likely usurper to the throne given the Academy has shown an affinity towards films that bridge between the races. Maybe my hatred of the Israeli nominee Aya is clouding my judgement on that one, but what I do know for certain is that the best of an okay bunch is the sublime Butter Lamp, set in Tibet and focusing on a nomadic photographer who arrives in a village and who, in vignette form, has to deal with locals for whom photography isn't that common. It's wonderfully observed and it's an amazing example of how a film can thrill with restraint. I audibly gasped in the final shot despite it being so very simple. If it pulls a highly unlikely win out of the hat then I will scream with joy, but I think it's impressive festival haul (plus win at the Golden Horse Awards) will have to suffice.

Will Win: The Phone Call
Could Win: Parvaneh
Should Win: Butter Lamp

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Reader Comments (8)

Could you elborate on the Aya hate? it's been a big hit in Israel (suprising for a short film) but i didn't get around to see it. What's so bad about it?

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGeorgeT

I quite disliked AYA as well. It just felt all over the place and were we supposed to LIKE the female character at all?

My absolute favorite is certainly BUTTER LAMP as well. I could watch a couple more hours of that.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

La lampe au beurre de yak. What a wonderful title and so much more evocative than "Butter Lamp." I always wonder who does these translations or does English just not lend itself to beauty? I was incensed at the horrible subtitle translations for Ridicule (My French was good enough to know it was a terrific script but not good enough to ignore the subtitles...ARG!!). But then I remember the Castilian translation for Panic Room (La habitación del pánico--which says so much more about the film) and thought maybe it is the language and not the translators which is the problem

Anyway, I look forward to seeing it.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Butter Lamp is wonderful. It's the only nominee that really felt like a short - and utilized its brevity to maximum effect. All of the other nominees - even ones I enjoyed, like Parveneh - feel to one degree or another like a trial run for a feature.

That's one of the biggest reasons I pretty much hated AYA. But beyond that, it just felt like a fourth or fifth rate riff on Certified Copy, but with none of the tension, humor, insight, style, etc.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I also thought of Certified Copy during Aya, and wondered if that was the artistic inspiration for it. Either way, I needed a little bit of Boogaloo after sitting through the Doc and Live Action shorts pretty much back-to-back. I think Phone Call will (and should win) but I admit to being charmed by Boogaloo and wowed by Butter Lamp.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Indeed, BUTTER LAMP and THE PHONE CALL were the only of the two nominees that felt like short films and not feature films condensed or chopped down. I wasn't big on THE PHONE CALL, but it's a contained lil story. The rest less so.

My dislike for AYA comes down to the weird relationship I felt like we were meant to have with this woman. She's a weirdo and perhaps a sociopath and I didn't believe anything that happened between them. Her thing about needing to talk all the time like when she asks him to take the headphones off, you know? I didn't buy their relationship for a second. And bringing CERTIFIED COPY into the comparisons? Yikes. That'll never work out for a film like AYA. I was baffled by the tone of the entire thing.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

I'll join the chorus: Butter Lamp gets my vote. I thought it was the funniest and most insightful and I'll echo Glenn's point about its fantastic final shot. I totally fell for it.

I'll also join the crowd of those who didn't like Aya. I found that it was overlong, plodding, and predictable. I could never get in the main female character's headspace.

I also rather disliked The Phone Call. Sally Hawkins was affecting as always, but the plot was rather annoying to me. That's a risk you run when your film is about a guy crying out for help but refusing to let you help him. I also HATED the ending, both in terms of what happened and how it was scored with that atrocious song. I will be very sad if it gets the win and hope, like you mention above, that Parveneh (my second favorite) might have a chance since Butter Lamp surely does not.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

"The Phone Call" will win. Sally Hawkins, man. People have been nominated just this year for far less than this (looking at YOU, Laura Dern).

"Aya" was awful.

"Butter Lamp" was slight.

"Boogaloo & Graham" Is the "funny" one. Those sometimes win against four heavy dramatic nominees.

"Parvaneh" might have won in another year. Just not this one.

February 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKT

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