Eric here with a look at this year’s nominees for the Live Action Short category.
Considering the fantastic year we’ve had for cinema, it’s a bit disappointing that the nominees aren’t the equal of their longform cousins, or even as strong as last year’s nominees. But there’s some nice work.
Here's an overview of the pros and cons for each of the nominees...
Live Action Short
Ennemis Interieurs is essentially a two-hander interview between a French-Algerian man and the government official processing his citizenship documentation. His inquisition reveals possibilities of terrorism and paranoia. Visually the film is limited, but director Selim Azzazi calibrates the performances of the actors with assured skill, and the story resonates all too closely with our country’s own politics
Pro: Topical and powerful.
Con: Basically one long scene in the same setting.
La Femme et le TGV is quite frankly pretty terrible. While it’s nice to see French icon Jane Birkin on screen, this story of an elderly woman who waves to the express train that passes her house, and later gets involved with its conductor, feels woefully cliché and saccharine. It aims for the stylization of Amelie, but has none of that film's artfulness and sophistication.
Pro: Birkin & pretty French village setting.
Con: Everything else.
Silent Nights follows a Danish girl who volunteers at a homeless shelter and falls in love with a Ghanan refugee. You can file this in the folder of “stories you haven’t seen before,” which is always cool, but the film feels forced dramatically, and there’s even a touch of “white savior” about it despite its obviously compassionate POV.
Pro: Original and timely.
Con: Schematic and a little contrived.
Sing, a Hungarian film about two young girls who uncover the true nature of their choir teacher, is undeniably this category’s crowdpleaser. But it doesn’t earn its stripes cheaply: the pleasure comes from its subtle intelligence and its subversive conversion of the personal to the political. [Read Nathaniel's interview with the director]
Pro: Traditional storytelling with satisfying conclusion.
Timecode, the shortest film at 15 minutes, centers on two security guards at a parking lot in Spain. The manner in which the day shift and the night shift come together here is surprising, warm, and funny, and director Juanjo Gimenez finds a way to take a non-visually-exciting environment (security cameras) and make it sing.
Pro: Inspired script, told through images and not dialogue.
Con: May seem too slight and too romantic.
Will win: Sing. Oscar voters like to feel good, and the deeply satisfying conclusion to Sing should easily do the trick for the win.
Look out for: Timecode. Its brevity weighs in its favor, and it’s the other film with an exultant ending. But I still can’t imagine it beating Sing.
Did you get a chance to see these shorts?