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Entries in short films (89)

Sunday
Feb222015

Black History Month: "Schwarzfahrer," an Oscar Night Memoir

For this Oscar day special episode of Black History Month, we asked devoted reader Paul Outlaw, who you'll know from the comments, to share his Oscar memoir from the 1993/1994 ceremony. We're happy to call Paul a friend after our last few trips to Los Angeles. He starred in a German short film that won the Oscar years ago.


An elderly German woman (Senta Moira) and a black youth (yours truly) sit side-by-side on a Berlin streetcar in Schwarzfahrer, a twelve-minute 35mm film that premiered at the Berlinale 22 years ago this week. The film’s title is a play on words: a “Schwarzfahrer” is slang for “fare dodger” as the film was called in the UK , but if you break the German compound word into its components, it translates as “Black Rider” (the US title).

“Schwarzfahrer is a trenchant and stylistically assured work which makes the best use of all possibilities open to the short film. The film deals with a topical subject in a very humorous and extremely entertaining manner. The jury only wishes that German feature films would portray burning social issues and events with a similar lightness of touch and craftsmanship.

- Jury statement at the awarding of the first Panorama Prize of the New York Film Academy, 43rd International Film Festival, Berlin, Germany, 1993

 

When the short premiered I was an expatriate living in Berlin. After the film’s extremely positive reception – we were promptly invited to Cannes – I got the idea in my head that Schwarzfahrer could one day win an Academy Award.
Our journey to Oscar after the jump...

 

Click to read more ...

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

Tuesday
Feb172015

Best Documentary Short: Sad, Sadder, Saddest...

Glenn here to discuss the Oscar-nominated documentary shorts. Much gets made year in year old about how the short categories are typically the hardest to predict. It’s a sentiment that bodes true for many reasons, although with the recent boost in popularity of the theatrically-released Oscar-nominated shorts programs “nobody’s seen them!” has gone out the window as an excuse. We used to have little to go on with these films and usually, by default, most people would predict the most serious sounding of the lot. A movie about WWII? Sure! A movie about political conflict? Why not! A movie about children with AIDS? Gosh, how can it lose? It’s simplistic, but sometimes the best method.

It’s rather impossible to do that this year since all five nominees deal with subject matter that is extremely Important with a capital I. I mean, the most upbeat of the lot is the one about suicide amongst war veterans for crying out loud! PTSD, dying mothers, incurably ill babies, the oil fields of America's Midwest and death in slaughterhouses – it is a miserable collection of nominees, which makes sussing out the winner a tricky prospect.

I find myself gravitating towards HBO’s Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. For starters, it’s the glossiest and most watchable of the lot. Secondly, and most importantly, because it’s subject matter – suicide prevention hotline operators dealing with war veterans – ties in perfectly with that of Best Picture nominee American Sniper. If voters can’t give that immensely popular film any big prizes, they may as well give this one the statue. I certainly see it as a more likely winner than either of the two Polish entries, one of which – Our Curse – may just go down as one of the saddest films ever made. Likewise, The Reaper from Mexico, which obnoxiously parades its grotesquery around in such a fashion that I can see many voters turning it off before the end credits. The final film, the second American entry called White Earth is relatively low key compared to the rest and will likely find itself overshadowed. Maybe the fact that it’s not entirely soul-crushing like the rest will give it a boost, but this year’s prize feels like HBO’s to lose.

The Nominees:

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, dir. Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry (40mins)
Joanna, dir. Aneta Kopacz (45mins)
Our Curse, dir. Tomasz Śliwiński and Maciej Ślesicki (28mins)
The Reaper (La Parka), dir. Gabriel Serra Arguello (29mins)
White Earth, dir. J. Christian Jensen (20mins)

Will Win: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Could Win: Joanna
Should Win: To be honest, I'm not entirely sold on either, but White Earth (above) is my favorite

Apart from in select cinemas, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 is available on HBOGO.

Monday
Feb092015

Living For Love & Skimming Through Grammys

Annie takes us to church, then puts a spell on usWith Taylor Swift's cheekily titled "1989" the music world's best-seller of 2014, and a least half of all movie franchises with their roots firmly embedded in the "me" decade is pop culture forever frozen in 80s amber? We hardly needed another reminder that the 1980s are still roaring but what were the chances that the two best performances of the Grammy's would come from Annie Lennox and Madonna?

I don't ask this as someone with significant ties to loving the 1980s (though I am someone like that) but from genuine surprise. It's not that there aren't great performers that are very now but they all seemed conspicuously absent last night or visibly subdued within the long procession of funureal ballads the Grammys showcased. Hell, even Pharell's boppy "Happy" which memorably gave us Streep shimmying and Nyong'o jumping to her feet at the Oscars last year, was performed with 'everything is not awesome' minor key ominousness.

After the jump movie & Oscar related Grammy stuff and big wins. But first a few words on Madonna and the delicious deep red new video from the undeposed Queen of Pop.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Feb052015

Best Animated Short - The Nominees

Tim here, with a look at one of those Oscar categories that always screws up everybody's office pool. It's time for the Best Animated Short Film nominees, now playing in a theater... maybe not "near" you, depending on where you live. But they're supposedly hitting VOD in the next couple of weeks, along with the live-action and documentary shorts. Anyway, let's dive right in!

Click to read more ...