Monday, March 19, 2012

A Collection of 2005 Academy Award Nominated Short Films

A Collection of 2005 Academy Award Nominated Short Films

This is an eclectic collection of live action and animated short films. It was my first foray into watching shorts. It seems to be a challenging format for directors to work with -- like a short story, a short film has to tell a compelling story with fewer words images, often conveying its message in a few brief, pivotal moments.

Our Time is Up -- Directed by Rob Pearlstein Dr. Leonard Stern (Kevin Pollak) is a high-priced therapist who seems, like T.S. Eliot's J. Alfred Prufrock,  to measure out his life in coffee spoons. Similarly, his therapeutic approach is non-directive and very slow. When asked when a patient can expect to make progress, he says soothingly "all in good time." However, a strange twist of fate causes him to drastically change his style in favor of brutal honesty and forcing patients to leap headlong into their fears.

This film was clever and funny. It certainly didn't avoid stereotypes, but it used them playfully, which I enjoyed. I wished there had been more -- more of a story, greater development of the main character, just more.

Runaway -- Directed by Ulrike Grote This was a lovely German film about a single man and struggling architect crossing paths with a little boy who, inexplicably, calls him "Daddy." The child's mother, Kathrin, does turn out to be someone from his past. But when he goes looking for her, she seems to have mysteriously disappeared. I loved the delicate balance between comedy, mystery and tragedy and the gently unfolding relationship between the man and child.

The Last Farm -- Directed by Rúnar Rúnarsson In this Icelandic film, an aging man may be forced to leave his farm behind. He struggles to keep his autonomy and his ability to leave on his own terms. This movie offered gorgeous landscapes and a short but poignant look at aging, loss, and the determination to maintain dignity and a sense of control over ones fate at a point where ones choices are being whittled away.

Six Shooter -- Directed by Martin McDonagh Brendan Gleeson, who many of us know best as "Mad Eye Moody" of Harry Potter fame, is amazing in this tragic, bloody Irish film. He plays Donnelly, who leaves the hospital just after his wife's death and boards a train. He meets a troubled young man who, with an incredible lack of basic human decency, taunts a pair of bereaved parents. Despite this cruelty, Donnelly is drawn to the boy and feels some compassion toward him.
This is a compelling movie, largely because of the acting. The pain felt by people on that train is palpable. I found it difficult to even look at the bereaved parents. And Donnelly's reactions were subtle and incredibly authentic. It's definitely not a movie for the faint of heart, though.

Cashback -- Directed by Sean Ellis Ben (Sean Biggerstaff) is a young man working his way through art school by working the night shift at a supermarket. He passes the time with funny commentary on how his coworkers survive their boredom and by fantasizing about seeing -- and drawing -- female customers in the nude. I didn't find this film incredibly riveting, but it was funny and clever. And as an added bonus, it offers gratuitous nudity. (Alas, female nudity only)

Badgered -- Directed by Sharon Colman Two noisy crows disturb a badger's hibernation. He is unable to quiet them, but fate intervenes. This movie showcases unusual animation.

The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation -- Directed by John Canemaker This autobiographical film explores a man's struggle to reach some sense of resolution after his Italian immigrant father dies. He is still haunted by his father's anger, verbal abuse, and criminal acts. In an imagined conversation, illustrated by drawings, actual photos, and newspaper clippings, his father tells of his own childhood struggles and explains why he made some of his choices. There is a great deal of raw pain here, as John grapples with his memories and the contradictions of his father's life, and it offers no real resolution.

Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello -- Directed by Anthony Lucas I was fascinated by this steampunkish fantasy adventure. Set in a dark, smoky Victorian world of iron dirigibles  and steam-powered computers, it's crafted with elegant silhouetted images. Jasper Morello is a disgraced aerial navigator who has been given one more chance. However, in launching this adventure, he must leave behind his beloved in a city being decimated by the plague. I won't give away any more, but I thought the unusual animation and storytelling were magnificent.

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