2012 Oscar Checklist – Part 7: Live Action Shorts

We’re rolling now. Here are reviews of all 5 nominees for Best Live Action Short.

Pentecost

Damian doesn’t want to be an altar boy. After he accidentally injures the priest it seems he might get his wish. However, his father’s punishment prevents him from watching his favorite “football” team in the big game. Now, he’s given one last chance to conform for an important mass or his sentence will be enforced.

This is a quick and simple one joke film from Ireland. The joke being how mass is treated like a sporting event with the big speech given to the kids before “the game.” It’s a funny joke and I dig the film’s anarchist spirit. But the film is shot quite poorly. It’s too dark and rather soft. And I can’t help but thinking Monty Python could have made this funnier in half the time.

Grade: B-


Raju

A German couple visits India to adopt a child, Raju. Everything is going fine until the boy disappears and the newly minted “father” must frantically search the unfamiliar city for the boy. The father uncovers a few unpleasant secrets and stumbles across a moral conundrum.

It’s not exactly clear what this film is trying to say. It gives off a bit of a mixed message. The searching scenes could stand to be a bit more thrilling, but it seems all the filmmakers cared about was getting to the final dilemma. But once there, it seems all they have to say is this is an issue and it has a lot of grey area. The actor playing the father (Wotan Wilke Mohring) is very good, but the film is too long for a story so undercooked.

Grade: C


The Shore

Ciarán Hinds (Rome) stars as Joe, an Irishman returning home after fleeing his homeland 25 years earlier. He brings along his daughter Patricia (Kerry Condon, also from Rome). Patricia learns about her father’s old friend Paddy (Conleth Hill, Game of Thrones) whom he hasn’t spoken with all these years. Why did Joe leave? And what happened between Joe and Paddy? And is reconciliation at hand?

Well, all of those questions are answered in the most undramatic way possible. Joe literally sits down on a bench and tells Patricia everything in a horrible bit of exposition. Glad we solved that mystery. There just isn’t anything here. It’s not dramatic and it’s not funny, and it’s the longest short of the group. The only thing keeping it watchable is the top-notch cast, but they’re given very little to work with.

Grade: D+


Time Freak

I love me some time travel and this is a playful riff on the subject. The aptly named Stillman has invented time travel but he becomes obsessed with perfecting the most mundane moments from the previous day. He repeats things like picking up his dry cleaning, or saying “hi” to his buddy until he thinks he’s nailed it.

It’s goofy and fun and pulled off quite smoothly. I actually wish it was longer and crazier so we could see Stillman go down the rabbit hole even further. At the very least it could have used one more tier of hijinks. Still, it’s a fun little film that ends with a very solid laugh.

Grade: B+


Tuba Atlantic

If you took The Straight Story and crossed it with Up and set it on the edge of Norway, you’d have Tuba Atlantic. An old man (who seems to spend most his days finding new and hilarious ways to murder seagulls) is told he has precisely six days to live. A local girl is sent to help him cope with his bad news and if she can she’ll earn some kind of “badge.”

What follows is a very strong film about life, death, and regret. I’m amazed at how much backstory and character development they fit into this short gem. It’s sad, touching, and hilariously deadpan. The old man is a unique character to say the least and the acting is superb. There’s a unique plot thread about a giant tuba loud enough to be heard across the ocean that only deepens the film’s rich texture. The most complete film of the nominees.

Grade: A

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