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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Live-Action Shorts

The National Archives held a screening of the 5 films nominated for the Live-Action Short award. The woman introducing them (from the National Gallery of Art's film division) stated that, this year, the "shorts were much stronger than the best picture nominees." This led to a "oooh" (as in "oh-snap") by the Academy savvy audience. Whether they are "better" than the best-pic nominees or not (to me its a bit like apples and oranges), they did absolutely captivate me and make me more interested in seeing shorts. Here are the films, in my descending order of quality.

New Boy

I absolutely loved this short from Ireland, based on a Roddy Doyle story. Its a rather simple story of an African boy who is new in an Irish school. While he adjusts to his first day, the film flashes back to his school and family in Africa. Funny, poignant, and beautifully shot.

Auf der Strecke (On the Line)

This movie was by far the longest of the bunch (30 min), and its able to tell a lot of story in a short amount of time. As it starts, it seems to be a slight comedy-drama about a shy man in love with a woman he works with. It quickly changes to something much darker as it deals with death, guilt, and responsibility. Powerful stuff.

Grisen (The Pig)

Dutch film that was the funniest of the bunch, and also the most provocative. Its about a Dutch man who is in the hospital and grows very attached to a whimsical picture of a pig. When a Muslim man shares his room, his family takes the picture down. A rather ridiculous fight ensues, and the movie raises questions of tolerance in modern society without providing easy answers.

Spielzeugland (Toyland)

At first, I was resistant to this film, as I didn't really think we needed another film about children and the Holocaust and it seemed overly reminiscent of Life is Beautiful. By the end, however, I was crying along with most of the theater. I still have some reservations, but it definitely moved me. Bet on it for your Oscar pool.

Manon sur le bitume (Manon on the Asphalt)

A very French film about the ways our lives intersect with others, the things we value, and how important it is to tell others. If this sounds trite, I think that's because it is. The Diving Bell and the Butterly covered similar material more skillfully and deeply. Still, the movie was well-made and it told its tale well.

Overall, a highly enjoyable bunch of movies. If you have any chance to see them, I recommend it!

New Boy: A-
Auf der Strecke: A-
Grisen: B+
Spielzeugland: B-
Manon sure le bitume: B-

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