The Oscar nominees for Best Live-Action Shorts are screening this weekend in select theaters throughout the country, along with a program featuring the Oscar nominees for Best Animated Shorts (reviewed here). Traditionally an Academy Award-category with limited audience interest – because nobody’s seen the danged things – this year you’ll be able to watch these films in a proper theater for your viewing pleasure. Or, if you’re not lucky enough to have this program playing at a theater near you, you will be able to download them from iTunes starting February 22nd. The live-action shorts are a particularly excellent crop of films this year, and are highly recommended.
Here are CRAVE Online’s reviews for this year’s outstanding nominated films. (Find out if the Oscar Nominated Short Films program will be playing at near you here.)
The Confession (dir. Tanel Toom)
A young boy is about to give his first confession… but he has nothing to confess. What begins as an ironic tale of committing a sin in order to be a good Catholic takes a horrifying turn, resulting in tragedy and death. Tanel Toom’s film is just as dramatic as it sounds, but almost oppressively so. The Confession is so damned serious that it ultimately feels like a bit of a chore, even though the splendid performances and classy direction clearly make it worthy of Oscar consideration. But Toom’s directorial style is a little too classy, and never once flies off the rails alongside his film’s disturbing storyline, keeping the film a little too steady just when things should be flying off the rails. CRAVE Online Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
The Crush (dir. Michael Creagh)
Another film about little kids and violence, Michael Creagh’s suspenseful comedy The Crush tells the tale of a second grader who wants to marry his pretty schoolteacher. His world then falls apart when he discovers that the object of his affection is already engaged to a total jerk. His solution: a duel to the death, with real guns. Though a little rougher around the edges than The Confession, and a lot less thoughtful, The Crush is a wonderful little story with genuine laughs and truly palpable dramatic tension as the film reaches its smart, dramatic climax. CRAVE Online Rating: 8 out of 10.
God of Love (dir. Luke Matheny)
Writer/director Luke Matheny also stars in this absolutely delightful short film as Ray, a jazz crooner/darts enthusiast who is hopelessly in love with his drummer, who in turn is in love with his guitarist, who in turn wants nothing to do with her. His prayers are finally answered by the mysterious ‘Olympus Foundation,’ which provides him with a series of magical, love-inducing darts. His journey goes exactly where you expect it to, but also a lot of other places on the way that are just as fun. Full of rich belly laughs and eccentric plot points (in crafting the perfect dream date, Ray redecorates his apartment to look like the barn from Witness), Matheny proves himself a real talent in front of and behind the camera. God of Love couldn’t be more highly recommended. CRAVE Online Rating: 10 out of 10.
Na Wewe (dir. Ivan Goldschmidt)
The most unexpected story in the program, Na Wewe watches in dismay as a busload of helpless travelers are caught up in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, held at gunpoint by Hutu soldiers and frantically trying to explain why each of them shouldn’t be killed. It sounds horrifying, but don’t be fooled: Na Wewe is one of the funniest movies of the year. The Hutus are increasingly baffled by the flaws in their own logic, and begrudgingly forced to accept that practically every one of their prisoners has done nothing to deserve any kind of punishment. The reality of the Rwandan genocide is never disrespected in any way, and yet somehow that just makes Ivan Goldschmidt’s film that more enjoyable. You don’t believe he’s poking fun at genuine tragedy, just that he’s found the one hilarious and inspiring side-story to spring from the whole horrible ordeal. CRAVE Online Rating: 9 out of 10.
Wish 143 (dirs. Ian Barnes, Samantha Waite)
What first appears to be straightforward Oscar bait about a 16-year-old boy dying of cancer quickly reveals itself to be a witty little comedy about a 16-year-old boy trying to live a little while he still can. Samuel Peter Holland is exceptional as David, who surprises the ‘Make A Wish’ foundation with his dying request: to have sexual intercourse. All the usual arguments against teenaged coitus – sex is about love, you should wait until it’s perfect, etc. – seem pretty thin to David, who simply doesn’t have time for the whole ‘age’ part of ‘coming of age.’ Not nearly as dour (or sexually-charged) as you’d imagine, and all the more moving for it. Wish 143 is a winner. CRAVE Online Rating: 9 out of 10.
CRAVE Online Rating (Entire Program): 9.5 out of 10.