By Joan Ellis
Have you rushed to your nearest theater to see Oscar Nominated Short Films 2013?
Of course not. It’s a given for all of us that a flawed distribution system denies us the pleasure of seeing the fine work of filmmakers whose goal is to trigger emotion in 20 minutes. You have to be good to do that, and the ones nominated for Oscars are the best of the year. They are grouped this year in three separate feature films as live action, animated and documentary. You can find them at On Demand, iTunes and in scattered theaters.
Here are the five nominated live action shorts. If you make the effort, you will be rewarded.
Death of a Shadow (Tom Van Avermaet, Belgium) – Beautifully filmed in dark golds and shadow, this story unfolds in the private horror museum of a twisted collector who bargains with a dead World War I soldier. If he captures, with his camera, the moment of death (via time machine) of the collector’s chosen subjects, he will have a second chance at life. Surreal and twisted.
Henry (Yan England, Canada) – Have we ever watched the progress of dementia from within as the victim is experiencing his own decline? What happens in there? Henry leads us from an ordinary morning routine through flashbacks of his life with his wife, a fellow musician. When he has finished, the heartbreak of loss is palpable, the process of disorientation, newly terrible.
Curfew (Sean Christensen, America) – Between beginning and ending scenes of attempted suicide, we meet a brother and sister, graduates of an abused background. Now a single mother, the sister asks her brother to babysit for her daughter. Uncle and niece offer a beautiful tale of an exceptional child who reaches an adult on a deep level. Curfew won an Academy Award just last week.
Buzkashi Boys – (Sam French, Afghanistan/ America) – This grand story tells us much of the way preteen boys in war torn landscapes are free to pursue ordinary pleasure while their parents’ generation is preoccupied with survival. One boy dreams of becoming a player in the iconic sport of Buzkashi, a form of polo where a dead goat is the ball. Though he lures his best friend along in his dream, the other boy is pulled by his own sense of duty to join his father in his blacksmith shop.
Asad (Bryan Buckley, South Africa/America) – A young boy named Asad decides he must prove himself in the chaotic culture of his wartime fishing village in Somalia. Here too, children, on their own always, devise lives of the imagination. You will soar with Asad in his drive to be taken seriously.
The challenge of invoking tears or fright or laughter in 20 minutes – or even less, as some fine filmmakers are doing – was predictable in our age of instant communication. With everything in our lives on fast forward, these five shorts reflect the new need to convey emotion short, powerful bursts.
Joan Ellis’ address on the Internet, which contains her review library, is JoanEllis.com.