Short films are often difficult to come by, so for those die hard Oscar fans who want to see the Oscar nominated short films before the awards ceremony takes place it can be quite a challenge to do so. However, when you live close to a great arts theater like the Michigan Theater, you reap the benefit by getting the change to catch them.
Having just watched the Live Action Shorts, I thought that I’d take the chance to provide a small review for each, along with my pick for the Oscar winner. The field consisted of five films from a variety of countries, some comedic in theme and some more serious. Well, let’s get to it. I’ll review them in the order I saw them and leave the trailer for each:
Helium – Denmark
The first of the shorts is a charming and sad film about a young boy who is dying from a terminal illness. He meets a janitor who feels bad for the boy and begins to tell him stories of a mythical heaven-like land called ‘Helium’ in order to ease the boys fear of death.
The film is well presented and well acted, particularly by the young boy who plays Alfred. He is particularly good. The scenes between the two of them start of really charming, and are the best moments in this film. Where things fall apart for me are in the average special effect filled scenes of the young boy in his imaginary land, which are just a little cheesy and take away from the emotion and powerful nature of the real dialogue and interaction. Overall though, the film was good and left a decent mark on me in it’s short 23 minute runtime.
Movie Melt Score: 6.5/10
The Voorman Problem – England
Well this is a short short at around 13 minutes, but it immediately caught my attention as it has the most star power, with The Hobbit’s Martin Freeman as a psychiatrist sent to treat a prison inmate (Tom Hollander) who has convinced the rest of the prisoners that he is a god.
The film shapes up wonderfully, and after the two character’s initial dialogue I was completely intrigued, expecting some kind of moral, religious or philosophical paradox or dilemma that would leave me thinking. However, as good as the dynamic between the leads was, and as funny and somewhat creepy as the film was, it’s conclusion was too abrupt and failed miserably to live up to the hype.
This was one of the shortest films and in my opinion, based on potential, should have been extended to be the longest. Hopefully it will be extended one day to be a longer film which further develops this fantastic idea.
Movie Melt Score: 7/10
Just Before Losing Everything (Avant Que De Tout Perdre) – France
I had very few expectations going into this French thriller, and was expecting a slow moving drama investigating an abusive relationship. Instead, what I got was an incredibly simple idea taken in a direction that was incredibly unique and made for a brilliant short film.
The films star is a woman who appears to be fleeing town for some reason, with her children. We learn soon that she is fleeing an abusive husband, but from here the film takes a direction that proved extremely powerful. Instead of focusing on the relationship between her and her husband, he is simply assumed to be a monster, and this is revealed slowly through clues and images. What we get to see is a highly intense, realistic and simple yet effective view of their attempts to flee town out of a shopping center without being caught by the abuser.
This turns a simple idea of leaving town into what is almost like a heist/escape movie, with the added aspect of family and friend dynamics and an incredible amount of tension. Truly brilliant, simple but original short film making.
Movie Melt Score: 9/10
That Wasn’t Me (Aquel No Era Yo) – Spain
What I assumed going in, having seen some small clips, was that this hard hitting thriller about the war torn African nations and the horrible use of child soldiers, would be the sure fire Oscar winner. Having seen the previous film, this was not so much of a given, but I still had high hopes here. The film wastes very little time getting into the action, and we are immediately thrown into the middle of a violent, scary and brutal reality.
Three aid workers are kidnapped by child soldiers and mistaken by their leader as people attempting to steal the kids. In what follows the director shows no fear and holds nothing back, showing killings, violence and even rape. This is hard hitting stuff, but at times it feels a little too forced in it’s attempts to shock us. Still, it’s gritty stuff, but just seemed to lack enough substance to really get us into the character. Perhaps that was part of the point.
Where the film did really shine though was it’s action scenes. For a short they were spectacular and truly thrilling, particularly the scenes between the woman and the young boy. There is one moment of truly awful special effects though, which was really unnecessary, so look out for that.
Movie Melt Score: 7/10
Do I Have To Take Care Of Everyting? (Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa) – Finland
The shortest of all the films, this one is a mere 7 minutes long and follows the attempts of one family to get ready for a wedding for which they overslept. In particular it follows the mother, who we are led to believe is forced by her lazy husband and crazy kids to do all the work.
We learn that this may be a little less sure than we thought and this is certainly the funniest of the films. There are some moments of real hilarity here, particularly involving the couples two children and I let out some real laughs.
In terms of substance though the film just doesn’t have enough to be a real contender.
Movie Melt Score: 6.5/10
Well, this all being said my pick for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short is……..
Just Before Losing Everything