Thursday, February 9, 2012
Reviews: Oscar-nominated short films -- Live Action
In 1977 Ireland, football-obsessed Damien (Scott Graham) is an unwilling altar boy at the local church, whose job is to carry the incense burner at Mass. Alas, after a (accidental?) catastrophe, he’s out of a job and forbidden by his strict father to watch the big upcoming match. But when the Archbishop comes to town, he’s the only censer-carrier available. This darkly comic bit is highlighted by a priest giving a hilarious motivational speech to his “team” before the big event, punctuated by the command to “Go out there and have the Mass of your lives!”
3 stars out of four
This harrowing drama looks at the issue of international adoption with a sobering perspective. Jan and Sarah, a loving young German couple, arrive in Calcutta to adopt Raju, an impossibly winsome 4-year-old Indian boy. Their lives seem destined for happiness, until the boy disappears in the street market on their second day together. During his excruciating search for the boy, Jan discovers a secret that threatens to tip all their lives in unexpected ways. This film is hard to watch at times, but deserves to be seen.
I adored this heartwarming dramedy about an Irishman named Jim (Ciarán Hinds) returning to the Emerald Isle after 25 years with his daughter (Kerry Condon) in tow. He’s there to see old friends and relatives, but there’s a ghost trailing him. He has unresolved relationships with his former best friend Paddy (Conleth Hill) and fiancée Mary (Maggie Cronin), who have since married each other. Paddy lost an arm in The Troubles, and spends his days digging mussels and crabs out of the kelp that washes up on the seashore, while collecting government unemployment assistance (“the dole”). A brave and joyful little film, with laughs and tears in that distinctly Irish way.
A wonderfully inventive comedy about a young scientist, Stillman, who creates a time machine with the intention of visiting ancient Rome. Instead, he gets caught in a web of his own making, trying to re-do all his social interactions until he gets them just right. The result is a super-funny take-off on “Groundhog Day” courtesy of writer/director Andrew Bowler. Kind of a one-joke movie, but it’s a good joke.
This daffy black comedy from Norway is about Oskar, an elderly fisherman who spends his time battling seagulls – including shooting them out of the sky with a machine gun, and stepping on their eggs. He learns he has six days to live, which are made even more aggravating by the enforced presence of Inger, the teenage “Death Angel” assigned to stay with him so the authorities will allow him to die at home instead of a hospital. Oskar becomes obsessed with the ide of communicating with Jon, the brother he hasn’t spoken to in 30 years. Since he doesn’t know where Jon lives, the answer may lie with the monstrous mechanical tuba they built decades ago, reputedly capable of transmitting sound waves thousands of miles. Kooky, wry and surprisingly touching.