Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Review: Oscar-nominated short films: Live Action

"Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?"

A ferociously funny Finnish short written by Kirsikka Saari and Selma Vilhunen, this 7-minute comedy takes its title from the lament that has escaped the lips of every mother, ever. A young family arises to realize they are late for an important wedding, and the matron must drive everyone like a slave master. The daughters end up in Halloween-y costumes and the husband dawdles with his coffee and beard-grooming. Short, sharp and with extra zest because it will be so familiar to most families.

"That Wasn't Me"

This searing Spanish drama set in war-torn Africa is the story of Kaney, a corporal and child-soldier who gets caught between his own adopted "family" of fellow killers and a pair of Spanish doctors who are in-country on a life-saving mission. Kaney is forced to make horrible choices at the point of a gun, and at first he seems like an irredeemable soul. But despite a tragic turn of events, a framing story lets us know that not all children are lost in war. Terrific performances by the cast and spot-on direction and writing by Esteban Crespo.


Alfred (Pelle Falk Krusbæk) is a Danish boy dying of an unnamed disease, and Enzo (Casper Crump) is the introverted, clumsy new janitor who meets him on his hospital rounds. The moment where he says to the man that everyone is telling him he will go to heaven will freeze your blood, and set the tone for this four-hanky weepie. Centering on the boy’s love of airships, Enzo spins an ongoing tale of Helium, an afterlife made up of floating islands where Alfred can play football all day and visit his loved ones – a world represented in lovely CG. Elegiac, beautiful and brimming with soulfulness.

"The Voorman Problem"

"I equipped humans with free will mainly so they could dream up new ways to entertain me."
So says the title character (Tom Hollander), a scruffy lunatic inside a British prison who insists that he is God. Martin Freeman plays the psychiatrist sent to evaluate him, and the two soon engage in a cat-and-mouse game in which the man of science is steadily convinced by the would-be deity of his authenticity. Directed by Mark Gill, who co-wrote the film with Baldwin Li, this clever pitch-black comedy will unnerve you, then make you laugh, then feel bad about your mirth.

"Just Before Losing Everything"

A taut drama from France, this film by writer/director Xavier Legrand explores a regular family in crisis. At first we don't quite know what's going on, as Legrand misdirects the audience and draws out long moments of tension. A young boy appears to be ditching school, and then climbs into a car with a woman, later picking up a teenage girl. Eventually we learn this is a mother and her two children, who drive to her work in a mega-market, where urgent demands are made and troubled looks exchanged between co-workers. I kept waiting for the film to take a turn into the unexpected, but it follows exactly the path we think it will go. Still, it's skillfully made and leaves us hungry for more of this story.

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