One of the things that has always bothered me about the Academy Awards is the Short Film categories.
It's great that the Academy takes time to honor these movies by the world's up-and-coming talent.
The problem, though, is that few of us ever get to actually see them! Some years, the short films are released on DVD (like the 2007 short films nominees). However, most years, we can only judge the films' merits based on the 5-second snippet shown during the awards.
So, when I found out that our local arts theater was showing all of the short films nominated for 2012 Academy Awards, I jumped at the chance! If you are looking to impress your friends and family, or just want to learn more about this year's nominees, here is a pocket guide to this year's 2012 Academy Awards Short Film (live action) nominees!
This short film from Ireland opens with an altarboy in a small Irish congregation making an embarrassing (and hilarious!) mistake during a service. However, when the archbishop comes to the church to conduct a mass, the altarboy gets a shot at redemption.
I have to say, this film started the set off just right. When the clergy began their preparations for the important visit, their over-the-top intensity kept the humor coming at a steady clip. That and the surprise ending made the short film very enjoyable and very memorable. I don't think it has quite the gravity Academy voters are looking for, but it is a great entrant nonetheless.
This German/Indian movie follows the story of a German couple who travel to India to adopt an orphan. Although everything seems fine at first, the couple soon discover a dark secret about the orphanage they adopt from. This secret forces them to face a moral dilemma - should they take the orphan with them back to Germany, or return the orphan to where he belongs?
This short film was a stand-out among the rest of the contenders. The acting and production values were first rate. The scenes of everyday Calcutta were so sharp and realistic you could almost smell the curry in the market. If you didn't know it was intended to be a short film, you could have easily thought it was a condensed cut of a feature-length film. It was also the longest of the short films, and the only one not to include any comedy. Raw and affecting, this could easily take the Oscar.
This film from Northern Island follows the story of two old friends from Northern Ireland as time and fate lead them to a challenging reunion. Jim, a Northern Irish ex-pat, comes back home to give his adult daughter a tour of his homeland. Patty, an old, close friend of Jim's, lives near the shore outside of Belfast, collecting unemployment and shellfish from the shore to make ends meet. Jim's daughter soon discovers the emotional past shared by Patty and her father, and the two have a powerful and hilarious reunion in Jim's hometown.
This film was one of my favorites. It follows a typically Irish tradition of swinging between deep, emotional drama and over-the-top, screwball comedy. The climactic meeting scene between Jim and Patty was so uproariously funny that some folks in the theater fell out of their chairs laughing. This film also stars Kerry Condon of HBO's Rome series as Jim's daughter, and she does a terrific job of driving the plot and keeping an emotional center to this great film. This one has a real shot at an Oscar.
This American short film follows a man who tracks down his mad scientist friend after the scientist has just invented a time machine. The man soon discovers that, rather than using his machine for research, his friend has been using the machine to perfect the previous day.
One part "Time Machine", one part "Groundhog Day", this film was remarkably sharp and funny. The socially-challenged inventor has take after hilarious take while trying to perfect his ordinary day, leading to an ending both tight and appropriate. Like "Pentecost", I'm not sure if this one has the gravity to take an Oscar, but it is another worthy contender.
This Norwegian movie follows Oskar, an old man who discovers that he has only six more days to live. While he sets about finishing his life's task list, he is accompanied by a plucky, naïve teenage girl from the local Angels of Death, a church group tasked with comforting the dying. Together, they finish his life's work, including completing a giant machine-driven tuba that can be heard across the ocean.
This movie was the most uneven of the short films, but also by far the funniest. The old man, who lives near the sea, carries on his vendetta with seagulls in increasingly ridiculous ways, ranging from shooting them with a machine gun, to blowing them up with dynamite, to dropping a washing machine on one wayward bird. The scene and aftermath where the giant tuba finally comes to life are both side-splittingly funny and strikingly touching. Overall, a great entry.
The 2012 Oscar-Nominated Short Films - In Brief
I was impressed by the quality of each and every one of these great short films. Academy voters have a very difficult choice to make this year. My guess is that Raju will end up taking the Oscar, but The Shore is a strong dark horse. Regardless of who wins, the award will be well-deserved. Have a great Oscar night!