The Film Gang

See 10 Oscar Nominated Films in About 3 1/2 Hours

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KUSP Film Reviewers David Anthony and Dennis Morton

The short films up for Oscars show all the artistry and craft of the feature films  and you can view them in 30 minutes or less usually. KUSP’s film reviewers gave a couple looks at the animated and live action short film categories. Above, hear David Anthony’s review of Oscar nominated short animation films. And here is Dennis Morton’s review of the live action shorts.

Or read on:

Oscar Nominated Short Animation – Review by David Anthony
In the run-up to the 86th 2014 Academy Awards, the category of short film subjects includes two subdivisions, live action and animation. Last week my colleague Dennis Morton discussed the live action nominees. Today I will focus on animated offerings.

Feral directed by Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden, from the United States is a tale of a boy raised in the wilderness then restored to the wilds of “civilization” by a samaritan. Once deposited back into the world of humans he struggles to fit in.

Get A Horse, directed by Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim from the US is an engaging mix of black and white vintage and new color digital Mickey Mouse images, at once arcane and state of the art, yet preserving the essence of the Disney version. This bridged the space between “cartoon” and “animation” by alternating between genres and periods, illustrating just how far we may have come since Mickey’s birth.

Mr. Hublot, directed by Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares from Luxembourg and France is a tender, bittersweet rumination on modern society and the power of love, utilizing figures with human and mechanical features.  Meticulously drawn, this tugs at viewers’ heartstrings while capturing the contradictions of industrial and post-industrial existence.  

Possessions directed by Shuhei Morita from Japan, is a breathtaking and evocative  Japanese story of a man seeking shelter in a storm who is confronted by objects that are anything but inanimate.  The message conveyed by this film is that those things that we fashion and often take for granted might well have their own power, and, if so, it could be supernatural.

Room on the Broom, directed by Max Lang and Jan Lachauer, voiced by Simon Pegg, Gillian Anderson and Rob Brydon from the UK, is an English yarn about a kind-hearted witch who simply does not know how to say no when faced with addressing others’ needs.  The broom in question is thus called upon to accommodate a succession of creatures  seeking comfort and acknowledgment.

A Divers Collection

This one hour 50 minute package is a well-rounded compendium of varied works.

The effect of watching these works (punctuated by an amusing series of interludes by a giraffe and a bird) was surprisingly powerful.  Having seen both sets of shorts, live action and animated, I left the theater with an even greater appreciation of the power of animation, especially after focusing upon it in its international dimension.  It was also intriguing to experience the creative ways in which sound was employed, whether with dialogue or without, and how this contributed to the total aesthetic.

Whether or not you are in the habit of considering animation in particular or the category of short films in general, I heartily encourage you to make an effort to see these fine films, as you may not have the opportunity to do so once the Oscars have ended. Each of these nominees, varying in length from 7 to 30 minutes is worth a look.

On the Live action short films, Dennis Morton recorded the following 

Or read on:

Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films /  Review by Dennis Morton
About the only time we get to watch live action short films in this country is in the few weeks leading up to the Oscars. But at least we get the putative cream of the crop.

This year’s batch of nominees includes a heart-breaker, a wry take on divinity, a suspense laden escape adventure, a chilling portrait of children forced to take up arms, and finally, a seven minute family comedy.

My favorite of the finalists is the first of the five, a heart rending jewel called Helium.

Helium is a Danish film, a twenty three minute masterpiece set in a hospital for gravely ill children. It’s about an unrequited grief, and what happens when kindness is married to the transforming power of story.

There are three central characters in Helium – a nurse whose name we never learn, a hospital janitor named Enzo, and a precocious child named Alfred.

Enzo, as young Alfred points out, is a clumsy janitor, but he makes up for his physical shortcomings with an empathic heart and a compassionate imagination. In very short order Enzo and Alfred bond. The unnamed nurse is torn between professional responsibilities and her own large heart.

I’ve watched Helium three times and found myself weeping on each occasion. It’s one of the most moving films I’ve ever watched, perhaps even the most moving. Not everyone agrees with me. I’m aware of a reviewer who called Helium, in effect, sentimental hogwash. I urge you to find out for yourself.

Martin Freeman as a Different Doctor 

The Voorman Problem, an English entry, is the second short on the roster, and were Helium not included in the lot, I’d be touting Voorman as my favorite.

Most of this thirteen minute gem is set in a prison. The warden has summoned a psychiatrist to examine a prisoner named Voorman. Voorman, in a matter-of-fact manner, claims to be God. The psychiatrist, a no nonsense, by-the-book kind of guy, sets out to disabuse Voorman of his fallacious belief. Their conversations surprise and delight. As does the conclusion of this witty tale.

The third film in the package, Just Before Losing Everything, is a French entry, and, at thirty minutes, the longest of the five shorts. For the first several minutes we watch an apparently insouciant child meandering in the general direction of his grade school. That ceases abruptly when he suddenly leaps into a car. One stop later, a teenage girl, the boy’s sister, gets into the car.

They’re in flight, attempting to escape from a brutal man. There are many suspenseful moments, and enough uncertainty to have viewers constantly on the qui vive.

Critical Contemporary Topics and Raucous Universal Experience

The fourth, a Spanish film called That Wasn’t Me, is set in Africa. It opens with a bit of disarming sexual badinage, but quickly turns brutal. Its focus is the alarming practice of conscripting children and turning them into killing machines. The subject deserves far more time than it’s given – thus the film suffers from a surfeit of content. But it’s worth a view.

And finally, Do I Have To Do Everything Around Here? is a seven minute Finnish film about a family having to rush to an important event. It’s hilarious.

All in all, the whole package is well worth your time.

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