This is the time of year when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences begins to winnow the fields of some of the Oscar categories, such as the short film categories. I’ve had the chance to see five of the films shortlisted in the Best Live Action Short category. Each of these films has multiple awards from film festivals. They all have a chance at getting an Oscar nomination. Nominations will be announced January 22. Here is a brief look at each, and my thoughts on them.
Madre (18 minutes, directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen). A mother is in her apartment when she gets a call from her six year-old son who is on a trip to the beach with his father. The father has gone off and not come back. The boy is unsure even what country he is in. Slowly panic begin to fill the mother as she tries to find a way to get help to her son. Comments: The film does well to build the sense of fear and helplessness. A very interesting premise that is well executed.
Wale (20 minutes, directed by Barnaby Blackburn). A black English eighteen year-old is trying to establish a business as a mobile mechanic. But having learned the trade in a juvenile offenders prison is not a great recommendation. One man takes a chance on him, but when Wale begins work on the car he finds a body in the trunk. How can he avoid being framed for the crime? Comments: One of the joys of shorts is how they can so concisely tell their story—in this case a thriller that builds quickly once the discovery is made.
Detainment (30 minutes, directed by Vincent Lambe). The film is reenactments based on the transcript of interviews of two ten year-old boys who in 1993 abducted a toddler from a shopping mall and killed him. The two boys have different personalities that come out in the questioning, one is fearful, the other defiant and aggressive. Comments: This is a chilling story. The James Bulger case was world famous, in part because the two boys were tried as adults. It is hard to fathom what would lead two children to such a evil act. There is no psychologizing included. We just slowly get some of the facts.
Fauve (17 minutes, directed by Jeremy Comte). Another film with two ten year-old boys. As they play in fields and in an abandoned plant and quarry, they eventually get into trouble—trouble that they cannot get out of on their own, but there is no one to help. Comments: As you see the tragedy coming, it’s hard to continue watching, but we keep hoping that there will be some help that will arrive in time.
Marguerite (17 minutes, directed by Marianne Farley). The story of an aging woman and the visiting caregiver. After learning that the caregiver is in a same-sex relationship, the woman remembers back to a time in her past when she was in love, but never admitted it. When she confesses to the caregiver, the caregiver’s response is kind and tender. Comments: There is a great sweetness to this film (as opposed to the darkness that dominates the other films). The tenderness, kindness, and love of the caregiver makes this my favorite of these shortlisted films.