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Mar 1, 2010

Fletch's Film Review: The 2010 Oscar Nominated Live-Action Short Films

As I'd hoped, we got out in time to catch the Oscar-nominated Live-Action short program in time for the Academy Awards (not that that's the only reason to see them; how often do you get a chance to watch 5 or more of the best short films of the year, all for one low monthly price?). As I did with the Animated program, here are some capsule reviews of the films:

Slumdog Millionaire minus the happy ending, more or less. While I don't think it necessarily the best, this 19-minute student film about a modern-day slave worker named Kavi has Oscar bait (and win?) written all over it. Its supreme purpose is to educate the world to the 27 million people currently enslaved in one form or another. Kavi, endentured due to an outstanding debt of his parents, wants little more than to go to school and play cricket; instead, he moves bricks from one spot of land to another for hours a day until one day he is forced to make a choice regarding his future. Kavi is powerful in its harshness, but, while commendable, I'm sad to say that it's a familiar story, and this entry doesn't exactly have all that much going for it beyond a cute, charismatic child actor to make it stand apart from the rest.

The New Tenants
I enjoyed this off-putting, dark-as-night comedy from first-time director Joachim Back, one that starts off with you wondering just who it is you're watching and why you should care what they're saying (it's David Rakoff, and you more of less shouldn't) to wondering just where in the name of hell the story is going to end up (you might never guess). Along the way, some terrific character actors that you all ought to know and love show up (Vincent D'Onofrio and Kevin Corrigan) just to throw the new tenants for a few loops. Nutty and uneven, but a good time nonetheless.

Miracle Fish
It would be almost too easy to spoil this Australian production about an 8-year's birthday at school; suffice it to say that this, too, will leave you scratching your head, yet not just at the beginning but all the way through. A bit whimsical, a bit charming, a bit disturbing, and I'm a bit confused as to how it got nominated.

The Door
A personalized, fictionalized account of the Chernobyl meltdown and its after-effects. If I don't have much to say about it, it's mostly because the film doesn't give me much to work with; sure, it's tragic, but there isn't much of a theme beyond risking all that you must for the love of another.

Instead of Abracadabra
So I go to the Animated program, and (ok, not surprisingly) it's filled with quirky comedies, so much that even the one specfically about death is the madcap zaniest of them all. Meanwhile, what happens at the Live-Action show? 4/5 of the way through and I've dealt with a massacre, slavery, radiation leaks and a black comedy that nevertheless has a high body count. WTF? I was ready to slit my damn wrists.

Thank christ that it ends with this Swedish comedy about a loser 25-year old still living with his now-annoyed father and blissfully understanding mother. He's Napoleon Dynamite mixed with G.O.B. Bluth, and just about as funny as either. Watch the entire Shorts program at your peril, but definitely seek out Abracadabra, a hilarious, quirky (yes, but in a good way), charming film that will have you saying "Chimay!" long after the credits roll (well, if you're anything like me).

Here's a few scenes:

Information about the the Shorts International program (and where you might be able to catch it) can be found here.

Overall grade:

Fletch's Film Rating:
"Darn tootin!"
Shaky Cam Rating (details):LAMBScore:
Large Association of Movie BlogsLarge Association of Movie Blogs

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