Murderous Children and Misplaced Woo: The 2011 Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts
Short films can be potent little nuggets of gleeful chaos. It's a crying shame that the short form flick doesn't get enough respect -- it's the gold standard for film schools and festivals, but outside of that, they get virtually no exposure. This year's crop is particularly brutal humor -- the best examples of how you can do a lot with 20 minutes worth of film. Like the best pictures themselves, it's s nice five off of horror, comedy, drama, war, unrequited love and a whole lot of wicked, wicked youngsters. In fact, of the five there's only one that fulfills the requisite hipster black and white clown flipping a pancake piece -- and that's not even that bad. It's a damn fine batch of short films, and it'll be difficult to choose a favorite.
For those among us who knelt our way to salvation through the Catholic sacraments, Tarel Toom's The Confession will ring all too true. Two young school boys worry about what they'll confess for their first confession. What starts out as innocent, Goony fun takes a turn for the macabre. It's a sinister little Twilight Zone episode, a wee bit predictable, and the ending is a little bit faulty, but otherwise it's got wonderful performances from the two young male leads.
This Irish flick is gloriously fucked up. A ten-year-old pines adorably for his schoolteacher, so much that it smacked-of Ralphie-level adoration. He offers her a ring which she accepts, only to discover that she's dating a complete tool. And from there the film goes places I didn't expect. A bit punchline, but so saccharine sweet and darkly cruel. Plus, the flick feels almost like a family affair from Michael Creagh -- the credits were full of the same names.
God of Love
Yeah. Here's the hipster flick. And I know people always accuse us of overusing the word. Holy fuck. Here's the goddamn textbook example. Luke Matheny -- in a film produced at Tisch at NYU -- creates the epitome of hipster swerve. It's like Wes Anderson by way of Westchester. Luke Matheny plays a crooner in a jazz band who throws darts as part of his act. He's in love with his drummer, who loves his best friend Fozzie. He prays to God, and receives a gift from Olympus of darts that he can throw and cause people to be susceptible to love for six hours. It's got so many little quirks it's unbelievable. And yet, there's something endearing about it. I'm almost waiting for Luke Matheny and Lena Dunham to get together and give birth to a porkpie hat and a record label you can't appreciate.
While Ivar Goldschmidt's film isn't quite as charming as West Bank Story, his short film on the Hutu/Tutsi tribal warfare in Burundi is still pretty spectacular. It's horrifying, watching these conscripted rebels hold guns on a busload of travelers to ferret out and murder the Tutsis. And yet there is still a strong throughline of humor that keeps the film entertaining. This is my front runner favorite.
It's pretty difficult to make cancer funny. Usually, it ends up straight up gallows humor. And there's plenty of that in Wish 143. A teenager in the cancer ward is granted a final wish -- and his wish is to spend an hour with a naked woman. It's a combination of the coming of age movie and the cancer drama and it nails it on all cylinders. With a splendid performance by the lead actor, and a bevy of cameos I know I'm thorough underappreciating thanks to my lack of Brit knowledge, it manages to avoid pitfalls. It stays on the side of sweet, and never underplays the drama of the cancer, which adds to the beauty of the final project.
If I had to pick a winner, I'd love to go with Na Wewe, because even though it's going the political route, it manages to still toe the humor strongly. If any of these win, and yes I'm including Luke Matheny's hipsteriffic flick, it'd be hard pressed to be disappointed. These are the kind of flicks that you hope for when you watch the shorts programs at film festivals.