(same introduction on both versions – review for Live Action Shorts)
I love short films. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I watch usually at least one a day online – either judging for a festival or at shortoftheweekcom – and attend many festivals and watch online. Hell, I even judge for the Crypticon film festival. Earlier this year, I went to the Grave Plot Film Fest (review)and later on will be Bone Bat (2017 review). I’m lucky as the PNW has so many options – the Lovecraft Film Fest in Portland, Seattle International Film Fest (www.siff.net); and Walla Walla Movie Crush among the many.
So of course I check out the Oscar Nominated Short Films every year. And would I be me if I didn’t chime in with my thoughts of the five nominated films. Here they are in order of the showing in the Shorts.tv presentation (now rentable on VOD from your favorite source). After I’ll place my rankings and award thoughts.
“Madre (Mother)” (Spain), directed by Rodrigo Sorgoyen. 16 minutes.
This one I actually watched for Crypticon Film Festival earlier this year! Nice to see something submitted to us was nominated for an Oscar! Just like “Garden Party” from the Bonebat linked to above was nominated last year for Animated Short!
Anyway, the short features a mother and her mother trying to help Ivan, mom’s son, who is alone on a far away beach with his father when the father disappears. Outside of bookending shots of the beach itself, the short is told in one shot in the mother’s apartment. Like last year’s fantastic The Guilty feature, no one outside the room is ever seen, only through the phone conversations. It’s harrowing to try to figure out what is going on, as each character – the mothers and Ivan on the phone- try to figure how to get help as danger approaches. Filming in one roving shot, following the mother mainly, is a great choice, allowing the tension to build and not be undercut by moving away. It helps to get into her head as if we don’t leave we have no idea what is truly happening to Ivan either.
“Fauve” (Canada), Directed by Jeremy Conte, 16 minutes.
Another harrowing child-in-danger tale. Get used to it, it’s a theme this year. Two boys explore an abandoned train and mine. The sheer emptiness of these area, especially as things turn bad, is well shot and the kids are fine; with friend chemistry and natural feel to them. When things turn, your heart falls through and hope for the best. It’s well made; but it does take a moment to get to the inciting incident. It’s tough, surely, but with the pacing thrown off, makes an odd feeling watch.
“Marguerite” (Canada); directed by Marienne Farley; 19 minutes
We get a break of harrowing kids in trouble shorts with “Marguerite”, a somewhat plodding story of an old woman and her caretaker. After finding out her caretaker is a lesbian, she ruminates over the fact she couldn’t realize her love when she was younger and allows her to find peace with it now. That’ts really it. Well shot and acted, but nothing much of a drive, I couldn’t quite connect with it.
“Detainment” (Ireland); directed by Vincent Lambe & Darren Mahon; 30 minutes
Wow. Holy crap this was tough. Based upon the true story of two 10 year old boys kidnapped and killed a younger boy in 1993 Liverpool. The short features recreations of the boys in the separate interrogation rooms with the police and family members, along with cutting to the fateful day as reported by either’s diverging stories. The boys playing Robert and John are haunting in the realness of their performances. If the footage was grainy as if it was filmed in a police station in 1993, I could be told it was the real footage and I’d buy it. The kids, their storytellings, their reactions as their stories get pulled apart, and the reactions to everyone present sinks to the pit of your stomach. Engaging and horrific.
After such a film, I was really hoping the last short would be lighter fare. Then I saw the photo of Nazi tattooed men and women in flag-printed clothes shooting guns. Nope.
Skin; (USA) directed Guy Nattiv; 20 Minutes
First, totally weird to see Georgie from IT and The Prodigy (review) and Danielle MacDonald from Dumplin’ and Patti Cake$ as Neo-Nazis. Georgie is the son of MacDonald and Jared Day (who I thought was the right hand man of Killian in Iron Man 3 but I was wrong). We see his indoctrination into neo-Nazi world, especially when his dad and friends beat up a black man who interacted him in a grocery store as the mans’ family watches. Yes, this is a film that will fill you with anger and anguish. While it had it’s intended feelings while watching, I felt it a little empty even with a major twist towards the end. It just seems too easy to get the anger from the characters and situations and in thinking later I realize this has all been done better in other places.
from least to best
Although I note Detainment as my pick, I expect this to go to Marguerite