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Film Review

2010 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films

For the last few years, Landmark Theaters have been showing the five Oscar nominated short films, both animated and live action. A short film is defined as less than 30 minutes in length, with most about 10-15 minutes each. There are five in each category, and both programs are very impressive this year. The live action selection was particularly outstanding and accomplished. Nothing amateur here. The first film is Kavi, from India. A young boy works with his family in near slave conditions in a mud brick factory yard. He briefly watches a cricket game being played by children from wealthy families, and yearns to join them, but cannot leave. The story is wrenching and powerful, made to illustrate the terrible working conditions in some underdeveloped countries, where people are grateful for work, no matter how hard or degrading. The second film is The New Tenants, from Denmark. A very dark comedy about two men, who have just moved into an apartment, one eating junk food, and the other telling him how that horrible food will kill him. But the pessimistic scold is smoking, which irritates the first. They bicker, when the doorbell rings. It is an older woman from upstairs, asking to borrow some flour so she can make her much loved cinnamon buns for her grand daughter. The guys rummage around, find a plastic bag filled with flour, they think, and give it to the woman. The woman tells them the horrible story of the former tenant, who was shot to death in the apartment, then the couple downstairs, coming up to see what the noise was about, were also killed. She asks them sweetly, didn't they tell you? A few minutes later, the door bell rings again. This time a thugish looking guy with a big wrench comes in, wanting to kill Fred. Fred was the former tenant, and upon hearing this, the guy sits down and sobbingly tells his tale of Fred seducing his wife. The door bell rings yet again, and I don't want to reveal more, except to say no one will fall asleep watching this.

The third nominee is The Door, submitted by Ireland, but filmed in the Ukraine. The film opens with a man running through an apparently deserted city on a winter night. He eventually goes into an abandoned building, and seems to know his destination, ending up in an apartment, with signs of the occupants having left quickly, leaving everything behind. He pries off the front door, puts it on his motorcycle, and rides away. The film then flashes back to a young couple, with an angelic blond daughter, who lived in that apartment, but were forced to leave because of "a serious industrial accident". Again, I don't want to say more, but this was the most powerful and melancholy of the films, with gorgeous cinematography of sad events. The fourth nominee is Miracle Fish, from Australia. A mother drops her 8 year old off at school, and in his lunchbox, a magic fish toy as a birthday present. He is bullied a bit by other kids, and goes to the nurse's office to take a nap. But when he awakens just a few hours later, he discovers that he is alone in the school. He wanders around, mystified but unafraid, until he picks up a ringing cell phone. Again, nothing further from me, but suffice to say the tension throughout is tremendous. Instead of Abracadabra, from Sweden, is the fifth nominee. This quirky entry looks at a 25 year old man, still living with his parents, jobless, but trying to be a magician. It has a sly and sometimes slapsticky humor, with many twists, but never lags.

All five films total only 101 minutes, but every minute is a treasure. The directors are immensely creative; each must tell a story and develop the characters, all in a very short period. The acting is uniformly excellent, even minor characters, and the cinematography very fine, and in some cases, brilliant. Most of these shorts are understated, yet pack a real power, and are as good as any full length film that I have seen. It was a great experience. These are being shown on the big screen in only a few cities, and I urge you to see them. Opened this weekend at both the Lumiere and Opera Plaza.

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