Synopsis: Art and humanity collide with compelling stories from the world’s best OSCAR® short live action films: Aya (Israel & France), Boogaloo and Graham (UK), Butter Lamp (France & China), Parvaneh (Switzerland), The Phone Call (UK).
2015 Oscar Nominated Shorts – Live Action 7.5
eyelights: the uniqueness of the programming.
eyesores: the movie-going experience.
I run a straight-edge meetup group. The group exists as a way to connect people who want to socialize in a context where there is no alcohol, cigarette or recreational drugs. There are many reasons for people to join, whether it be lifestyle choice, recovery, religion or just to have the option.
My group went to the local cinema for a screening of the 2015 Oscar-nominated live action shorts. I’m not one to go to the movies that much, but I figured this would be a unique opportunity to see these shorts together; I couldn’t fathom another way to see all of these shorts at a later date.
I was looking forward to seeing what the Academy had selected as their five contestants for the Short Films category – surely they would be wonderful to see. So when the curtains drew open and the lights went low, I was pretty eager; I had my pen and paper at the ready to jot down notes.
Then I heard beverage cans being popped open in the row behind us.
At first, I imagined that someone was being cheap and brought their own soda instead of supporting the local art house cinema. I soon became a bit grumpy. This grew not from this but due to the fact that two of them wouldn’t stop talking. The more they talked, the more impatient I got.
A cinema is not a café!!!
Then the smell of beer wafted over to our row. Bloody hell. The whole row behind us was clandestinely drinking beer. Oh, the irony! Between the incessant noise (which barely stopped after I asked them to be quiet) and the waves of alcohol, I could barely focus on the evening’s programme.
The five shorts were picked from a variety of international sources and ranged from 14 minutes to 39 minutes in length, for a total of nearly two hours. I had purposely avoided the descriptions so that I could go into it fresh, with no preconceived notions, and leaving their few surprises intact.
Parvaneh: This one is about Parvaneh, a young Afghani teenager who has moved to Sweden to help her mom financially and to try to help her immigrate there. Unable to send what little money she has by Western Union, being under 18, she asks a panhandling Swedish teen to help her. The film puts in perspective the two polar opposite cultures’ social expectations all the while bridging the two through the two girls. To me, it was interesting to see Pari gradually let her hair out from under her veil as the film went along. The performances were good, and the subject interesting, but it didn’t move me as much as you’d expect it to. 8.0
La lampe au beurre de yak: A photographer is taking pictures of various Tibetan locals in from of various backdrops – many of which are foreign places. The bulk of the short consists of watching him set up his subjects and interacting with them. It’s light, funny. The punch is at the end, in the great reveal that they’re in front of some mountains and that a bridge is being built right in the middle of the landscape, tarnishing it. I guess you just can’t stop progress. 7.25
The Phone Call: This one takes place in a British crisis center and focuses on a nerdy young woman who gets a call from a man (voiced by Jim Broadbent) who is committing suicide. At first she tries to get as much information as possible so as to get him rescued, but all he wants is someone to talk to in his last moments. He asks her as a “friend”, to just do that – to sort of “hold his hand” as he dies. It features a terrific, subtly emotional, performance from Sally Hawkins, which likely is the reason this was the Oscar winner. Since she is alone in the center (aside for a similarly dorky colleague whom she has an eye on), the camera’s slow pans and focuses are pretty much the only other thing that add to the scene. But it’s plenty. 8.0
Aya: An Israeli woman is waiting at the airport to pick someone up when a hurried chauffeur leaves his colleague’s name plate behind with her. She holds it up, expecting the other chauffeur to return, but he doesn’t, leaving her stuck with the traveler, a Danish music critic. An impulsive person, she decides to take him to his destination in Jerusalem – not only ditching her own connection, but befriending this complete stranger in the process. The dynamic between the two was interesting, if a bit awkward. Strangely, even though it clocks in at close to 40 minutes, and most of it takes place in a car, I didn’t find this one long at all. 7.5
Boogaloo and Graham: Set in Belfast in 1978 (under an oppressive military presence), this light and funny short is about two brothers who are given cute young chicks as pets by their father. As they grow into full-blown chickens, the boys and their pets become inseparable. But the mother grows tired of the mess the chickens make, prompting the parents to offer a dog in trade for the chickens. That is, until the father comes up with a sneaky solution. This one got the most laughs by far, and it was a terrific way to close the programme. 7.75
Frankly, I don’t know if it was the context which prevented me from fully enjoying myself (I spent most of the time hunched forward to get away from the sounds and smells – I couldn’t move the whole group just for me) or if the shorts just weren’t as terrific as I’d hope them to be, but I left feeling indifferent.
Each short was quite good in its own way, but there was nothing in any of them that I found especially remarkable – aside for Sally Hawkins’ performance in ‘The Phone Call’. But I suspect it’s just me. I would nonetheless recommend seeing them if only to know what made the Academy’s final cut.
And, who knows, maybe they would be more enjoyable in a different context, with a different set of expectations. Having said this, I am very much looking forward to also seeing the animated short films, which have been collected by the same cinema and are being screened in the next week.
Date of viewing: March 16, 2015