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Thread: Oscar Nominated Shorts, 2019

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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    Oscar Nominated Shorts, 2019

    Oscar Nominated Shorts, 2019.

    All but one of them focuses on children in danger, and they seem aimed to gain our attention by shocking and frightening us. They are of impressive quality, emotionally powerful, and bring up important themes.


    DETAINMENT ((Vincent Lambe and Darren Mahon)
    The longest, at thirty minutes, relates to the murder of John Bulgar, a two-year-old toddler, by two ten-year-old boys in England, near Liverpool, in 1993. There are bits of the abduction of the victim and much of the separate interrogation of the two young killers. Much emotional effect is derived from the performance of Ely Solan, who plays Venables, the more sensitive and guilt-ridden of the two boys. It's all heightened and concentrated through much editing, which makes it seem unnecessarily busy. The film has shock value, bringing to life a horrifying event. It doesn't shed much light, but simply confronts us with something appalling and incomprehensible: that young boys could have killed a small child seemingly for sport. It's all about the event and teasing out admission of guilt but leaves us, the viewers, in the dark about how and why this happened and what happened to the guilty boys. As Eric Kohn says in Indiewire, this at least "provides a good excuse for further reading." The act is horrifying. So is the weakness of the perpetrators: because they are helpless too, and that they essentially went to jail at the age of ten is also horrifying and seems wrong.

    MARGUERITE (Marianne Farley and Marie-Hélène Panisset) 19 mins.The outlyer of the group,this nineteen-minute French Canadian film stars Béatrice Picard as Marguerite, an elderly woman who confronts her own long-repressed romantic feelings for another woman after learning that her home care nurse Rachel (Sandrine Bisson) is a lesbian. Marguerite is a handsome woman, though not quite ell, and at the end of life. The rapport between her and her daily caretaker is sweet and takes us into caregiving, age, and same-sex attraction in a graceful, elegant way. But in order to achieve its effects the film dips into sentimentality a bit, as short films do. The whole thing feels like a classy and specific buildup to a "Hallmark moment." But the focus on an elderly person and on memory and regret is welcome. In Eric Kohn's canny ranking for Indiewire, this is the runner-up to FAUVE and the only one that might steal away the Academy's hearts from that one for the Oscar.

    MADRE (Rodrigo Sorogoyen and María del Puy Alvarado) 19 mins.
    Spanish. Consists of a divorced mother at home who gets a call from her six-year-old son with his father on a beach. The father has seemingly disappeared, the beach is deserted, the boy is lost and frightened, and the mother can do nothing to help. This is an amping-up monodrama with an unseen interlocutor, like the Norwegian police thriller The Guilty. The Spanish of Spain seems great for expressing controlled hysteria. The sense of helplessness is palpable. A taut drama with a virtuoso performance, but it never quite goes anywhere, just pumps the premise. One note, intensely evoked.

    SKIN (Guy Nattiv and Jaime Ray Newman) 20 mins.
    It means skinhead, and probably also tattoo. The only nominated short set in the US. The director, Guy Nattiv, is Israeli. Nattiv has since expanded the milieu into a feature based on Bryan Widner's Erasing Hate and starring Jamie Bell and Vera Farmiga, which debuted last fall at Toronto. At first SKIN has a documentary feel as it shows a racist white nationalist type with a cute little boy whom he adores and who loves him. The action revolves around the boy. It reminded me of the scary but exciting white underclass atmosphere of Andrea Arnold's 2016 American Honey. The father does something awful to a black man who makes friendly with his son; then he receives nasty retribution. Again there is the effort to make the 20 minutes pay off as intensity and shock. The surprise, shocker ending undermines the real, authentic feel and life of the initial scenes; but in a time when white suprematism has become almost mainstream, the theme of racism is highly relevant.


    FAUVE (Jérémy Comte and Maria Gracia Turgeon) 17 mins.
    one of the two live action shorts finalists that are French Canadian this year. Two boys play and challenge each other near an open pit mine, with dangerous consequences. More good child actors as in "Detainment" and "Skin." In fact these two, especially the dominant one, are the best yet, quite amazing. Original and haunting, this multiple-prizewinner shines out above the rest as something you won't forget. Best not to give away the details of the aciton in advance.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-19-2019 at 05:05 PM.


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