Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts (Various, NR)

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Dreamscape Charity is definitely not interested in fulfilling the wish of cancer patient David (Samuel Peter Holland) who, with only a few months to live, desires most of all to lose his virginity.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This year’s crop of Oscar nominees for best live action short all manage to do something that longer films frequently don’t accomplish: tell a story with a beginning, middle and end and with characters we can care about. They come from four countries (Belgium, the U.S., Ireland and the U.K.) and offer a variety of genres including horror (The Confession), political drama (Na Wewe), and several varieties of comedy (sweet: The Crush, arch: God of Love, and dark: Wish 143).
 
In The Confession (dir. Tanel Toom; 26 min.), the intensely serious Sam (Lewis Howlett), preparing for his first confession, is concerned the he will have nothing to say. His more high-spirited pal Jacob (Joe Eales) suggests a prank but when gets it out of hand Sam is left with a heavy burden of guilt that he’s not mature enough to process. The Confession tells a complex story in less than half an hour and the director’s striking visual style plus wonderfully natural performances by the young leads make this a memorable film that won Best Foreign Film at the 2010 Student Academy Awards.
 
The Crush (dir. Michael Creagh; 15 min.) also deals with a young boy a bit too serious for his own good; in this case 8-year-old Ardal (Oran Creagh), who has a serious crush on his Second Class teacher (Olga Wehrly). A bit of a dreamer and a great fan of Westerns, Ardal buys her a ring with his pocket money and writes in his 10-year planner just when he plans to marry her. When her real fiancé appears on the scene he is first crushed, then bewildered, then challenges his rival to a duel with pistols. It’s all in good fun until the showdown in the town handball courts where we learn who the real man is.
 
Na Wewe (dir. Ivan Goldschmidt; 19 min.) stands out among the nominees because it looks out into the world rather than inward to its characters’ navels. In 1994, during the civil war in Burundi, a van full of civilians is stopped by heavily-armed members of the Hutu army. They demand that Hutus and Tutsis separate themselves with the implied intent of killing all the Tutsi. It’s not so easy to determine ethnicity, however, and several suspected of trying to pass make desperate efforts to set themselves outside the dichotomy: a woman claims to be from Zaire, a man to not know his own parentage, a third to have a white father. The absurdity of sorting people into dichotomous categories is immediately obvious as is the capriciousness of life and death in such a circumstance when all that really counts is who is holding the machetes and the machine guns.
 
God of Love(dir. Luke Matheny; 18 min.) is a slyly satirical comedy whose central character, lounge singer Raymond Goodfellow (played by the director), has an uncanny resemblance to Malcolm Gladwell. Raymond receives a packet of darts said to have the same power as Cupid’s arrows—but only for six hours at a time—and determines to use them to court the woman of his dreams. It’s ever-so-hip, ever-so-self-aware and ever-so-New-York but also a skillful piece of work which won a Student Academy Award. God of Love is the leading retro entrant in the live-action category (why should the animated shorts have all the fun?) with the incorporation of traditional jazz, black and white cinematography and a multitude of quirky characters plus one tortured soul giving it the flavor of a multi-culti Annie Hall.
 
Wish 143 (dir. Ian Barnes; 24 min.) is a comedy about a well-meaning organization (“Dreamscape Charity”) which seeks to fulfill the last wishes of dying children, but only if it approves of what they wish for. Dreamscape Charity is definitely not interested in fulfilling the wish of cancer patient David (Samuel Peter Holland) who, with only a few months to live, desires most of all to lose his virginity. Well, what was on your mind when you were a teenager? You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and most of all you’ll admire the determination of a young man who is not willing to go gentle into that good night. | Sarah Boslaugh
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