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Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action
Pentecost: B
Raju: A-
The Shore: B+
Time Freak: B
Tuba Atlantic: A

For some reason I have a tendency to think the Oscar-nominated animated shorts will be better than the live action ones. And while the animated ones were a bit better than usual this year, on average, the live action shorts are actually a bit better than the animated.

pentecostPentecost is an amusing 11-minute short from Ireland that combines two serious passions from the region: Catholicism and soccer (or course, they actually say "football"). A little boy makes an embarrassing mistake at mass and is father punishes him by forbidding him to follow football on the radio or have posters on his wall: "No football!" But then an important mass is to be performed, and the boy turns out to be the only one available to perform his altar boy task. If he gets it right, he'll get his football back. The way a priest gives a pep talk to a line of altar boys like a coach firing up his team is moderately amusing, but the only genuine laugh comes from the very final moment in the film, when the boy makes a pivotal choice.

RajuRaju, a 24-minute film listed as from both Germany and India, follows a German couple visiting Kolkata to adopt a little boy. It's a vivid, if brief, window into the lives of Indian children clearly in need of a better life, but the film asks the provocative question: where indeed would the child's life be better? With the discovery of a terrible secret on the part of the orphanage, the would-be parents have to make a difficult decision, between what they see as what's best for the child and what's the right thing to do. The two are not necessarily the same thing. This is a short that packs a lot into a small amount of time, making it among the best.

the shoreThe Shore, on the other hand, is a 30-minute film from Northern Ireland, and it's well done but actually could have been a few minutes shorter. Ciarán Hinds stars as Joe, who left Belfast 25 years ago and has now returned for the first time with his daughter, Patricia. Patricia learns a lot about her father's past for the first time: a man with one arm who was once his best friend but has long been estranged; the man's wife who was once a big part of Joe's life; how they are all connected. It's a quiet drama with graceful unveiling of a past that actually turns out not to have as tragic an effect on the present as the two friends assumed. Solid performances all around.

time freakTime Freak is the one American short in this group, and to be honest it almost feels like token U.S. representation. This 11-minute film about a young man who builds a time machine is clever and fun, but doesn't much stand apart. The guy becomes obsessed with re-doing several social interactions over the past two days, like a series of self-imposed Groundhog Days, until he gets them right. Beat for beat, it hits all the right points of a successful short film, and there's nothing really wrong with it, except that its lasting impact kind of falls short.

tuba atlanticTuba Atlantic, the 25-minute film from Norway, is the one that gets my vote, mostly because of its unique and consistently funny writing. An old man finds out he has six days to live, and a young woman from a Christian group called "Angels of Death" comes to be his "angel" until he dies. They form an awkward and increasingly funny connection, complete with the killing of seagulls with a machine gun, and the unveiling of a gargantuan tuba pointed out to sea. The foreign sensibility of its humor, which is more different than exactly quirky, is really what makes it work. I suspect either Raju or The Shore will win the Oscar, but this is the one I'm rooting for, as it has the most of everything: wit, emotion, and a satisfying payoff at the end.

Overall: B+

Playing at the Varsity Theatre through Thursday.
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