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Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action
Helium: B+
The Voorman Problem: B
Just Before Losing Everything: B+
That Wasn't Me: B+
Do I Have to Take Care of Everything: B+

None of this year's Oscar-nominated live action shorts are quite perfect, but that's a lot to expect from film makers typically at the very beginning of their careers, right? By and large, if there's one thing all these shorts have in common, it's that they show promise. And, as usual, on average they are slightly better than the animated shorts.

helium Helium (Denmark, 23 minutes) is perhaps the most tightly polished of the bunch, the touching story of a man who cleans the hospital ward where terminally ill children are cared for. He connects with a little boy, for whom it is made clear that nothing can be done. The janitor begins telling the boy, who is enamored with hot air balloons, how there is a different place from heaven, called Helium, where children go to get better before coming back. It's sad, yes, but there is beauty to it as well, particularly in the sprinkling of brief fantasy sequences actually showing what Helium is purported to look like. For brief moments, we, like the child, are transported to this other world, one that offers hope in the fact of oblivion.

the voorman problem The Voorman Problem (UK, 13 minutes) takes things into a cheekier direction, starring Martin Freeman as a psychologist called in to examine a mental patient (Tom Hollander) who not only claims to be God, but has all the other patients believing him. The story goes in a relatively predictable direction, but suggests more depth than what is seen on the surface. It's fun, in any case.

just before losing everything Just Before Losing Everything (France, 29 minutes) starts off rather slow, only gradually revealing to the audience what is going on: a mother is attempting an escape from her abusive husband, bringing her young son and teenage daughter with her. Much of the film takes place at the retail store where the mother works, as she makes last-minute financial arrangements to make her getaway possible. More than once her colleagues note that she won't press charges, and we never find out why she refuses to do that -- something, perhaps, we don't need to know. Things get very tense, particularly when the husband shows up looking for a needed check book, and this film on the whole is undeniably gripping. It ends rather anticlimactically, but perhaps that's the point in a story rooted in the real world.

that wasn't me That Wasn't Me (Spain, 24 minutes), I think, is the one most likely to get the Oscar win, based on sheer ambition alone. If you thought the French one was heavy, just wait until you see this one, with its depictions of slaughter and rape in war-torn Africa, two Spanish doctors caught up in the mix. While the central character in this film is indeed white, this is not your typical "white person becomes the savior of black people" story -- in fact, it turns that trope on its head in several ways. It's hard to watch, it tackles themes arguably far too complex for the confines of a short film, but it's also brutally honest in its storytelling.

do i have to take care of everything? Do I Have to Take Care of Everything? (Finland, 7 minutes) feels a little like the token farce among this bunch -- much more so even than The Voorman Problem, which at least has some intellectualism behind its ideas. Not to say that such things are mandatory in any film, short or not, but this one, about a married couple and their children who can't get it together enough to get to a wedding on time, exists solely for our moderate amusement. With that as its goal, it gets several chuckles out of the audience, and thus succeeds.

In contrast to the presentation of the animated shorts, with its bantering ostrich and giraffe, the presentation of the live action shorts is split up with a select small group of film makers waxing poetic about the film making process. From the winner of last year's Oscar for live action short (Shawn Christensen) to the director of 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen) and a few others, these sequences unfortunately feel more like pretentious filler than anything else. Thankfully, the shorts presented easily speak for themselves.

Overall: B+
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