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Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action
Ave Maria: B+
Shok (Friend): B
Everything Will Be Okay: B-
Stutterer: B+
Day One: A-

AVE MARIA Ave Maria (Palestine/France/Germany, 15 minutes) tells the story of a small Jewish family enlisting the help of Catholic nuns in Palestine. Seeing a convent in Palestine is certainly . . . new. They've all taken vows of silence, which makes things difficult when the family crashes into the statue of Mary outside their building (hence the film's title -- well, that and the hail Marys the nuns have to do after breaking their vows of silence). There's a lot of talk about being in "Arab country" but there are no Palestinian characters ever seen. Director and co-writer Basil Khalil was born in Nazareth to Palestinian parents, so this middle-ground territory (so to speak) makes a fair amount of sense. The story told here, while not particularly insightful, is still plenty entertaining.

SHOK Shok (Friend) (UK/Kosovo, 21 minutes) is told mostly in flashback, when a grown man is thrown back to his childhood when a discarded bicycle in the middle of the street triggers the memory. We go back to when he and his friend, as adolescents, naively fancy themselves "businessmen" and interact with soldiers on the opposing side of the Kosovo War. The kids learn the hard way how these men are not to be trusted, to a tragic end. This is the first of multiple nominee short films that goes to pretty dark places. Much of it is spent waiting for something terrible to happen, until it does. But, it's well acted, particularly by the two young boys, and well executed.

EVERYTHING_WILL_BE_OKAY Everything Will Be Okay (Germany/Austria, 30 minutes) is both the longest and the weakest of the nominees here. They really couldn't find another short better than this one? It's not bad per se, but for a short, it's kind of long, and once again it's a bummer. A divorced father picks up his young daughter for an overnight visit, and we spend a lot of time following them through a lot of seeming inanity -- until the mention of the girl's lost cell phone, and her father taking her to get an emergency passport. It slowly becomes clear where this is going. Julia Pointner is excellent as the increasingly confused and frightened little girl, so in that way this short film impresses, until it reaches a bizarrely and jarringly abrupt ending.

STUTTERER Stutterer (UK, 12 minutes) is easily the sweetest film of this bunch, and therefore arguably the most fun to watch -- even though it can be ridiculously frustrating watching characters stutter onscreen. A young man struggles so much with verbal communication that he works at home and can't even manage a phone call to customer service for help on his Internet service. He's been chatting online with a girl for six months and is understandably terrified when she suggests they finally meet in person. Live action shorts have a tendency to end with a twist that serves as a sort of punch line, and Stutterer is no exception. This ending is rather predictable, actually, but that doesn't make the story any less fun to watch. The actors can be credited for selling it, and making this an ultimately uplifting and touching story.

Day One (USA, 25 minutes) is the best of the bunch, the one that deserves the Oscar, even though it's maybe the toughest to watch. An interpreter (a wonderful Layla Alizada) is on her first day of work in Afghanistan and gets sucked into a scene she's not at all trained for. The soldiers she's with have found a bomb maker they're about to arrest, but his wife goes into labor -- but the baby's arm is sticking out. The baby may or may not be dead. The prospect of cutting the baby to pieces to get it out in order to save the mother's life is just the first of multiple, truly horrifying choices these people have to make, with the interpreter serving as the go-to doctor because the Afghans insist the men cannot be in the room with the woman. This is the tear jerker entry; I cried a lot. I recoiled in horror multiple times. But in the end, Day One proves itself to be an impressive take on the humanity of all different kinds of peoples in the worst of circumstances.


Overall: B
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