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article imageReview: Oscar Live Action shorts demonstrate the range of possibilities Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 6, 2015 in Entertainment
The five live action shorts nominated by the Academy Awards this year vary greatly from each other, but are all commendable in their distinctiveness.
The five films nominated by the Academy Awards in the Live Action Short category have very little in common beyond their quality. They vary in length, subject, language and origin, but tell equally captivating stories that capture some aspect or moment of humanity in a unique or touching situation.
In Aya, a woman waits for someone at an Israeli airport when a driver asks her to hold his sign while he moves his car. When the driver’s passenger arrives before her own, she arbitrarily pretends to be his driver. They have lunch and share an intimate car ride imbued with awkward and revealing conversation. There is a strange, romantic element to their encounter as dusk turns to night and their uncomfortable dialogue turns to hesitant flirting. The young woman proves more mysterious as she compares their peculiar circumstances to a childhood game and conceals her real purpose for being at the airport — a reveal that’s shaded in more suspicion than expected.
A scene from Oscar-nominated Live Action Short   Aya
A scene from Oscar-nominated Live Action Short, 'Aya'
In Boogaloo and Graham, two Irish brothers are given a pair of baby chicks by their good-natured father. They care for and raise them with all the consideration children give their first pets, but their mother is unamused by the domesticated farm animals. Nonetheless the boys are unwavering in their devotion, which leads them to take drastic measures to protect their chickens. It’s delightful to watch them dote on the birds, cuddling and walking them as if they were more conventional companions. The endearing conclusion is only enhanced as the enduring sentiment of their story is presented in contrast to the conflict that absorbed Belfast in 1978.
French-Chinese co-production, Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak), is reminiscent of the documentary Manakamana, which unobtrusively chronicled people’s pilgrimages to a temple as they sat practically oblivious opposite the camera. In this short film that resembles a mockumentary, a Chinese photographer positions Tibetan families from a remote village in front of various artificial backdrops and takes what is often their first ever picture. He has countless props and “modern” costumes so they can blend in with the backgrounds — an effort to transport them from their daily lives that is contrary to the usual approach in these areas. In the end the irony of his labours is so shrewdly and distinctly acknowledged, it boosts the value of the rest of the film.
A scene from Oscar-nominated Live Action Short   Parvaneh
A scene from Oscar-nominated Live Action Short, 'Parvaneh'
In Parvaneh, the title character is an Afghan teenager living and working in Switzerland to support her family back home. She’s devastated to learn that all her efforts have been wasted unless she can convince someone to wire the money for her since she’s prohibited from doing so. An agreement struck with a young, wild Swiss woman turns into a madcap adventure entirely characteristic of such spontaneous camaraderie. The events that follow their meeting can be easily predicted and transpire right on cue, though that doesn’t diminish the sincere depiction of an unlikely friendship. The film is a testament to the idea that people have more in common than they realize until they seize the opportunity to find out.
The Phone Call is a brilliant story featuring Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent. She portrays a volunteer at a crisis centre who receives a call from an older man in the middle of his suicide. She attempts to follow protocol while trying to comfort the caller and convince him to seek assistance; never panicking or becoming frustrated by his obstinacy. It’s one of the most powerful 20-minute conversations as they make a connection in what could be the final moments of his life, however brief and superficial it may be in the end. And even though it sounds rather depressing, the movie wants viewers to see there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Sally Hawkins in a scene from Oscar-nominated Live Action Short   The Phone Call
Sally Hawkins in a scene from Oscar-nominated Live Action Short, 'The Phone Call'
Audiences have the rare opportunity to see the nominees before the ceremony via the 10th annual Oscar Nominated Short Films showcase organized by ShortsHD, the world’s only short movie channel. The live action, animation and documentary short film nominees are all released as three separate theatrical events in more than 450 theatres on three continents.
More about Oscar nominees, short films, Aya, Boogaloo and Graham, Butter Lamp
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