Best Live Action Short Film

Death of a Shadow (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Death of a Shadow (Dood Van Een Schaduw) (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Tom Van Avermaet, Ellen De Waele).

“Death of a Shadow” is an interesting little short that escapes both time and reality.  A deceased World War I soldier, Nathan Rijckx (Matthias Schoenaerts) works for a man, stuck in a limbo between life and death, and photographs the dying to be displayed in a gallery of shadows.  He works to have a second chance at life and is motivated by a woman he met the day he was killed.   Sarah Winters (Laura Verlinden) tried to save his life.

He hates his work, but he is so close to completing it he can hardly stand it.  He peruses his options and tries to find the least repulsive death to photograph, while still trying to satisfy his employer’s taste in art and composition.  His last picture, however, proves to be very difficult and he must make a decision between his own happiness and that of the woman he is smitten with.

The film is both a period piece and something outside of reality.  It is creative and well shot, although it is a lot of story to put into a short.  The production value of the short is really astounding.  It is very artistic and emotional, however they didn’t completely match the communication of that emotion with the production design.  That is a small complaint, however, for such a well made short.

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Henry (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Henry (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2012
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Yan England).
Watched September 8, 2014.

“Henry” is an excellent short, but not for the faint at heart.  A French-Canadian addition to the short film category, the dramatic, slightly melodramatic piece explores the effects of alzheimers from the perspective of the sick.

My Grandmother had alzheimers.  It is a devastating disease.  Henry (Gérard Poirier) in this film is trapped by his own memories and unable to reconcile them with reality.  He doesn’t know the people or places surrounding him and instead he is constantly searching for his beloved Maria (Louise Laprade), an exceedingly talented musician whom he met during the war.

What could potentially become an over the top piece that focuses more on the melodrama or injustice is instead a clean, albeit scary representation of the confusion those suffering from alzheimers might face.  If you have someone close to you suffering from the disease, it might not be the best short for you.  Otherwise, I would consider the twenty minutes of my life spent viewing the short well spent.

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me) (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me) (2013)
86th Academy Awards 2014
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Esteban Crespo).
Watched July 30, 2014.

Aquel No Era Yo is hard to watch from start to finish.  While its execution and possible story can come off as slightly melodramatic, it turned out to be pretty powerful for me personally.

Two doctors are visiting Africa (we aren’t sure where) and find themselves at a barricade manned by child soldiers with automatic weapons.  Paula (Alejandra Lorente) and Juanjo (Gustavo Salmerón), clearly a little naive and very optimistic, almost make it through until an adult with ulterior motives shows up and decides to teach the boys a lesson.  The General (Babau Cham) is less than gracious and watches as his man teaches young boys what to do with outsiders who “kidnap kids.”

There is one negative that I found in the film, and that is its use of non-linear story telling.  It gives something huge away, which takes away from the suspense and therefore the power of the story telling.  Occasionally throughout the short we see a glimpse into the future, into a classroom where first world students are learning about child soldiers and the war culture in this particular African country.  Immediately we know that people survive, and that impacts the plot in a very negative way.

Despite this, the rest of the filming is very well done, from cinematography to acting, color grading to sound and the development of character, Aquel No Era Yo was definitely a force to be reckoned with at these Oscars.  Despite their loss, the film was very deserving of its nomination.

If you can find the time to see the powerful and well made film, I would recommend it!  Just be aware that it is very intense and doesn’t pull any punches.

 

Curfew (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Curfew (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Best Live Action Short Subject (Shawn Christensen).
Watched July 22, 2014.

I adored this short film.  In my opinion, it is everything that a short film should be.  There is symbolism, experimental and artistic cinematography, strong story telling, solid acting, and a cohesive whole that definitely deserved to win the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Subject in 2013.

This film does not need to be longer.  It is complete in and of itself.  Sometimes full length features are left too open to sequels, as is all the rage in Hollywood.  Once you find a formula that sells, you just keep selling it.  Curfew stays out of that trap and is phenomenal on its own.  Just the opening shots scream “this is a winner.”

Richie (Shawn Christensen) is in his bathtub, clearly in the middle of committing suicide by razor blade, when his phone rings.  It is Maggie (Kim Allen), and apparently Richie is the last person she would ever call but she needs his help.  Richie gives in, cleans himself up a little, and heads out to meet his niece whom he hasn’t seen in years.  Sophia (Fatima Ptacek) is a force to be reckoned with, just like her mother.  Strong, and independent, she knows how to stick up for herself, which may be because she grew up in New York, or maybe it’s because of her mother’s example.  She thinks very little of her Uncle Richie who supposedly messed up really badly when she was little and has been cut out of their lives since.

He is a mess.  He has huge circles under his eyes, his wrists are bandaged, and a cigarette hangs from his mouth.  He takes Sophia to the only approved place (the bowling alley), where things get a little weird and people start dancing, but it actually works incredibly well with the story line and character arc.  It is night time in new york, therefore the lighting stays pretty dark, but the filmmakers use a strong contrast that works well for the film.  He forms a tentative relationship with Sophia who is slow to let down her guard, but she seems to get the measure of him pretty quickly (which is good since this is a short film).

The short uses the landscape of New York City nightlife very well.  It follows the growth of their one-night relationship and makes you root for everyone, even the mom.  Christensen wrote, directed, and acted in the piece, which surprisingly works out pretty well for him.  Honestly, Curfew is the type of piece I would have adored in my intellectual, artistic filmmaker university days, but at a level that the more consumeristic side of myself can enjoy just as much.  It is a great film.

If you have twenty minutes, or even if you don’t, this is a short I would definitely recommend that you watch.  If you have never really sat down just to watch a short film, I would suggest that you start here.  It is that good.

Buzkashi Boys (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Buzkashi Boys (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Sam French, Ariel Nasr).
Watched May 13, 2014.

Perhaps it was because of cultural differences, but I was pretty bored by Buzkashi Boys.  It was trying to make a statement about cultural differences, too.  Those of my generation are obsessed with the hashtag craze “#firstworldproblems,” in which one states something that is only deemed a problem in first world countries.  This film depicts the opposite of first world problems.  In fact, it is a story about a blacksmith’s son and a boy who lives on the street and how they both dream of a better life.

It is present day in Afghanistan and Rafi (Fawad Mohammadi) doesn’t want to be a blacksmith.  He wants to hang out with his friend Ahmad (Jawanmard Paiz), an orphan who lives on the streets.  The blacksmith (Wali Talash) doesn’t want either of these things for his son.  He wants to teach him a trade and how to support himself when he is no longer around.  Rafi and Ahmad run off and witness a game of Buzkashi–a local sport somewhat like horse polo but involving a dead goat.  Ahmad dreams of leaving the streets and becoming a famous and successful Buzkashi player.

The short takes us around Afghanistan, giving a humanity to what us in outside countries likely only see on the news.  The boys explore what was once a palace but is now rubble.  We see a crowded street full of cars, shops, and people, where Ahmad sells whatever he can in order to get by.  Rafi’s home is small and dirty, but he has a lot more than his friend.

What is special about this film is that a team of international filmmakers have come to Afghanistan to teach the locals how to make films.  They want to educate them and encourage them.  I would say getting a project nominated for an Oscar is pretty good encouragement.

If we view this film as a project in filmmaking, it is certainly a step in the right direction.  If we view this film as an insight into the Afghani lifestyle, it can be powerful.  However, the story was lacking and listless.  Even though it was only a short, I felt that the story telling needed a lot more meat and direction to really be a success.  The character development was okay.  The filming itself was pretty good, and especially from a trainee director who has never been to school for the subject, it is very impressive.  I hope that he continues to pursue filmmaking and will bring his skills back to Afghanistan.