Recently I saw the short live action and short animated films that have been nominated for Academy Awards this year. Overall, I liked the animated films better than the live action ones. Animation seems to work better in the short format.
The best of the animations was an Australian film, The Lost Thing. It tells the story of a boy who finds a creature who is half animal and half machine and of his efforts to find a home for it. The story is very simple; the film succeeds mainly because of its depiction of an amusing fantasy world. Also good was Day & Night, a Pixar film, about two humanoid creatures, one embodying day and the other night, and their competitive relationship. (I read afterwards on Wikipedia that the voice-over in the film is from a lecture given by the pop psychologist, Wayne Dyer. Funny, I had completely forgotten there was a voice-over.) The French film, Madagascar, a Journey Diary, is, as the title suggests, an animated travel film about Madagascar, charmingly done. The Gruffalo, a British adaptation of a children’s picture book, is a bit dull, apparently because they padded it out to a half hour, so it could be shown on TV. The weakest of the animated shorts was the American Let’s Pollute, a heavy-handed attempt at satire.
The worst of the live action was an Irish film, The Crush. In it, a school boy develops a crush on his teacher. He becomes jealous when he learns that she is engaged. He gets a gun, and in front of the teacher, he threatens to kill her fiancée. While pleading for his life, the man reveals himself to be an asshole. She cuts off the engagement. The film ends with her showing her gratitude towards the boy for saving her from a bad marriage. I found this ludicrous, and other people in the audience seemed to react the same way I did. Why this film was nominated is a mystery to me.
A little more believable was The Confession, which is from Britain. A boy, Sam, is about to have his first confession. He can’t think of what he has to confess. A pamphlet his priest gives him lists playing pranks as a sin. So Sam decides to play a prank, so he will have something to confess. Sam and his friend, Jacob, steal a scarecrow and leave him in the middle of a road, so it will look like a human body. A driver nearly hits it, swerves off the road, and is killed. Later, Jacob suspects that Sam will tell what they did. They get into a fight and Sam kills Jacob. In the final scene, Sam goes to confession, but he is unable to admit what he did. This film seems to be a criticism of religion, although it’s not clear to me exactly what it’s trying to say. Judging from this film and The Crush, it seems that the Academy likes melodramatic stories about children.
Wish 143, another British film, is about a teenager with terminal cancer, who wants to experience sex before he dies. When he is unable to get a girl to sleep with him, a priest fixes him up with a prostitute. However, the boy merely asks her to hold him. Again, I just didn’t buy it.
The best of the live action films is Na Wewe, which is a Belgian production. A bus going through Burundi is halted by a Hutu militia, who are looking for Tutsis. One by one, each of the passengers has to convince the Hutus that he or she is not a Tutsi. The fear and humiliation of each character is palpable. The film is disturbing, without being melodramatic.
Then, there’s the American film, God of Love. It’s like your typical Hollywood comedy, except instead of being two hours long and unfunny, it’s only fifteen minutes long and unfunny. I suppose this is progress of sorts.