Not all great films are theatrical feature films. There are a group of filmmakers who set out and make some really great short films. In recent time, these are better calling cards for aspiring filmmakers than cheaply shot low budget indies. Most of what you see on Atom Films or You Tube makes it clear there is a lot of crap out there and very rarely do you get the chance to see quality shorts. This collection of the 2007 Academy Award nominated short films gives you that opportunity.
At Night (Denmark) is a 39 minute short film about three girls diagnosed with cancer and how they cope during the holidays. The film is shot beautifully, with dark muted colors which fit the mood of the story beautifully. The film is a bit long and melodramatic but paints a poignant picture of despair and loneliness emphasizing the importance of finding someone to share your pain. The frame lingers on the faces of its terminally ill characters, seeming to want to pound home the fact we are to mourn with the girls in their time of suffering. It is also unfair that the girls are painted with such narrow strokes. There is the “bad girl” whose parents don’t know she is sick. We have the religious girl who seems the worse for wear of them all. We also have the girl who is about to have a surgery with a high chance of not waking. The setup is such that the story could have been told without the melodramatic camera work and one-dimensional characterizations. The fact the director chose to shoot it this way shows a lack of trust in his work. It plays a bit like an after school special as the entire purpose is to show that, through tragedy, a person can achieve salvation. – 6/10
Il Supplente (Italy) is a 15 minute short film taking place in a high school classroom. It begins with a nice shot through the hall of a school and ends up in a classroom where all the kids are running amok. A substitute teacher arrives in the room and one-by-one either humiliates the kids with inflated self egos or boosts the spirits of the lesser students. When he finally leaves the classroom there is a twist on the story that I really didn’t see coming. At first I didn’t like the movie and felt it was cruel. The first person the substitute makes fun of is the fat kid. He makes fun of another that is wearing pink shoes. He makes the class kiss ass act like an idiot and then grades him low for it. However, we then start to see the kids he has a soft spot for and you start to understand what his intentions are. I still feel it is a mean movie but understand the point the filmmakers were trying to make. I do not feel it is up to the standard of the other Oscar contending movies though. – 5/10
The Mozart of Pickpockets (France) is the 31 minute film that actually won the Live Action Short Film Oscar. Richard and Philippe are petty thieves who act as police officers while their partners pick the pockets of onlookers. Their accomplices are arrested at the same time the two come across a young deaf boy who follows them home. Trying to decide how to make a living they decide to try a 3-person pickpocket trick but that goes wrong as well. The movie is the least polished so far but the acting is superb and the story is very cute despite being about a group of thieves. There is a funny twist at the end but I don’t know if it is as good as some of the past Oscar contenders in this category. – 6/10
Tanghi Argentini (Belgium) is a 14 minute film about an office clerk preparing for a date with someone he met on the internet. He enlists the services of a co-worker to help him learn the tango. There are some nice touches here as the film is shot with a slick comic feel. The best part of the film are the actual scenes where the man is being taught the dance moves in the office setting. These scenes are a pure delight. There is a brilliant twist at the end as this movie goes from being a beautifully poetic picture to an inspired and wonderful story. – 9/10
The Tonto Woman (The United Kingdom) is a 35 minute western. It is based on a story by Elmore Leonard and tells the story of a woman who was kidnapped by Apache Indians and traded to Mojave Indians before being rescued and reunited with her husband. She has since been hidden away as unfit until one day she meets a Mexican man who helps her regain her sense of self worth. What makes this film great is the cinematography. The landscapes are beautiful and the movie looks like an iconic western. I’m not a big fan of the western film but this one serves its purpose. The acting is great but I can’t say I am a fan of the story itself. – 5/10
Madame Tutli-Putli (Canada) is a 17 minute stop-motion animated film that is as beautifully rendered as it is crudely animated. It is a strange film that would not have worked as well if it had a more polished animation style. This short is a silent film with a musical track and is nothing short of hallucinogenic in nature. The only way to describe this film is as an animated art film. I will be honest, when I finished watching the short the first time, I had no clue what happened. However, despite the crude animation and metaphorical storyline, the atmosphere of the picture had me glued to the screen the entire time. I was honestly entranced with the visions presented and am surprised at the level of talent at work here. For something so ugly, this was one of the most beautiful animated shorts I have ever seen. – 7/10
Even Pigeons Go To Heaven (France) is the 9 minute short that centers around an old man who is being offered a chance by a local minister to buy a spacecraft that will take him to Heaven. It is a very funny film with a wonderful twist at the end explaining an incident that happens as the preacher is on his way to swindle the old man out of his money. It’s light fare with a simple punch line but is animated nicely and earns its laughs. – 6/10
Peter & The Wolf (Poland) is the third animated short presented here. There were two other’s that were left off the DVD for some reason, but I would venture I Met the Walrus was left off due to rights to John Lennon’s voice work. Peter & The Wolf was the Oscar winner for animated short and remains the longest at over 30 minutes. This is another silent stop-motion film, set to the familiar, wonderful music of Prokofiev. As with the original tale, Peter goes into the forest with his beloved duck and another bird and watches them play. Of course, there is danger when the wolf shows up but, unlike the classic Disney adaptation, this short doesn’t allow the original tragic consequences of their deeds to go unpunished. It is the tragedy of his actions, and the decision Peter makes when he tries to avenge the tragedy, that makes this short a little shocking for the kids but really amps the level of its poignancy. The animation is top notch and the movie deserved its Oscar win. – 9/10
There are some trailers.