How to beat this horrendous arctic cold spell? Just slip into your shorts — the live-action and animated ones nominated for the upcoming Academy Awards. It’s a particularly good crop in both categories.
What I love most is the unpredictable international smorgasbord, and these 2014 short subjects — miniature movie morsels between 6 and 26 minutes long — are tastier than usual.
Here are the live-action nominees:
The Voorman Problem (Mark Gill; UK; 13 minutes): Supercilious Dr. Williams has been summoned by the authorities to determine the sanity or insanity of a dangerous prisoner who claims to be God. Their colloquy is illuminating but inconclusive, with the straitjacketed prisoner proposing an experiment: Would the doctor believe his divine identity if he made Belgium disappear? A sample of the fabulous dialogue in this little black-comic masterpiece: “How long have you believed yourself to be a god?” the psychiatrist asks. “I might ask you the same,” he replies.
Just Before Losing Everything (Xavier Legrand; France; 30 minutes): Miriam is desperate to get herself and her two kids out of town in a hurry. We don’t know why. Her panic mounts — as do the terror and danger — in this intensely realistic, edge-of-your-seat rendering of an all-too-common international crime.
That Wasn’t Me (Esteban Crespo; Spain; 24 minutes): An even worse international crime is chronicled in the grim, devastating story of Paula and Kaney — Spanish doctor and African boy — whose paths cross at the violent intersection of a civil war employing child soldiers. Mindless brutality and bloodlust combine in basic macho theory and practice: The way to get respect is with a gun. The way to get ultimate respect, and prove your manhood, is to kill somebody with it.
Helium (Anders Walter; Denmark; 23 minutes): A much sweeter path-crossing takes the form of a dying boy and a feckless hospital janitor meeting late on the road from here to eternity. Is the man feeding him lies or giving him true hope? You be the judge of a beautifully depicted idea.
Do I Have to Take Care of Everything? (Selma Vilhunen; Finland; 7 minutes): Finnish moms aren’t much different from American (or any other) moms. Sini wakes up in a panic, having overslept for a wedding. Her husband, Jokke, is a joke when getting himself and their two daughters dressed (they put on their Halloween costumes). The wedding gift is missing. There’s a fine Finnish-ing touch.
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