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Oscar-Nominated LIVE ACTION Shorts (2012)

February 13, 2012


Each year we stare blankly at the Shorts that show up on the Academy Award nominations list, and we wonder what they’re about, who made them and (more importantly) how to view them. After all, how else to make an informative decision in your Oscar Pool? Well, this time of year, Shorts International releases a one-week run of the Live Action, Animated and Documentary Shorts in limited theaters across the U.S. If you’re lucky enough to catch them, you’ll find yourself more prepared come Oscar night.

Like last year, Keeping It Reel is out there, seeing as many of these Shorts as possible and sharing with you some short reviews of these. Without further ado, here are the 2012 Oscar nominees for the Live Action Shorts. Enjoy….




directed by: Peter McDonald / 11 min. / Ireland

Irish actor Peter McDonald premieres his first shot at directing with this short that he also wrote, with a light Irish Catholic comedy. Damien (Scott Graham) is a young boy who must serve as an altar boy for a very important mass, but his loyalties lie more in his passion for soccer than his local parish. While it was enjoyable, especially a pep talk a militant priest (Eamonn Hunt) gives the boys before they step out to do their duties, I seemed all too familiar. Perhaps because there have been so many shorts in recent years from the UK that focus on childhood and the Catholic church. The laughs in “Pentecost” are memorable, but that’s about it.






directed by: Max Zähle / 24 min. / Germany

I never would’ve thought that a short about a nice young German couple (some fine work by Julia Richter and Wotan Wilke Möhring) adopting an orphan in India, would be filled with such heart-wrenching suspense.  But Max Zähle’s “Raju” deals with some heavy moral issues after an unexpectedly devastating reveal. is a nicely calibrated thriller that takes an unexpected left turn into moral conundrum. All they wanted to do was give a child living in squalor in Kolkata a decent future, but when the boy, named Raju (Krish Gupta), vanishes, the husband is hit with some very hard truths. Seeing what these two good intentioned people go through, make this one of the more compelling entries in this category – it also helps that it has a fine beginning and ending.  It certainly is one of those shorts that should be greenlit into a feature-length film.

RATING: ***1/2





directed by: Terry George / 30 min. / Northern Ireland

Terry George has written (“In the Name of the Father” and “The Boxer”) and directed (“Hotel Rwanda”) some fine films, so it doesn’t surprise me that a short by him got nominated. “The Shore” is an absorbing drama that turns out to be both touching and funny. The story focuses on an Irish expatriate named Joe (the wonderful Ciaran Hinds) who returns to Belfast with his grown daughter, Patricia (Kerry Condon), since living in the U.S. for 25 years in the aftermath “The Troubles”. His reunion with Mary (Maggie Cronin) the woman he would’ve married if he stayed behind is unexpected, especially since she is now married to Paddy (Conleth Hill), a man who used to be Joe’s best friend. What happens in “The Shore” has to do with regret and reconciliation, as experienced by ordinary working-class people. It is a beautifully written, wonderfully acted Irish tale, that tenderly balances the comedic moments with legitimate heartache.  Out of all the shorts, this one resonated with most with me and the one that tells a complete story within its running time.

RATING: ****





directed by: Andrew Bowler / 11 min. / USA

Last year’s entry from USA  was “God of Love” a wonderfully clever hipster comedy, so it’s a little surprising to see yet another comedy come from the States. This short features a slacker named Evan (John Conor Brooke), who checks in on his neurotic inventor friend, Stillman (Michael Nathanson, pouring it on thick), only to learn that he’s developed a fully-functional time machine. Instead of visiting Ancient Rome like he had hoped, Stillman shares that he’s been stuck repeating and trying to correct unsatisfactory encounters with a dry cleaning owner and a young woman (Emilea Wilson) he’s fond of.  Other than that, there’s not much to it. “Time Freak” is creative and hilarious, but is a bit too close to “Groundhog Day”.

RATING: **1/2






directed by: Hallvar Witzø / 25 min. / Norway

There are some similarities to “The Shore” here, in both the way it tells a succinct story with engaging characters in such a short time, and the inclusion of two men who haven’t spoken for years.  This wintry Norwegian import is about a man who hasn’t communicated with  his brother in 30 years – and man that happens to be dying. Situated in an enchanting gray and gloomy coastal town, we meet 75 year-old Oskar (Edvard Hægstad), a hermit who’s told that he has six days to live. His decides to spend his last days at home, which requires a caretaker. Which is why  Inger (Ingrid Viken) a self-proclaimed “Angel of Death” arrives at his door. She is a perky teenage Christian girl who belonging to a local Jesus Club, assigned to assist him in his last days. Watching these two is the highlight of the short, as we see her resilience and his ambivalence collide. As a way of biding time, Oskar spends his days blowing up fish with dynamite and plucking seagulls out of the sky with his machine gun, leaving Inger to clip their legs off when they land on the icy ground. One of several straight-faced comedic scenes found here between the old goat and this goofy girl. The title comes from an enormous horn on the man’s property that was built by Oskar and his brothers when they were kids, and will now be used in an attempt to call out to his brother all the way in New Jersey. It’s a plot point that isn’t as interesting or entertaining as the relationship between the two characters. “Tuba Atlantic” is the kind of film I’m attracted to – one that transports me to a distant location I would never come across on my own and one that definitely grew on me since viewing.

RATING: ***1/2


Tuba Atlantic Trailer from Hallvar Witzø on Vimeo.




Find out who will be the winner on Sunday, February 26th!

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