Pillbox

A review of Oscar-nominated short films

Tuba Atlantic is the story of an old man who must make peace with long-lost brother before he dies. (credit: Courtesy of IMDb) Tuba Atlantic is the story of an old man who must make peace with long-lost brother before he dies. (credit: Courtesy of IMDb) The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a heartwarming story of healing after a tornado. (credit: Courtesy of FilmAffinity) The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a heartwarming story of healing after a tornado. (credit: Courtesy of FilmAffinity)

Regent Square Theatre has been showing the 2012 Oscar-nominated short films since Feb. 10, in preparation for the Academy Awards on Feb. 26. This year’s Oscar-nominated shorts showcase a variety of creative influences in the field. While some are certainly stronger than others, all of the contenders have a unique story, style, and perspective.

Live-Action

Pentecost, an Irish film directed by Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane, follows the story of Damian, a young boy who is forced to serve as an altar boy when he would rather be out playing football (soccer). This comedic film portrays Damian’s tough decision between conforming to what his parents want him to do and following his heart. Pentecost had the audience laughing all throughout the credits and into the opening of the next film.

Raju is a German and Indian film directed by Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren. The story shows a German couple that travels to India to adopt a young boy. The couple faces a moral dilemma when they find out that the child they are adopting was not abandoned, but rather kidnapped. The film was well made and featured an excellent soundtrack, but the nuances of the story would have been better in a feature-length film with more background about the couple’s relationship.

The two films that followed, The Shore and Time Freak, were enjoyable but forgettable. The Shore was the longest of the short films and seemed to drag on. Despite its heartwarming message of making peace with regrets and facing a troubled past, the film lacked any compelling reason to pay attention for 31 minutes. Time Freak is an American film about an inventor who creates a time machine, but gets caught up traveling around yesterday. The short was funny and the audience seemed to enjoy it, but its cuteness also made it seem a bit amateur.

The last film for this category was Tuba Atlantic. Directed by Hallvar Witzø, this Norwegian short follows the final days in the life of Oskar, a 70-year-old man who is going to die in six days. He is faced with the challenge of making peace with his brother before he dies, and is only able to do this by sending huge sound waves across the Atlantic Ocean from a giant tuba that he and his brother built when they were younger. The film brought tears to my eyes three separate times in 25 minutes, and it was the only film in the Live-Action category that received applause from the audience at the end.

Animation

The films in the Animation category were less impressive as a whole than the live-action films.

Dimanche/Sunday, a Canadian film directed by Patrick Doyon, followed the story of a family’s Sunday routine and a young boy’s imagination. The animation was cute and the music was excellent, but by the end the audience was left underwhelmed.

A Morning Stroll shows the story of a New Yorker who walks past a city-savvy chicken on his morning promenade. The scene is shown three separate times — once set in 1959, once in 2009, and once in 2059. Each scene has a different animation style, which made it one of the more visually interesting animated shorts.

Wildlife, directed by Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, follows the story of a young Englishman who travels to the Canadian frontier to become a cowboy, only to find that he doesn’t quite fit into his dream life. His life is compared to that of a comet throughout the film, and in the end, the young man sees a comet in the sky and freezes to death in a snowy field. The story was interesting, but the film seemed to drag on for much longer than 13 minutes.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is an allegory about the healing powers of books. The animation was sophisticated and impressive, and the message of the story felt very relevant when it seems like few people read novels anymore. The film was a bit cheesy at times, but it was enjoyable and delivered a poignant message.

The last film of the evening, La Luna, was a coming-of-age fable about a young boy who helps his father and grandfather clean stars off the moon every night. The story was well written and humorous, and left the audience with a positive message about finding oneself.

Predictions

While all of the short films deserve their spots as nominees, two films stood out. Tuba Atlantic will win in the Live-Action category. The story was beautiful and the film was expertly produced. Humorous and heartwarming, it was impossible to walk away from the theater without making some sort of positive comment about the film. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore will win in the Animation category. It was perfect: perfect story, perfect animation, perfect message, perfect for the award.