Screening The Shorts

Today Kish and I continued our project to see as many of the the films nominated for Oscars this year as possible.  We screened the five “live action” short films that are up for an Academy Award.  They are playing, as a group, at the AMC Lennox.

timecodeUnder the Academy Award rules, the short film category is limited to movies with a running time of 40 minutes or less, including credits.  The films therefore must be more compact, without a lot of subplots or extraneous characters who might otherwise hog the screen time.  And yet, the storytelling is still there — and in fact might actually be enhanced and made more powerful by the time limits.  When you compare the short films to the kind of big-budget fare that Hollywood typically produces, you realize that all of the CGI and explosions and special effects sometimes interfere with, rather than promoting, the basic tale-telling that is a key part of the magic of movies.

The five finalists for 2017 include films from Hungary, Denmark, Spain, France, and Switzerland.   All were terrific, and their stories, and tones, were dramatically different.  The Hungarian film, Sing, told the story of a children’s choir controlled by a domineering conductor.  Silent Nights, the Danish movie, explored a relationship between a Ghanan immigrant trying to make money to send home to his family and a volunteer at a Salvation Army shelter.  In the Spanish film, entitled Timecode, a security guard at a parking garage who has to review surveillance video learns something surprising about the guard who holds down the other shift — and the movie ends with a laugh out loud joke.  The French movie, Ennemis Interieurs, is a taut interrogation between an Algerian immigrant who wants to become a French citizen and the police office relentlessly questioning him to try to determine if he might be a terrorist.  And the Swiss film, La Femme et le TGV, introduces us to a baker and chocolatier whose innocent act of always waving the flag and smiling as the train rumbles past her house produces some interesting consequences.

There’s lots of good movies and talented filmmakers out there, and the short film genre allows the Academy to recognize works that otherwise might not get much attention.  If the five nominees come to your local theater, you won’t regret checking them out.

The Original Wonder Drug

A few years ago, our family doctor, who is a big believer in preventative medicine, encouraged me to start taking one low dose aspirin tablet ever day.  He said that you can’t argue with the statistics, which show all kinds of health benefits for people over the age of 50, including reduced risk of heart attack, from popping one of the tiny 81 milligram pills when you get up in the morning.  Since then, it’s become part of my daily routine.

bfd1b581-55ea-43ed-99f3-2410b30c9108_1-b4f9e3c1a45452b53c94cf7b9a8027a3But, because I’m curious, I found myself wondering . . . what’s in aspirin, anyway?

The active ingredient in aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid, which is based on a substance generated in plants of the Spiraea genus.  For almost as long as humans have been around, since the days of ancient Egypt, they’ve been chewing the barks and leaves of certain trees or eating certain foods to obtain the pain reduction effects of the acid, without knowing that it was the acid that was doing the heavy lifting.  In the 1800s, doctors and scientists realized that chewing tree bark might not be the best way to deliver the therapeutic effects and began to focus on what was actually causing people to feel better.  They discovered that salicylic acid was the key ingredient, and then developed the acid synthetically.  The acetylsalicylic acid was reduced to powder form and mixed with other substances — stomach-friendly buffers like corn starch — for delivery to patients.  Bayer aspirin is called that because it was developed by a chemist in Bayer, Germany, and was first sold in pill form in 1915.

I remember taking St. Joseph’s aspirin for children, in those tasty, chewable, orange-flavored tablets, when I was a kid, and then as a teenager I graduated to the Bayer bottle, taking one of those dusty, bitter white pills if I had a bad headache.  Now those little 81 milligram pills, helpfully coated to go down easy, are working every day in my blood stream, trying keep the platelets flowing rather than clumping.

Those ancient Egyptians obviously knew what they were doing, but I’m glad that I can get the benefits by taking a pill rather than munching on some tree bark.