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.
Under 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.