The 2007 Academy Award Nominated Shorts-Live Action ***
February ends up being one of my favorite times of year because it gives me a chance to catch up with some of the short films that have been nominated for awards. This is the fourth year that I managed to see all the Oscar shorts, and they have become increasingly popular each year, which is why Magnolia Pictures continues to even bother distributing them. Three years ago I saw a mish-mosh of several of the short films, but not all, but this marks the third time where I've been able to see both programs-the animated shorts and the live action, each with a separate admission, but usually well worth the trip. And it gives you a chance to see some of the films from the two categories that are usually glossed over the most-although the short subject documentaries probably don't get much audience attention, and I still have no clue where you'd be able to see those. And so, for a cheap price of twenty-three dollars, you are able to see the ten shorts up for Academy Awards.
I saw the animated programs first, and you must understand that as in all short films complilations-and I've seen quite a few from the "Animation Show 2005," to Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes,"-there are some duds and there are some real winners. I think the best year for the Oscar Shorts was in 2006, when all five of the live actions were dark and seriously witty and kind of brilliant, and most of the animations were worth the ticket as well. Last year I wasn't impressed by four of the live actions, and the animated ones had left much to be desired.
The five films in the live action category were-
Belgium, Comedy, 13 minutes, French w/ English subtitles
A completely wonderful thirteen minutes is to spend it with "Tanghi Argentini," a story of a man who meets a woman on the internet and lies to her about being a tango expert. He goes to the help of one of his co-workers to help him learn the tango in three weeks time to impress this woman at a big dance. Funny, smart, and with a sweet Capra-esque twist ending, this was a terrific start to the program. It reminded me a little of "Shall We Dance" almost, just in the chemistry between the two men working hard for our hero to impress his girl.
Denmark, Drama, 40 minutes, Danish w/ English subtitles
A long, depressing, and sometimes tedious short, "At Night" tells about three women in a cancer ward who manage to find friendships with each other in their great time of need. What could have been a beautiful little piece sometimes gets a little melodramatic and some of the little segments just felt a little long winded and occasionally too much. I have a small feeling that the Academy will end up voting this one as the best short film in this category, even though the real winner comes later.
IL SUPPLENTE (THE SUBSTITUTE)
Italy, Comedy, 17 minutes, Italian w/ English subtitles
I still don't really know what to make of "The Substitute," but it was quite enjoyable regardless. We have a man come into a high school classroom saying that he is the sub. for the day, and ends up giving wacky assignments and taking a signed baseball off one of the students-much to his dismay. The first half is rather off the wall and humerus, but it isn't until the second half where the film really hits its stride and begins to develop some sort of philosophy-but I still had a hard time behind what they were trying to say with it, and who this man really was.
THE TONTO WOMAN
United Kingdom, Drama, 36 minutes, English
The slowest and most unusual of the five, "The Tonto Woman" is yet another western-and 2007 was the year of the modern day western, if you can recall-about a cattle wrangler that ends up meeting the wife of the man whose cattle he plans to steal, who has been held prisoner for eleven years by a group of Indians. The visuals are quite striking, and the script is quite decent, but the slow pace becomes a bit tedious at times, and some of the acting (especially the part of the woman's husband) is almost laughably bad. Not a bad addition to the genre, but compared to the other fantastic westerns of the year this is a minor work.
LE MOZART DES PICKPOCKETS (THE MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS)
France, Comedy, 31 minutes, French w/ English subtitles
My pick for the award is "The Mozart of Pickpockets," an absolutely wonderful film about two con men that end up taking a young deaf boy under their wing, and using him to hustle wallets off a people in movie theatres. This film is very funny, has great chemistry between the two leads, and offers enough surprises in its thirty minute running time to never feel overlong or burdensome. I actually kind of loved this film, right down to the rather deserving and very funny finale.