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With: Aran Bell, Joe Eales, Lewis Howlett, Oran Creagh, Rory Keenan, Olga Wehrly, Luke Matheny, Christopher Hirsh, Marian Brock, Samuel Peter Holland, Jim Carter, Jodie Whittaker, Renaud Rutten
Written by: Tanel Toom, Caroline Bruckner, Michael Creagh, Luke Matheny, Tom Bidwell, Ivan Goldschmidt, Jean-Luc Pening
Directed by: Tanel Toom, Michael Creagh, Luke Matheny, Ian Barnes, Ivan Goldschmidt
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 102
Date: 03/18/2013

Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action (2011)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Short Changing

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For some reason, the Oscar-nominated live action shorts do not, on the whole, seem to be as inventive as the animated ones, and this year's batch is no exception. At least this year's films seem to be more light-hearted in tone, rather than preachy or heavy, and they will pass the time pleasantly.

Luke Matheny's God of Love (18 minutes) is more or less a comedy, shot in black-and-white, about a poor schlub, Ray (played by the director), that works as a singer and a dart-thrower (don't ask). He's very tall and thin, with huge facial features and a crop of thick, curly hair. He loves the group's pretty drummer Kelly (Marian Brock), but she loves guitarist Fozzie (Christopher Hirsh). After sending several prayers heavenward for the love of Kelly, Ray receives a box of magical darts that cause people to fall in love for six hours. This, of course, leads to several complications and a twist ending. It's all charming and amusing, even if it's fairly simple.

Michael Creagh's The Crush (15 minutes), from Ireland, fares about the same; it's effective in the moment, but doesn't stick around long in the memory. A young boy, Ardal (Oran Creagh), has a crush on his teacher, Miss Purdy (Olga Wehrly), and gives her a (plastic) ring. He's crushed to learn that she has a new, real fiancé and a real ring. Ardal takes an instant dislike to the boyfriend (Rory Keenan), and sets out to prove that he's not worthy of Miss Purdy's affections. Sadly, poor young Creagh -- the director's son -- can't really handle the dialogue he's given, but the movie is slight fun anyway.

Ivan Goldschmidt's Na Wewe (19 minutes) also has a bit of a sense of humor, but it's used in the service of a message. It's 1994 in Burundi, rebel soldiers stop a carload of people and try to separate them into two groups: Hutus and Tutsis. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as it sounds: all of the people there are of complex, mixed ancestry, and no one is as easily defined as the bad guys would like.

Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite's Wish 143 (24 minutes), from the UK, brings things down a little bit. It's about a young, terminal cancer patient, David (Samuel Peter Holland), who applies for a wish: he wants to lose his virginity before he dies. He has a girlfriend, but things are not working out very well with her, a prostitute is out of the question, and David does not have enough time to meet and fall in love with anyone new. How can he achieve his goal? Thankfully, the filmmakers treat the cancer as matter-of-fact and they never let their movie become too maudlin. In fact, it's rather breezy, and gets in a few funny moments here and there.

Then we have my favorite, Tanel Toom's The Confession (26 minutes), and, oddly, the only serious movie in the bunch. It starts out unpromisingly, as a fairly standard coming-of-age movie, and one of those dull ones that's based more on nostalgia than on any real kind of childhood experience. Young, reserved Sam (Lewis Howlett) is being prepared for his first confession, but he worries that he has nothing to confess. So he and his best pal, the more rambunctious troublemaker Jacob (Joe Eales) decide to pull a prank with a scarecrow, which of course goes wrong. All of this stuff was fairly ordinary, to be honest, but the film's last two or three minutes pack a mighty wallop that you won't soon forget. It's the most vicious cinematic blow against Catholicism in years.

It's difficult to predict this category, and it's dangerous to choose one's own favorite as the actual winner. The Confession is probably a bit too subversive to win, so I'm going with Na Wewe as my official prediction.

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