Movie Review: Live-Action Oscar Nominated Short Films (2010)

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Short Films International and Magnolia Pictures are currently screening this year’s Oscar nominated live-action and animated shorts in theaters prior to the March 7, 2010 Oscar presentation. For theater listings and times check out Shorts HD.com. Below are the reviews for the five Oscar-nominated live-action short films as well as trailers, official sites as well as the full version of my favorite short from the list of nominees.

You can get my reviews of the five nominated animated shorts right here.

Kavi
India / 9:10 minutes

Taking place in Maharashtra, India, Kavi centers on Kavi, a young boy working alongside his mother and father in a brick kiln as a modern-day slave. He prides himself for being the “fastest worker” and we see him smiling almost immediately until he looks up and sees school children playing a cricket. He stops and stares, wishing he could take part, but his dreams are dashed as he’s told schools are not a place for the poor.

Writer/director/producer Gregg Helvey has put together a piece that could have probably been tightened up a bit as some scenes begin to repeat themselves, but the film delivers a final sequence that offers the audience a slight moment of reprieve before text comes on screen reminding you things are not getting any better. It’s a solid effort, but not perfect.

You can check out the official site for the film here which allows you to buy the short in support of stopping slavery and mentions the short film is the basis for the feature length version, of which they are currently speaking to investors about financing. There is also a Facebook page located here.

The Door
Ireland / 16:52 minutes

The Door isn’t labeled as a story set in 1986 Chernobyl until the end credits where a dedication to Nikolai Kalugin and his daughter is also listed over black. As a result, I did a quick Google search and found a listing in Google books for the non-fiction book “Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster” in which Kaulgin writes a chapter that begins by saying, “I want to bear witness… It happened ten years ago, and it happens to me again every day.” The passage concludes, “I want to bear witness: my daughter died from Chernobyl. And they want us to forget about it.”

Like Kavi, The Door uses children to earn its emotional center, but when we’re talking about a short film the quickest path to the audience’s heart is the best way to go. The Door does just that in a cold blue world of suffering that is beautifully shot by Tim Fleming for director Juanita Wilson who based the film on the story of Kalugin and his daughter. Kalugin’s story begins in Pripyat, which is where filming took place as well as in Kiev in the Ukraine. It’s a very emotional short and an excellent piece of cinema.

The official site can be found here and you can buy “Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster” from Amazon here.

The New Tenants
Denmark / 22:59 minutes

The New Tenants is the one film of the five live-action shorts that carries any names you’re going to recognize such as Vincent D’Onofrio as a crazed husband and Kevin Corrigan channeling his inner Christopher Walken. It is also the biggest hodge-podge of the bunch, mixing humor, wit, drugs, violence and finally ballroom dancing to tell the story of two new apartment owners that get into a bit of trouble after they mistakenly hand off a large bag of heroin assuming it’s flour to an aged neighbor. Once they learn the truth about the apartment and the mistake they’ve made it’s too late as a series of crazy people begin hammering at their door all while they debate whether or not one should be smoking at the dining table or not.

I was instantly drawn into this film by the dialogue written by Anders Thomas Jensen and adapted by David Rakoff who plays the smoker of the two new tenants, but as the film came to a conclusion it felt like they had just wasted 17 minutes of mayhem, humor and confusion and instead of being interesting just ends up being silly. However, those opening 17 minutes are quite great and at only 23 minutes (the credits actually begin at minute 18 followed by a silent two minute scene at the end) you could do much, much worse than this.

If you want to see a slightly longer trailer than the one include in this review click here.

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