Sunday, 05 March 2006

I noticed that the nominees for this year's Academy Awards in the "Best Live Action Short Film" category are downloadable on iTunes. Wow, so cool - I'm a fan of good film quality, and nothing beats the under-thirty-minute format for making a real impact, without the typical fluff and other Hollywood-formula junk.

So, I downloaded. And watched. And so here you go - my own impressions, which will hopefully inspire you to watch. It doesn't have to be in your local theater to be good. In fact, if it's in the local theater, well... Never mind. Let's just stay focused on these short films.

First of all, if you have iTunes and a spare $10 (like as in total - you can get them all for less than ten bucks), then my first suggestion is that you should download them and watch (links to iTunes music store). They range in length from about 14 to 28 minutes, there are five films in the category, and they're certainly worth watching. It makes for a great evening, and it's an easy, painless way to expand one's film horizons, just slightly.

The second thing is, you won't want to watch all of these with the little kids. There's nothing really gross or pornographic, but there is some explicit content (nudity, language and violence) in a couple of them, and the content in others can occasionally be a bit heavy or dark for some.

That said, here are five short films you should watch, and what I thought of each:

Our Time Is Up (in iTunes)

This is the story of an American psychologist who finds he has a short time left to live, and how that impacts his relationships with his patients. It's well-done and the main character is played by Kevin Pollak. I liked this film at times. It's funny in a smart kind of way, and it's well-shot and the direction is interesting. But in the end, something about it felt, well, thin. Kind of like the way fast food fills your stomach but leaves you wishing there was something more. Certainly worth watching, but probably not one I would vote for, given the competition.

Six Shooter (in iTunes)   UPDATE: Oscar Winner

From the opening line, this is a dark, confrontational Irish film, which won the Oscar in the category of Best Live Action Short Film. The story plays character off of character to show how people deal with death and emotion, and how those differences - in hyperbole - affect one another. It's a smart film, one that slaps your sensibilities in the face and challenges the viewer to stay with the film, in the same difficult way the characters either choose to stay or go, I suppose. This is one of the two short films that gets an explicit label, for the violence and language. Be forewarned - If you have a hard time with dark themes of death and violence, this one may not be for you. For me, knowing ahead of time was enough. It's well-shot and the direction is very good. A young actor named Ruaihidhri Conroy steals the scene later in the film. Be prepared for the violence and murder/suicide themes and you should do okay.

Cashback (in iTunes)

From the UK comes a great short that will leave you thinking and laughing. By the way, this is the other film that gets an explicit rating, but for a different reason: This time it's because of the camera imagery of the female body, and I will leave it at that. The contrast of the characters is very subtle and the premise if great. A young man works nights in a grocery store, and the film examines the others who work there and how the pass the time. It's clever and funny, very well-directed and filmed. Sometimes simple and clever combine in a writer's mind to create something special - this is one example. Again, there's full-frontal nudity in this (not really distasteful, just a hard-to-explain surprise if you're watching with the young kiddies) and that's not explained on iTunes specifically, so watch appropriately and all. I really liked this one, and I laughed out loud at the last line.

Ausreisser (The Runaway) (in iTunes)

This is a great film. Of them all, it's right up there with two others for my vote (If I had a vote, that is). This German film shows a one-day interaction between a boy and his father, who never knew he had a son and has never wanted one. But it's much more special than that, and writing anymore would just take away from the film itself. The little boy portrays the part well, the direction cuts the scenes craftfully to keep things moving effectively. It's a sad, happy, sad, happy, sad again film that leaves you wondering if it was really only 23 minutes long. Well-directed, well-acted and well-shot, the only people who won't like it will be those who find themselves sitting there at the end muttering to themselves "I didn't get it." I love a good smart, emotional, intimate and personal film about two people and what really matters, and this is it. Well done.

The Last Farm (in iTunes)

This film comes from Iceland and is an amazingly well-crafted set of visuals and character play that paints a vivid picture of a man in deep sorrow. You may know what's coming, but in the end, don't we all? I think that's the point, or at least it's one of them. This film does such a terrific job of conveying so many complex, intertwined messages in such a short time. It's very sad and quite touching. If nothing else, it shows the simultaneous detailed complexity and abstract simplicity of the human spirit and how one's spirit can be so tightly tied to another. Excellent film. (Note: the iTunes reviews seem to have some twelve-year-olds that are giving it one star because the preview is not helpful, which skews the overall rating of the film itself, which is quite positive) 

So, which one do I like best? Well, honestly the one that stands out in my mind the most is The Runaway. It's a personal story that connects. The others that I rated with five light bulbs (heh) are also terrific, and any of those I think should get the award. More important than which gets the Oscar, I think, is the fact that not enough people get to see these types of films. My intent here was not to convince someone which I think is best, but rather to convince people to watch all these great little films, ones that they otherwise might miss.

So, go buy your tickets - all of them for ten bucks - and watch!

If you happen to be in a really big city, you might be able to see them in a theater, too.



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Sunday, 05 March 2006 11:10:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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