Monday, September 15, 2014

OVP: Live Action Short Film (2013)

OVP: Best Live Action Short Film (2013)

The Nominees Were...

Esteban Crespo, Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me)
Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras, Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)
Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson, Helium
Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari, Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)
Mark Gill and Baldwin Li, The Voorman Problem

My Thoughts: All right, I'm going to start right off the bat by saying that I just finished yelling a series of profanity that would make David Mamet say, "simmer down, kid," as this is the second time that I have written this post, as Blogger is a pain-in-the-butt sometimes and totally just deleted my original version of the post.  As a result, I'm going to be an hour behind schedule for the day and this isn't quite going to have the same ring as I had last time with the post.  However, I'm a completist so I'm going to write this for our OVP again (show your appreciation for my determination to bring you all of these articles in the comments if you're feeling generous!), but if this post randomly deletes again I'm throwing my computer out the window (and I live on the third floor so it's not surviving).

We'll keep the same order as before, which meant that I started with the one person in the above series of photos that you actually recognize, Martin Freeman, who is the star of The Voorman Problem.  Freeman plays a therapist who is assigned a patient named Voorman (played by Tom Hollander, whom you would recognize as the chief protagonist in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End).  Voorman thinks he is God, and as the movie plays on we learn that he almost certainly is a deity of some sort.  The two play off each other well in the film, sparking a great deal of chemistry, but the movie itself never really takes off.  The plot is probably the biggest fault here, as you know exactly what is going to happen the moment the nurse says that Voorman thinks he is god, and the humor isn't enough to carry the predictability.

This isn't quite the case for Do I Have to Take Care of Everything, the second Finnish film to ever receive an Oscar nomination (the first being 2002's The Man Without a Past).  The movie is about a pair of parents getting their two young daughters ready for a wedding, with Murphy's Law on full display (they cannot find the gift, then they break it, the girls think it's appropriate to wear their Halloween costumes, and coffee is spilled on everything).  The movie's twist is that the wedding isn't actually that day, and the four of them end up crashing a funeral of a person they have never met.  You see this mishap coming pretty early on, but the four leads are all amiable and clever enough that you don't mind too much, and part of me wanted to spend more days with this family, one of two films I felt that way about in this category, which is always a good sign.

The other film that I felt that way about was the terrific Just Before Losing Everything starring Lea Drucker as Miriam and Denis Menochet (you'll recognize him as the dairy farmer in the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds) as Antoine.  This is one of those films where everything works, starting out deceptively on an ancillary character, and then slowly moving into the view of our main character of Miriam.  This is one of those rare movies that doesn't feel like a short film-you expect it to continue onward, but of course it's only a half hour long.  Playing an abused woman, we see the world through Miriam's eyes, and frequently what we would assume would be sympathy for a woman abused by her husband and trying to get out (she's getting her severance check in hopes of starting a new life, which is why she has gone to work) is instead greeted with scorn and disdain (there is a moment later in the film where one of her coworkers has the gaul to say that Miriam shouldn't have come to her employer and friends for help, and it doesn't remotely ring as unbelievable).  The ending of the movie is pitch perfect, as are the performances from Drucker and Menochet (honestly better than some of the nominated actors from last year), and the cinematography in particular deserves a shout-out (I love the way the wide shots almost feel like everyone is being watched, getting further into Miriam's mind; a very Martha Marcy Mae Marlene vibe).  Definitely one of the best short films I've ever seen.

Sadly, AMPAS also nominated one of the worst short films I've ever seen in That Wasn't Me.  It was deceptive in the opening scenes of the film that it might be interesting (it's the most "cinematic" looking of the five films), but after a while you are treated to one-dimensional portrayals of characters and a host of condescending cliches.  The film, about child soldiers in Africa, is so generic that you almost don't need names for any of the characters, and of course there's only one soldier that shows any sort of humanity, and he's the one who ends up going with the white lady to a different life.  It's predictable, borderline racist, and a complete waste of an Oscar nomination.

The final film would usually have made it to the worst slot if it hadn't been for That Wasn't Me being a genuinely bad movie (and not just bad in relation to a great movie).  Helium is also a host of filmic cliches, this time involving a precocious young child dying of cancer teaching a lonely janitor that there is wonder in the world.  I get that cancer is a topic that should be discussed in film, but there must be a better way to address it than a precocious child teaching a jaded adult about the world-I mean, the story notes are so familiar you can picture a dozen episodes of Grey's Anatomy or ER that have done the same thing, and probably with better actors than Helium.  About the best thing I can say about the film is that it has some pretty remarkable special effects for a movie that almost no one was going to be able to see (considering we don't generally screen short films).

Other Precursor Contenders: Voorman actually was nominated last year at the BAFTA Awards and so we got an entirely new set of nominees this year (it's worth noting this is a strange turn-of-events, as usually when BAFTA and AMPAS nominate films in different years, it's historically AMPAS nominating the film first, like Charlize Theron and Monster).  Island Queen, Keeping Up with the Joneses, Orbit Ever After, Room 8, and Sea View were the nominees, with Room 8 taking the win.
Films I Would Have Nominated: Sadly they don't put short films before films with regularity anymore (don't you wish they did?) and so I don't get to see enough nominees to complain.
Oscar’s Choice: AMPAS cannot resist awards bait, so they chose Helium (thankfully over likely second place That Wasn't Me, the other baitiest movie).
My Choice: Just Before You Lose Everything is so much better than all of the other films nominated that I was genuinely angry that it lost on Oscar night, and it takes a lot after all of these years to really get me riled up about an unjust Oscar win.  I would clearly give it the trophy, with Do I Have, Voorman, Helium, and That Wasn't Me behind it.

Those are my thoughts-what are yours?  If you've seen the films, are you with me that Just Before I Lose Everything was far-and-away the best nominated film in the category?  Or are you a defender of Helium (or worst still, That Wasn't Me)?  And has Blogger ever deleted one of your posts?  Share in the comments!

Past Best Live Action Short Film Contests: 2012

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