Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Oscar Nominated Shorts - Live Action 2012 (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway 

The 2012 Live Action Shorts

It's Academy Award week at The Tropic and for those of you who enjoy a little stream of consciousness and eye candy to stimulate the heart and mind, it's always fun to catch this year's bunch of live action shorts.  Oscar has been using kid gloves this year with unusually light comic fare and I'm wondering where to find some morsels of sincere cinematic subversion. Oh to live the salad days again of Scorsese, Polanski, Casavettes or David Lynch! Yet as invariably comic as these films are (with one exception) they still have a fluid verve which makes them all charmers.

If a bit of good natured Catholic ribbing is your bag, there is "Pentecost" from Ireland, directed by Peter McDonald and Eimear O' Kane. The plot is simple: a young boy is grounded from watching soccer because of an accident during Mass. He is given a pep talk by the local priest as if he is in training for the World Cup. Will the youngster drop the censer? Or will he be redeemed behind the bishop near the altar goal line? Although this film has its share of religious irreverence, it shies    away from edginess and is ultimately lighthearted. The star of the film is the character of Damien who is a Roald Dahl character brought to life.

Next, it is off to India with the singularly eerie "Raju". from Germany and India, directed by Max Zahle. The film is apprehensive electric and confining, focusing on the quagmires of adoption and the crimes of kidnapping. In this film,the crowd congestion is carnivorous and you don't know who to trust. Despite its short length of under twenty-four minutes, it says more about the fragility of children and the monstrous desire of a family ego than any feature film. "Raju" is a solitary gem.

If the moral pitfalls of international adoption is too heavy, you can always go back to the future with "Time Freak" (USA) directed by Andrew Bowler. The film as facile retro-1980s quality. In content and form, "Time Freak" is a cheerful hybrid of Darren Aronofsky's "Pi" and a Robert Zemekis comedy. It also has a dash of "Seinfeld". Mad Quantum Scientist Stillman wants to have a date with a girl and needs a suit. He can't stop "going back" until he gets things exactly right. At first this feels like a SNL skit that runs too long, but then at the film's end, the punch line finally hits and a belly laugh erupts in spite of it all. Stillman steals the show with his John Belushi aura.

Also represented is another entry from Ireland, "The Shore". The film is directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) who recently appeared in person at The Tropic as part of our visiting director series. "The Shore" is about the falling away of two friends who were romantic rivals. It is full of ease, poignancy and earthy humor. Terry George is a slice of life maestro and his camera never edges into drama or camp. This is simply life as it is lived, bumpy and cramped with domestic foibles but ultimately bouncing with joie de vivre.

No live-action selection would be complete without a sliver of Gallows Humour and that is what you get in "Tuba Atlantic" directed by Hallvar Witzo (Norway). We have an old man Oskar diagnosed with six days to live. Oskar puts the Mudgeon in curmudgeon, seeming like a mix of a Clint Eastwood character and Mr. Magoo. He is fond of shooting seagulls out of the sky with a huge machine gun. He can't be bothered with anything let alone death.

Then a grief counselor comes to the door from "The Jesus Club". A battle of wills ensue. All Oskar can think about is finishing his huge tuba machine, to create earth-shattering noises across the globe. This brilliantly realized film stands out in quirk and circumstance with a take no prisoners tease. It moves across the eye like an existential slapstick. It is nothing less than Lars von Trier in relief. 

Refreshing and riotously regressive, "Tuba Atlantic" is my personal pick for an Oscar, but if the isolationist humor is not to your liking, you will find others to root for with this year's Live Action Shorts.

Write Ian at redtv_2005@yahoo.com

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