Saturday, February 6, 2016

Oscar Live Action Shorts 2016 (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The 2016 Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Live Action

This year's Oscar shorts are well in the mode of 2015's existential tone, yet they  uphold the tradition of taking us on a global voyage across many lands while being satisfying and engrossing.

"Ave Maria" is a light hearted episode of a Jewish family's struggles during car trouble in Palestine. Visually striking and effervescent, this tale is full of humorous character and detail, along with a subtle subversive quality.

For those of us who like suspense you will find it in "Shok" from Kosovo, directed by Jamie Donahue. Two young friends get mixed up in war. Through the noose of guilt and violence, the pair are steadfast friends. The film is just as much a meditation on friendship as it is an account of war. This story like others in the bunch will pull on your heart in addition to making you gasp.

The excellent and riveting "Everything Will Be All Okay" from Germany and Austria by director Patrick Vollrath is a moment by moment record of an anxious father (Simon Schwarz), just divorced, and the hold his has on his young daughter (Julia Pointner). This film doesn't pull its punches, full of tension and drama that is honest and first rate. The circumstances build gradually like life itself. Though it is explosive, the chain of events never veer into melodrama. Schwartz, through his acting, becomes a living Expressionist woodcut as if chiseled by Kafka.

"Day One" puts us on a trip with Feda (Layla Alizado), a female interpreter for the US Army, as she takes her first job in Afghanistan. Visceral, poignant and uncompromising, this true to life tale is spine-tingling from start to finish in its detail of life. Feda feels a stranger at every turn, though she is culturally accepted. The immediacy of life and death as familiar as the sun forces Feda to feel removed from herself in both spirit and body.

Finally, there is "Stutterer" a sweet and bubbly character study from Ireland about a quirky typographer (Matthew Needham) who wants to overcome a speech impediment. Positive and affectionate, though a bit too light, the story still manages to evoke a smile though the whimsy of its characters.

Though the intense films work better than the two more bouyant shorts, all selections are deftly made in spare sharp, detail without any superfluous baggage or flamboyance. Once again, despite the predominant dark tones, these nominations deliver charge and spirit. Each of these shorts can stand alone in equal weight to their feature film cousins.

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