REVIEW: Here are 15 appropriately short reviews for the Oscar-nominated short films of 2014, contending at the 87th Academy Awards on Feb. 22.
By James A. Molnar
With that, here are 15 appropriately short reviews for the Oscar-nominated short films of 2014.
Best Documentary — Short Subject
“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”
The facts shared in this movie alone are jaw-dropping. What the people do in this crisis center is just short of miraculous. They help those who have been abandoned, those who served a country that doesn’t serve them. It is highly gripping and definitely worth watching. This one seems like it would be the favorite going into Oscar Sunday.
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The title character is a mother who is dying. She loves spending time with her son. And he loves spending time with her. The message of this short film is powerful: Everyone dies. Love will stay with you. Love is what matters. It’s a little dull though, to be honest, and it’s 40-minute runtime drags at times.
The most profound of the Oscar-nominated documentary shorts is a poignant story of a couple whose newborn suffers from breathing problems. Ondine’s Curse is a disease that affects people while breathing at night, requiring a ventilator while sleeping. As the family struggles, it’s quite extraordinary how this “little mouse” — as the mom calls him — uplifts and endures.
“The Reaper (La Parka)”
Efrain is known at work as “La Parka” (The Reaper). He has worked at a slaughterhouse for 25 years. Each day he kills 500 bulls. He works six days a week. But the short story is more than just him killing. It’s about him struggling with that death and how to live himself. This short is highly stylized and quiet. It’s the perfect snapshot of a man’s life, even if it drags a little.
The seeming odd ball of the group of nominees, this doc is the shortest among the nominees and also has the least to say. It feels more like a two-minute news video one could find on CNN or NYTimes.com — but stretched to 20 minutes. It follows the burgeoning population of White Earth, North Dakota, due to an abundance of oil. Some see the promise of the American Dream, but the reality is a little different.
Best Short Film — Animated
“The Bigger Picture”
A story about two brothers with an elderly mother, told through mixed media and chalk. While the animation is remarkable, the short is somewhat forgettable.
“The Dam Keeper”
This one may just win the Oscar if “Feast” doesn’t win it. Created by former Pixar art directors, “The Dam Keeper” features a story about an isolated pig that is bullied. While he has an important task involving the town’s windmill, he feels increasing unimportant and different. It’s not until a free-spirited artistic fox comes along that changes the pig’s hopes and perspective. There may be no dialogue but the message is universal: Everyone matters, even the pig at the top of the town. The short features soft animation with brush strokes similar to what you’d find in an “art of” book for an animated feature. This short gets your attention and keeps it.
Seeing this Disney short for a second time (it was presented in front of “Big Hero 6” in November) brings more meaning and depth. Everyone in the theatre erupted in applause at its conclusion. It’s easy to love a film about a dog. Disney puts its winning anthropomorphic formula to great use. The animation as well plays well between areas of focus and light. Well done!
“Me and My Moulton”
A quirky short with simplistic yet highly stylized animation about a young girl with two sisters just trying to be normal and fit in.
“A Single Life”
This short really is short. At two minutes, the quirky timehopping story doesn’t waste a second. Any vinyl record lover will enjoy this immensely.
Best Short Film — Live Action
The title character of this 39-minute short (nearly maxed out at the 40 minutes allowed) is mysterious yet familiar. She is that part of all of us that wants to do something not culturally acceptable. She doesn’t break the law, but she doesn’t follow the rules. It’s refreshing and the road traveled is one of intrigue and mystery.
“Boogaloo and Graham”
Two boys each get a chicken as a pet. It’s cute, quirky and fun. This could be a spoiler at the Oscars.
“Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak)”
This story may be simple, but it tells a lot about the human condition. Town people come to a photoshoot to escape and to see the exotic, but their own backyard is quite remarkable in and of itself. It may be bizarre at times, but you can’t take your eyes away.
A journey to send money back home to her family becomes a real adventures as the title character is in a strange town. Her name means butterfly and once she stretches her wings, she can really fly.
“The Phone Call”
This one is the most emotionally stirring of the group and could be the winner on Oscar Sunday. It features Sally Hawkins as a woman at a crisis center. Jim Broadbent plays the mysterious caller. The clock in her office ticks as the
call continues, each second precious while she tries to save the man’s life.
Learn more about watching all of the shorts yourself here.
The 87th Academy Awards, for outstanding film achievements of 2014, will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, and will be televised live on ABC and in more than 225 countries worldwide.