BY AUSTEN MACALUS
Almost as soon as the Oscar nominations were released last Thursday, conversation emerged around the surprising lack of diversity, the biggest snubs (Where is Paul Dano’s nomination?), and whether Leonardo DiCaprio will finally bring home the statue for his work in “The Revenant.”
This kind of talk is typical for the Oscars (unfortunately, the Academy has sucked at appreciating non-white actors, directors and writers). But every year, underneath the typical speculation, criticism and banter, some of the best nuggets of film almost go unnoticed: the live-action shorts. The live-action shorts, like the typical feature film, combine interesting plotlines, compelling character development and intriguing conflict. Unlike features, they pack all these elements into an ultra-condensed form, averaging only 20-30 minutes on screen.
And unlike some of the larger Oscar categories, i.e. Best Picture, Best Actor/Actress in a Leading Role and Best Director, the live-action shorts come from a variety of perspectives. The films this year feature stories from around the world, including West Bank, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Germany and the UK. Artists of all backgrounds are rightfully appreciated.
However — unless you are a film junkie, someone who watches the crazy obscure shorts.tv channel or already one of the shorts-following faithful — year after year most people overlook these films (and we feel bad for poor Leo!). That’s a shame. The live-action shorts showcase the art of filmmaking at its simplest. There are no multi-million dollar budgets or star-studded casts or big studios trying to make a buck — just hard-working artists creating meaningful stories through film.
The live-action shorts will be shown at Landmark Theaters starting on Friday Jan. 29. Below are the list of nominees, accompanying trailers and descriptions by the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Five nuns living in the West Bank find their routine disrupted when the car of a family of Israeli settlers breaks down outside the convent. Unable to use the telephone due to Sabbath restrictions, the family needs help from the nuns, but the sisters' vow of silence requires them to work with their visitors to find an unorthodox solution.
On the heels of a painful divorce, an Afghan-American woman joins the U.S. military as an interpreter and is sent to Afghanistan. On her first mission, she accompanies troops pursuing a bomb-maker, and must bridge the gender and culture gap to help the man's pregnant wife when she goes into labor.
Michael, a divorced father devoted to his eight-year-old daughter, Lea, picks her up for their usual weekend together. At first it feels like a normal visit, but Lea soon realizes that something is different, and so begins a fateful journey.
In Kosovo in 1998, two young boys are best friends living normal lives, but as war engulfs their country, their daily existence becomes filled with violence and fear. Soon, the choices they make threaten not only their friendship, but their families and their lives.
For a lonely typographer, an online relationship has provided a much-needed connection without revealing the speech impediment that has kept him isolated. Now, however, he is faced with the proposition of meeting his online paramour in the flesh, and thereby revealing the truth about himself.