Film reviews by Daniel Davis are an internship project in partnership with Lyndon State College. Opinions expressed are those of the reviewer and not of Catamount Arts.
Each of the five live action shorts that were nominated for an Academy Award could be described as, imaginative, horrifying, and hilarious. Making a short film is not as easy as it looks. You have to say a lot in a short amount of time, but at the same time you are given more freedom to do what you want, and you can be very creative when you make a short. These five directors: Anders Walter, Mark Gil, Xavier Legrand, Esteban Crespo, and Selma Vilhunen, from five different countries, made five films that were of different genres, more or less. The result – one hell of a time.
Helium – Anders Walter – Danish – 23 mins
Easily the most creative of the five shorts, Helium, a short from Denmark, centers around a dying boy named Alfred, who is told of tales of a fantasy land called Helium by the hospital janitor, Enzo. Thanks to these tales, Alfred finds a way to regain his own happiness in life, and finds a way to escape the problems of everyday life. In only twenty three minutes, Helium, creates a fictional world, complete with a clear description and not needing any characters, which is something that many fantasy films have failed to do in two hours. The film could be considered depressing, given what the main character is going through, but in spite of that, there is a sense of hope and wonder, that something good will eventually happen, and we will always have peace within ourselves, as long as we let our imagination run wild.
The visuals are spectacular, regardless of the limited budget of a short. Director Anders Walter, manages to pull us into the fictional world, and the actors, Casper Crump and Pelle Krusbaek, also help by creating a believable friendship. Overall, Helium, is easily the most creative of the five shorts.
The Voorman Problem – Mark Gill – U.K. – 13 mins
This is my personal favorite of the five shorts. The Voorman Problem is a hilarious little gem of a short from the U.K. , and tells the story of Doctor Williams (played by Martin Freeman), a psychiatrist who is called in to check up on the enigmatic Mr. Voorman, a man who claims to be God. In the course of 10 minutes, Doctor Williams learns that Voorman may not be bluffing at all.
While it does have moments of drama, The Voorman Problem, feels like a comedy more than anything, and it works at that, too. In essence, it seems to be a “black comedy”, featuring a serious subject material, but not playing it entirely straight. Director Mark Gil and co-screenwriter Baldwin Li do a terrific job in just thirteen minutes. When Voorman is introduced, we only see his back, perhaps to give him a more mysterious and threatening appearance.
Martin Freeman’s and Tom Hollander’s performances are great, and they play off each other well: Freeman playing a man clearly driven insane, while Hollander’s character remains calm and very mysterious. The Voorman Problem is hilarious, has a point, is my favorite of the five, and worth checking out.
Just Before Losing Everything – French – Xavier Legrand – 30 minutes
Although it’s my least favorite of the shorts, Just Before Losing Everything is not a bad short by any means. In fact, it is a well-made, well shot short. It is also the longest of the five shorts that were nominated for Academy Awards.
Just Before Losing Everything tells the story of Miriam, a mother with two children, a son and a daughter, who tries to escape from her abusive husband. The reason I felt it was the weakest of the five nominated shorts is because it doesn’t seem to have a clear tone, while the other two shorts, Helium and The Voorman Problems, had clear intent and a message. Just Before Losing Everything is supposed to be dramatic and yet it feels somewhat unsatisfying in that regard.
The first few minutes are very puzzling as we see a boy, who turns out to be Miriam’s son, skipping school. A woman asks him why he isn’t at school and he tells her that he has to do so errands for his mother. The rest of the short is a “who, what, when and why” kind of deal, eventually resulting in a chase of sorts.
This short has humorous moments, including my favorite part, where one of the characters, Mrs. Bollca, is nicknamed Robocop because of her supervisor status, and is overall, pretty entertaining. A somewhat long short, I was only let down by its lack of vision.
That Wasn’t Me – Spanish – Esteban Crespo – 24 minutes
Of the five shorts, That Wasn’t Me was the most brutal and hardest to watch. Yet, it was excellent and very emotional. That Wasn’t Me tells the story of three friends travelling in Spain, who are stopped by and taken as prisoners by a group of African soldiers.
Director Crespo seems intent on addressing the ever growing problem of child soldiers in Africa, and the trauma these children experience when they have lost their childhood. He does terrific job of showing and addressing this issue in this short.
This short film is so good, that I would even say it’s better than some Hollywood films that have dealt with similar subjects. It is, however, a very hard film to sit through, and not recommended for those with weak stomachs.
Do I Have to Take Care of Everything – Finland – Selma Vilhunen – 7 minutes
The shortest and easily most chaotic of the short films, Do I Have to Take Care of Everything is (along with The Voorman Problem) one of the two “comical shorts”, and a good way to wrap up the short films, especially after such a depressing short, That Wasn’t Me.
Do I Have to Take Care of Everything is told in only seven minutes, and tells the story of a family in Finland that is about to attend a wedding. Only, everything goes wrong before they even get there, which starts with them waking up late. Do I Have to Take Care of Everything is a hilarious tale full of loads of laughs, and easily the easiest of the five shorts to watch.
From comedy to drama, to fantasy, to being downright brutal, the five nominated Academy Award live action shorts were impressive in one form or another.