As per usual, the Academy Awards nominated five shorts for their live action category this year that span many different countries and languages. The five shorts are: Parvaneh (Switzerland); Butter Lam (France / China); The Phone Call (U.K.); Aya (Israel / French); and Boogaloo & Graham (Northern Ireland). Each of these shorts have very different tones and approaches as I’ve described in my following reviews.
Parvaneh – A Review
The first short was made in 2012, but not released worldwide until 2014. This film, made in Switzerland, is about an Afghan immigrant refugee named Parvaneh who has just arrived in Switzerland. The short mostly deals with her getting to know her new country as she befriends a young Swiss girl.
This is a pretty good short that I actually think would benefit from a slightly longer runtime. Not necessarily feature length, but an additional 10 minutes could greatly help to develop our characters more. As it stands though, this is a solid character piece.
What I particularly liked about the short was the segment in which Parvaneh is walking down the street and passing by places in the area she lives. The scene is mostly silent with just music played in the background, and the actress playing Parvaneh, Nissa Kashani, has a bit of nice levity in her performance. I also liked the relationship between Parvaneh and the Swiss girl she ends up befriending. It’s realistic enough for me to appreciate it. In general, I’d say Parvaneh is a solid short, that’s good enough to see.
Butter Lamp (2013) – A Review
A Chinese and French production filmed in Tibet, Butter Lamp mostly centers around Tibetan nomads who are being photographed in various backgrounds.
This might be my favorite of the shorts that were shown. What I particularly liked about this short is the inherent simple nature of it. It’s just a bunch of people being filmed with a camera in front of various backgrounds. Despite the simplicity of the whole thing, it manages to have some very humorous moments. In particular, I liked the scenes where a baby is shown grabbing a goat, and the scene that opens up with a shot from Disneyworld that is quickly covered up by a picture of a Tibetan temple. Those scenes were quite amusing, as was much of the film.
The rest of the short is overall quite good, and I liked it, but some people might think that nothing really happens in terms of a story line. Still, I would recommend seeing it.
The Phone Call (2013) – A Review
The Phone Call is a short from the United Kingdom that deals with Heather (played by Sally Hawkins), a women who works at a Helpline Call Center. She receives a phone call from a mysterious man (played by Jim Broadbent, whose voice is heard, but never seen) who is very depressed and has taken too many antidepressants. Most of the short deals with her trying to help this man and find out where he lives.
Of all the short films nominated, The Phone Call is easily the most powerful and most well-acted of them all. Sally Hawkins turns in a fantastic performance per usual, as a women who is clearly worried for this man’s life. Hawkins plays her performance with restraint, until later she becomes very dramatic when the short calls for it. Jim Broadbent also shows how clearly skilled he is as an actor, as he manages to give an incredible performance as a man with a serious problem, despite his performance being predominantly voice only. Later on, some of the scenes are shot from the room of Jim’s character, but we still don’t see his face, as the scenes switch back and forth between both locations.
Of note, is the terrific jazz score, especially for a short film, which is used at the beginning and end of the film. Additionally, The Phone Call won the Oscar for best short, and although it’s not my favorite, I do believe it’s a worthy winner.
While not necessarily my favorite, I will acknowledge that The Phone Call deals with a very serious topic and handles it in a very serious manner, which I very much appreciate, and along with the great performances, definitely makes it worth checking out.
At 40 minutes in length, Aya is the longest of the short film. An Israeli and French production, Aya tells the story of two strangers: a woman named Aya and a man named Mr. Overby. These two meet at an airport by accident when the man encounters the women and mistakes her for his assigned driver. She decides to go along with it, and the two go on a road trip where they talk about themselves.
Aya is nicely paced and well done, with good acting from the leads. The relationship between the two main characters is handled nicely and the short is very realistic when it comes to depicting the situations they find themselves in. The film can also be very humorous, with lines like “I guess the Danish are some wild people” which made me laugh, with good dialogue between the two characters in the car. The short doesn’t shy away from being serious, and Aya’s predicament and truth is addressed later on. I especially liked the scene where the man is in the car and seems to be listening to music, although it’s not totally clear as he entire scene has no talking, just a music score. Aya is a very good short, has nice humor and overall while dealing with a serious subject, is still good to watch.
Boogaloo and Graham (2014)
Running at 14 minutes, making it the shortest of the nominees, Boogaloo and Graham made in the United Kingdom, deals with two Northern Ireland boys named Jamesy and Malachy in 1978, who are raising two young chickens when their parents tell them that big changes are coming. Big changes that they don’t want to deal with. Their parents are having a baby and the two chickens need to go.
Boogaloo and Graham is a very innocent short that is a good depiction of childhood. Jamesy and Malachy are very realistic young kids, who don’t know any better, claim they want to be vegetarians, but also want to start a chicken farm (even though they have no idea how to do that), and aren’t at all happy when their parents want to take the chickens away. The film has Irish unpredictably and goes to places that I didn’t expect it to go. Heck, it opens up with shots of what appear to be soldiers going to war, even though, this has nothing to do with the short and is somewhat misleading to the audience.
The short itself has moments of humor, especially when the boys make their outrageous claims. It’s clear that they have no idea what they are talking about when they want to become chicken farmers.
There are a few problems I had with this short though. Near the end it becomes dramatic, and the switch was rather unexpected. Also, the dialogue for the boys did not really need to be translated into subtitles. I understand that thick Irish accents might be hard for some people to hear, but I understood what they were saying just fine. Overall, Boogaloo and Graham is a very amusing and sweet look at childhood.