Ranked: 2015 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films

Feb 19, 2015
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The 87th Annual Academy Awards ceremony will happen this Sunday, February 22nd. This week we've taken a look at this year's short film competitions. The Academy defines a short film as an original motion picture running 40 minutes or less, and excludes all advertisments, unaired or unsold television episodes, or credit sequences from feature-length films. Our critic, Shawn Hazelett, watched and ranked all of this year's Oscar-nominated shorts. In this first installment, he'll look at this year's live action category. 

1

Dir. Michael Lennox

Boogaloo and Graham

In the summer of 1978, two Belfast boys are given a pair of unlikely pets: baby chickens. The Irish lads have a surprising amount of fun raising the chicks, though their mother sees them as a nuisance, disrupting everything from cooking to personal hygiene. Their father—a bit more warmhearted, though considerably less pragmatic—sees them as a form of inexpensive entertainment. Perhaps unintentionally, they also serve as a distraction from boiling IRA/loyalist tensions spilling onto the streets of Belfast. Boogaloo and Graham is a funny and beautifully realized vignette full of childhood charm and a nose for detail, earning a sort of believable idealism without ignoring the darker aspects of life.

2

Dir. Talkhon Hamzavi

Parvaneh

An Afghan teen in Switzerland, completely foreign to the various workings of Western culture, struggles to wire money home to her family. Desperate, she gives a young Swiss student some of her money for help. In spite of—or perhaps because of—her naivety, the Swiss teen doesn’t just take the money but instead takes an active interest in helping the girl, a choice that ultimately pays off for both of them. Beautifully photographed and sparsely written, Parvaneh might feel removed or cold but it undoubtedly has a warm heart, observing a minor victory that is still a seminal moment in two lives.

3

Dir. Hu Wei

Butter Lamp

Butter Lamp is a simple conceit, showing a family photographer taking pictures of clients posing against various backdrops. The thing is, these particular clients are the inhabitants of a remote Tibetan village and each backdrop is selected to create the illusion that these insular villagers have in fact visited Disney World and Paris. A majority of the humor is derived from the subject/canvas pairings—or more correctly, mispairings—which makes the comedy fairly one note, but the film has enough of an imagination that it hits most of the time.

4

Dir. Oded Binnun

Aya

At an Israeli airport, a woman mistaken for a car driver goes along with the ruse to take a handsome man to Jerusalem. Initially a fun premise that mines humor from misunderstanding and miscommunication, the film wanders into unexpectedly dark waters, exploring actions and emotions that border on sociopathic without fully committing itself.

5

Dir. Mat Kirkby

The Phone Call

A suicide hotline operator receives a call from an older man indicating he had taken a substantial amount of pills minutes before calling. She is thus tasked with keeping the caller on the line while probing for clues towards his whereabouts before it’s too late. Sharp writing and engaging work from Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent unfortunately cannot atone for subject matter and emotions that are far more ambitious than 20 minutes allow.

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