I’m lucky to be living in Vancouver. It’s one of the few cities one can be able to see the nominated shorts in a big-screen theatre. Gives me a chance to review them myself and even make a should-win pick for myself. This year is quite an array of nominees in both animation and live-action. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on the nominated shorts:
-Blind Vaysha (Canada/France): dir. Theodore Ushev- This is a unique 2D animation story of a Bulgarian folk-tale. A story of a girl with one eye that can see the past and one eye that can see the future and cannot live in the present. The story also shows the attempts of others to fix Vaysha’s blindness. The linocut-style animation, however, was unique and had a lot of style and flare to it.
The story doesn’t really end. Instead the film ends asking the audience their perspective. It has a unique narrative point and I get why it’s done that way, but I often wonder if the film ended on the right note.
-Borrowed Time (USA): dirs. Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj – At first you’ll think this is a family-friendly story at the beginning but soon learn it’s not such as you move on. It’s a dark Western story of a man returning to the spot of a family tragedy from his childhood. The hurt comes back from it and he decides to do something drastic but something happens.
I have to admire Pixar animators Coats and Hamou-Lhadj for making a brief departure from their traditional family fare and doing something more mature under Quorum Films. No, it’s not R-rated like Pear Cider And Cigarettes but it’s dark enough to be adult. I think this short is most likely to upset my pick for the winner.
-Pear Cider and Cigarettes (Canada): dirs. Robert Valley and Cara Speller- Now this is a refreshing R-rated alternative. It sometimes reminds you of a Grand Theft Auto video game or the film Waltz With Bashir. However it is a personal story from director Valley. It’s a story that makes you wonder how far would you go for a friend? Especially if that friend is selfish, conniving, irresponsible and manipulative?
It’s a story that entertains and charms and even gets you to hate Techno too. Sometimes I wonder why was he friends with that jerk? I don’t know if it’s because it was set in Vancouver or because it was an R-rated alternative but it won me over and I make it my Should Win pick.
-Pearl (USA): dir. Patrick Osborne- This is the first VR short to be nominated for an Academy Award. A musician and his daughter travel in a hatchback with a song as a bond between the two. We see the two age, the daughter mature into a musician of her own and have her own version of the song. The viewer gets a 360 degree view of the whole 5-minute story.
Looks like something Richard Linklater would do. Actually it might remind you of Waking Life. An excellent short that’s entertaining and will touch you too. Might even make you go to iTunes and download No Wrong Way Home.
-Piper (USA): dirs. Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer- This is the short shown before Finding Dory. A baby bird looking for food on the beach with her mother looking on and guiding her. Pixar does it again by delivering a clever, charming, and entertaining short with the dialogue absent and the animation as detailed to a tee as it gets. It’s excellent, but it’s something we’ve come to expect from Pixar even with their shorts. Nevertheless this is my Will Win prediction.
And those are my thoughts for the Animated Shorts up for the Oscar. A lot of styles of animation between Canadian and American companies. All five were very entertaining. We’ll see who wins.
LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILMS
This year there are no films with English as the language of the majority. All five are from European countries. Here’s the rundown:
-Ennemis interieurs (France): dir. Selim Azzazi – A man from Algeria seeks to be a French citizen but the interrogator at immigration has big questions for him about meeting with a group of Algerian men back some years ago which led to him being arrested and imprisoned for two years. The interrogator keeps insisting he answers but he’s very reluctant to do so. Even to the point of neglecting his chances of French Citizenship. Why? What will make the man give his answers?
It’s a story that appears boring at first but grows with intrigue with each minute and with each new detail. The interest builds over time. It even makes you wonder why is he withholding the names of the other men? Feelings of brotherhood? Fear of retaliation from them? Also this may be about an incident in the past but it’s very relevant, especially with the Paris bombings happening in November 2015. This is my Will Win pick.
-La Femme et le TGV (Switzerland): dirs. Timo von Gunten and Giacun Caduff – Elise is a woman who wave her Swiss flag at the passing TGV train to Zurich every time it passes her house at 6 in the morning and 6 in the evening . After that she bicycles to her job at the town patisserie. It’s her daily routine for 30 years; a routine she doesn’t want to change. One day, she comes across a letter that was thrown to her by a man who goes on that daily TGV. He’s a man from France looking for work. The two develop a friendship only by mail and packages. Over time she hopes to meet this man. Then one day the train stops coming. It’s changed route? How will she deal with the change? Will she ever see the man?
It’s a charming comedy that has you engaged with the character (based on a person who has existed and did wave her Swiss flag at passing TGV trains). Gets you thinking about the woman. Is she an eccentric? Is she naive? Lonely? Unpredictable ending but a happy one.
-Silent Nights (Denmark): dirs. Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson – Inger is a young Danish woman who helps at the Salvation Army during the day and looks after her ailing mother at night. Kwame is a Ghanian immigrant who came to Denmark for a better future and to support his wife and children at home. However he’s been left homeless and makes money from recycling.
They both meet as Kwame agrees to help. The two develop a mutual friendship and even progress into something more. However it’s put to the test when Kwame steals money from the charity to pay for his daughter’s malaria treatments. Even though Kwame is banned for life, Inger forgives him and still loves him. Then Inger’s mother dies and she learns about Kwame’s family in Ghana just as she learns she is pregnant. It’s over between the two. However Inger sees Kwame one last time where she gives him advice, and something else.
It’s obvious that this story is about the immigrant situation in Denmark and the difficultly of the times for all. It presents both Inger’s side and Kwame’s side. However it’s more. It’s about a love that’s true. Inger loves Kwame so much, she’s willing to forgive him for all the terrible things he did. It makes the choice she makes for her and her baby look like the right thing. This is my Should Win pick.
-Sing (Hungary) dirs. Kristof Deak and Anna Udvardy – Zsofi is the new girl at a school. She most looks forward to singing in the choir. However on her first rehearsal, the instructor talks of a choir competition where the prize is a performance in Sweden. She also tells Zsofi her voice is not ready for the choir and tells her to lip sync. Along the way, Zsofi finds a friend in star singer Liza. The two become good friends. However Liza notices Zsofi not singing but others. When she brings this up with the instructor, she not only admits it but tries to convince the children it’s the right thing for the competition. All of which leads to a surprise ending and the ending you think is right.
Often I question what the point of this film is. Is it about competitiveness to the point the ‘lesser’ singers are not allowed to sing for the sake of the big prize? Or is it a reminder of Hungary’s past communist regime; of how those that fit in are allowed to and those that don’t aren’t, but make like everything’s okay? Even the choir director could remind you of a communist dictator on retrospect. Whatever the point, the story was entertaining and sweet. Reminds you of the joys of childhood and the right thing paying off in the end.
-Timecode (Spain) dir. Juanjo Gimenez – It starts as a check for a woman on a security job during the day. One day she learns of a broken car light. Upon viewing the video of what happened, she sees the worker before her dancing before hitting the car. She decides to give him a dancing video of her own. Video after video follows. Then on their last day, magic happens.
At first you think the man is something eccentric but this story builds into something that ends on a bizarre note. A very good film.
And there are my thoughts on this year’s nominated shorts. Now remember both categories are the hardest to predict the winner. For example, last year the consensus of critics ranked Stutterer the least likely to win Best Live Action Short and it won. Even Annie wins for Piper and Pear Cider and Cigarettes are not a guarantee that either will win.
With my shorts predictions out of the way, I just have my main predictions for all the categories to deliver. But not before my last Best Picture summary. Coming up tomorrow morning.
The news just broke days ago. After months of fighting, warfare and rebellion, the rebels deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi and have just raided his compound as of now. Gadhafi is currently in hiding but refuses to believe he has been removed from power. The news of Gadhafi’s overthrow was expected over time. After 42 years, many feel this will be a new change for Libya but the question is will it be positive or negative?
Before 1969, Libya was a kingdom with increasing oil wealth. It adopted a constitution to model the freedoms and liberties similar to that of European and North American states. It also received huge foreign influence from countries like the United States, Italy and Great Britain in aiding increased levels of wealth and tourism. While most welcomed these contributions, there were many who saw it as a threat.
On September 1, 1969, a group of young soldiers led by 27 year-old Muammar Gadhafi staged a coup d’etat on King Idris and launched the Libyan revolution. In 1973 Gadhafi imposed Sharia law on all of Libya, purged of the ‘politically sick’ and a ‘people’s militia would ‘protect the revolution.’ The revolution was both in culture and administration. 20% of workers in Libya were under heavy surveillance by Gadhafi. Executions of dissidents were made public and broadcast on state television. In 1977 Gadhafi officially declared Libya the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahirya and adopted a national flag that was completely green. Gadhafi opposed any Arab country that sided with Israel and even declared a four day war on Egypt. He also supplied arms to any of its allies, both nations and terrorist groups.
Another key note is that Gadhafi was heavily influential in terrorism during the first two decades of his reign. Some believe he was the tour de force of terrorism at the time that would pave the way for groups like Al Qaeda. He formed the Black September movement which caused many attack in the 1970’s including the Olympic Attack in Munich where 11 Israeli athletes were killed. His terrorists were also instrumental in hijacking airplanes which led to the tight security on airplanes that still continue and become stricter to this day. In 1985, it was discovered by the United States that Gadhafi harbored a camp for training terrorists. This led to President Ronald Reagan to declare an airstrike on Libya in 1986. The strike failed to kill or depose Gadhafi but killed his daughter. His terrorist activities died down soon after but not without one last infamous attack of a bomb on a flying plane exploding over Scotland in 1988, killing hundreds. Even despite his terrorist activities dying down, he still talked tough and sided with Arab leaders who were anti-Israel.
In 2011, people’s movements in Tunisia and Egypt led to the overthrow of their heads of state. The revolutionary spirit spread to other Arab countries including Libya starting in the month of February. Gadhafi quickly condemned the uprising and claimed it was being engineered by Western elements and Israel. By March, much of Libya had tipped out of Gadhafi’s control where even members of the Libyan army were joining the revolt. Gadhafi loyalists were encouraged to kill the protesters. Soon international forces from the United States, the United Kingdom and France had joined forces to declare a military operation to remove Gadhafi. In June, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for systematically planning and implementing attacks on civilians. By August 22, 2011, rebel fighters had gained influence and control of Tripoli’s Martyr’s Square. Meanwhile Gadhafi asserts he’s still in Libya and will not concede power to the rebels.
Now the overthrow of Gadhafi is definite or eventual, if not official. There comes the big question. What will come of Libya in the future? Will it become a better stronger country? Or will it face its own problems?
The country is now mostly controlled by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Gadhafi’s former justice minister who established the National Transitional Council shortly after the Libyan revolt began. The Declaration of the council includes many key aims like: ensuring safety of its citizens and liberating the rest of Libya, restoring normal civilian life, have the military council achieve a doctrine protecting Libyan citizens and defending the borders, draft a new constitution, pave the way for free elections and guide the conduct of foreign policy and international relations.
The policies appear promising but the big question is can it be attained over time? Many Arab countries that have established new freedoms and new liberties have faced the threat from dissidents, terrorists and loyalists of the former dictators. Afghanistan and Iraq have held elections and drafted new constitutions after their revolutions but have constantly faced attacks from many dissident factions that still happen to this day. Also it is possible of another coup d’etat in the future from a new dissident or Gadhafi loyalist with military power. The future of Libya has yet to be determined in the wake of the deposition of Gadhafi that continues as we speak.
Libya also has the 10th largest oil reserves in the world and the 17th highest petroleum production. It’s high petroleum production and low population has given it the fourth-highest GDP in Africa. During Gadhafi’s reign, the money was used to buy arms which led to many of the terrorist attacks. The wealth was not evenly spread out amongst the people. Under a new government in Libya, will the wealth be used more generously for the sake of developing the nation and the quality of life for its citizens? Or will it be a heated political debate in the future?
Since Gadhafi’s official overthrow is eventual, the future of Libya is a big question. The future of the country and the leadership that follows will be a new chapter in the country’s history but which direction it goes, and whether the new intended freedoms and liberties will be successfully carried out, still remains a question that only time can answer.
WIKIPEDIA: Libya. Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libya>
WIKIPEDIA: National Transitional Council. Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Transitional_Council>