I tell you, I think I've had more fun watching the shorts and the documentaries that are Oscar nominated this year than some of the big blockbuster Best Picture nominees. And that's when I recognise that those are particularly good this year. It's been a very good year for very good movies.
I rented the Live Action Shorts as a package on my cable on-demand service for $4.99 for all 5 for 24 hours.
Blimey they're good. Really different, excellent little stories ranging from 15 mins to 26 mins. I am finding it far harder on these than any other category to decide on my favourite.
You can buy 4 out of the 5 on iTunes too for $1.99 each.
This is a British entry and I think was the longest short (if you know what I mean) at 26 mins. It's the story of a boy about to have his first confession and needing something suitable to confess. It took be a bit by surprise because it started quite slowly and gently, but about a third of the way through suddenly took off. The lad playing the lead is exceptionally good. It's a clever idea and well made, but the only thing that spoils it slightly is I thought there was a large plot hole in it and the ending isn't very satisfactory....though I'm told by my expert screenwriter mate Raphael Went that this is very common with shorts.
This is another British entry and one that if I hadn't seen all of the entries I would have been rooting for because I heard an interview with the director Ian Barnes on Kermode and Mayo's Wittertainment Film Reviews on BBC Five Live. It's about the unusual (or perhaps not) wish made to a Wish-Granting Charity by a teenage boy with terminal cancer. It has a stella British cast, which is slightly distracting as I kept sitting there going 'ooh it's Dean Andrews (Ray from Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes'....Annette Badland.....Jim Carter.....' etc. The lad playing the lead role again is fantastic, and the writing is brilliant. It didn't surprise me that the writer actually had cancer as a teenager but the script had a real truth to it and also a dark sense of humour. It's good, you should try to see it. It feels one of those things that might eventually pop up on Channel 4 in the UK.
This a film from Belgium. Set in Burundi when the war and genocides from Rwanda spilled across its borders. A bush bus is stopped by Hutu mercenaries looking to find and kill Tutsis. They line up the passengers and try to determine by look and the people's explanations who should live or die. It's a very interesting film, very tense and well acted...with one particular moment of light relief that I won't spoil for you, you'll laugh almost to release tension. My only thought about the story is that although the message seems to be we're all together in our mixed origins, there are no pure bloodline races in the world (the movie title Na Wewe means You Too), the story possibly feels like it makes light possibly of the the hundreds of thousands of people who were wiped out, and often not by gunshot but hacked to death with machetes. Possibly the writer has steered away from this to make us focus on our similarities, that we're all mixed races in this together. I'm not sure. It was very good, and although not my favourite I have no idea whether it might be seen as worthy by Oscar judges.
A tiny but perfectly formed little movie from Ireland. The shortest of the bunch at 15 mins. I'd like this to be my favourite because it is a perfect short (I'll explain why it might be pipped to the post in a bit). It's genuinely surprising and well acted, and really, really nice. It feels like a modern day (and Irish rather than Scottish) Gregory's Girl...it has that sort of Bill Forsyth feel to it. It's about a little lad who has a crush on his school teacher (der, really?!) It's really lovely and you should try and see it sometime.
Now if it weren't for this final short, I'd have said (I think) that The Crush was my favourite to win the Oscar. It's perfectly formed and quaint...but then there's:
God of Love
...which is American and clearly on a bigger budget (though I'm sure it's still tiny) than the others...actually perhaps it's not, but it certainly has a bigger cast and feels more slick. But don't let that fool you - it's absolutely delightful, quirky, well written...even though slightly more predictable than the others. It has a feel of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World to it, though not as alternative as that. The actors are great and you'll adore the lead character's stage skills - I won't spoil this for you. I don't know if I want to tell you anything more about the plot because I don't want you to have any different an experience than I did watching it for the first time...but if you really want to get a feel of it, here's a trailer:
So that's the 5. God of Love is begrudgingly my pick for the Oscar, not because it's not brilliant, it is but I just feel I should be backing a home-grown movie....mind you I think the British Isles will do ok on Sunday because a certain King's Speech.
(Coming soon - a run down of all my favourites for the Oscars 2011 and where I think my favourites may be pipped to the post by other movies ;))