Review: The Live Action Oscar Shorts

Five live action shorts are nominated for the Oscars this year, and Devin has seen them. GOD OF LOVE is the one that should win, but what about the others?

Every year I watch the Oscars and make my choices about which short film to root for just based on the clip shown on the broadcast. Not this year! This year I’ve watched the Live Action and the Animated Shorts, so now I have real knowledge.

Both programs will start playing in select theaters tomorrow, so that you will also have a chance to be educated about your crushing disappointment when something horrible wins. Check your local listings if you live in the kind of place that has an art theater. This isn’t playing the local AMC.

First up: Live Action (I’ll be reviewing Animation in a separate article).

The Confession: What begins as a charming slice of life look at two British Catholic schoolboys about to receive their first confession takes a darker turn when the more goody-two-shoes of the duo worries that he doesn’t have anything to confess, and thus isn’t a real Catholic. Things get out of hand really, really quick, and the beautifully shot, suprisingly well acted short examines the nature of guilt and absolution. I say surprisingly because most of the short features just the two young kids, and they’re asked to do some heavy emotional lifting.

The Crush: An Irish schoolboy has a crush on his teacher, but when he learns she’s marrying a complete dickhead he decides to get cowboy justice. This is a cute short, but it’s exceptionally amateurish; the editing is bad and the photography is TV show level. The young lead is adorable, but the filmmaking is so clunky.

God of Love: He’s the lead singer/dart thrower in a hip jazz band. She’s the drummer. He’s in love with her. She’s in love with the bassist. He prays every day for help from God and it arrives in the form of a box of darts that will make someone love you… for six hours. Written by, directed by and starring Luke Methany, God of Love is the best film in the shorts program. It’s funny, it’s honest and it’s shot beautifully. Methany, who looks sort of like he’s from the Jeff Goldblum side of the gene pool, has a great presence. He looks like the kind of actor who would have been huge in the 70s. The black and white photography is gorgeous, the acting is low key funny and the script is great. It probably won’t win. This will be the short you should get mad about if it loses.

Na Wewe: A Belgian government worker is traveling in Burundi in the mid 90s when he and his van full of locals comes to a militia checkpoint. The militia wants to know who is Hutu and who is Tutsi, and they want to kill all the Tutsi. The short looks great, and has lots of funny moments, and it makes a nice point about the interrelated nature of humanity, but watching these genocidal maniacs played like doofs I wondered if it wasn’t downplaying the terror of genocide. Tonally something just felt off to me.

Wish 143: I was going to have to hate one of these. A 16 year old British boy has an inoperable tumor, and is visited by the Make-A-Wish Foundation (or their UK equivalent). His wish? To get laid just once. What begins as a funny situation slowly turns into a standard, boring, middle of the road indie dramedy that feels like it’s made up of clips of a movie I would have hated at Sundance. Plucky young protagonist? Check? Wacky older friend (in this case a priest)? Check. Scene where people become unlikely friends (hooker and kid)? Check. Sappy bullshit? CHECK. Manipulative, crass and obviously a blueprint for a piece of junk that will win a BAFTA, I hated Wish 143.

If you’re in Austin, The Alamo is playing the shorts. Click here for more info.