'Oscar Nominated Shorts 2019: Live Action' film reviews
While everyone is cramming in all the feature-length films nominated for Academy Awards, the annual 'Oscar Nominated Short Films 2019: Live Action' (opening in theaters nationwide Feb. 8) showcase is here for all the Oscar completists. Here are reviews for the five Academy Award nominated short films for 2019:
Chilling and challenging, this docudrama is firmly rooted in the fact that its script is based on the police interview transcripts - but its the two main performances that hit hardest. Based on the shocking 1993 murder of a two-year-old child, 'Detainment' tracks the police interviews of the crime's two main suspects: a pair of 10-year-old boys. As the grim details of the crime are slowly revealed, the most distressing aspect of this short is the disturbing familiarity of watching boys lie to stay out of trouble. The crime is an act of evil, but the 10-year-olds remain genuinely child-like in the selfish and pathetic denials. Thankfully this is a short film. At only 30 minutes long, listening to two boys describe grisly details is stomach churning. Although hard to watch, 'Detainment' is closer to a grim recounting of a horrific event than it is compelling story with dynamic character archs. Score: 3.5/5
'Fauve' - Even by the standards of a short film, this drama has light on plot: arguably one (maybe two) plot inflection points exist within this drama. This short follows two reckless boys just playing around - until they abruptly find themselves in mortal trouble. While light on plot, this film beautifully lives in two intense moods - the intense danger and its aftermath. 'Fauve' draws out the feeling -- Two hooligans in a very dangerous situation. Alone. quickly unraveling situation. Two reckless kids just playing around - until they get into more trouble than they are ready to handle. One event that happens before the danger is obvious. Faster than the audience can prepare for. Film beautifully lives in both intense mood - danger and shock. Score: 3/5
As an elderly woman nears the end of her life, her nurse rekindles the memory of an unrequited longing. This nuanced and tender drama taps in a melancholic, reflective core of an unfulfilled yearning. It beautifully lives in the protagonist’s feelings - a woman whose end is near, yet she still has one major, unresolved aspect of her life. The lead performance, the best of this crop of Oscar live-action short films, is tinged with regret and acceptance - a quiet performance defined by small moves belying a powerful reawakening. Score: 4/5
A mother’s pleasant phone call with her vacationing 6-year-old son quickly turns scary when she learns her son cannot find his father. The most sinister aspect of this arresting thriller is how is quickly the situation unravels, going from an innocuous day to one of pure terror. It’s unassuming opening lulls the audience into comfort - then rapidly escalates to every parents worst nightmare. It’s so immediately engrossing that it’s easy to overlook how this intense, simple concept is almost entirely filmed in one long, unbroken single take. This short earns very high marks for emotional intensity - but it is essentially an “and then ...” thriller (even if it’s a very solid iteration of a usually lazy plot structure). Score: 4/5
A black man’s friendly smile at a grocery store quickly turns into a violent clash between gangs. While the other four short films in this showcase are strong, each feels like a small part of a larger story - but ‘Skin’ is the most complete, self-contained story of these five nominated films. ‘Skin’ immerses the audience immediately into the daily life of a redneck and his family - very clearly informing the viewer of who this man is and what he values. His character drives his violent reaction - which then propels the rest of the film. And it’s character-driven third act is powerful and shocking. Score: 4.5/5
'Oscar Nominated Short Films 2019: Live Action' opens in theaters nationwide Feb. 8. This showcase of short films has a running time of 108 minutes.