When I lived in Colorado it used to be a challenge to see all of the movies nominated for Best Picture before the Oscars.
Even once I moved to LA there were years when I cut I close. In 2007 I barely made it, I saw “Letters from Iwo Jimma” the night before the Oscars. However, over the last few years it’s become really easy. Maybe it’s because I’m not in graduate school anymore and maybe it’s because I’ve just become so savvy that I can tell what’s going to be nominated way ahead of time. Whatever the case there is usually next to nothing left for me to see after the Oscars have aired. All I’m left with is a bunch of mediocre springs films followed by the summer blockbusters.
Today, I took the day off of work and decided to go see the nominated live action short films. For years I had been wanting to take advantage of being in Los Angeles by seeing the short films and the last two years I have. Last year I saw them before the Academy Awards aired and this year I saw them the day after. It was a nice way end to Oscar season; to celebrate good filmmaking in its simplest form.
There, of course, were five films nominated and they were presented in the following order.
1. Parvaneh…This film was from Switzerland. It tells the story of a young woman who is an immigrant from Afghanistan. She travels to Zurich to wire some money home to her sick father. I really liked this movie. I appreciated that it showed the immigrant experience in Europe. If you grow up in the United States you are told his is the greatest country on earth and that everybody all over the world either hates us or wants to come here. We are never exposed to the fact that there are immigrants who choose to go to other places. Immigration is not a uniquely American issue…The second thing I really liked about this film was that when Parvaneh arrives in Zurich she forms a friendship with a young swiss woman. The film shows that the blonde swiss woman has her own issues. The film is great because it is about two interesting young women.
2. Buter Lamp…This film was from China but as a joint production with France. The film was really simple. It was a series of people having their picture taken in front of different backdrops. It was cute to see how different people ineracted with each other and what backgorunds they choose. The most intriguing thigns about this film is at the end when the photographers pack up you see that behind the backgrounds that the photographers set up is a beautiful mountain range. Why would somebody prefer to get photographed in front of a fake Disneyland when you have gorgeous mountains? Simple, people often want to be somewhere other than where they are.
3. The Phone Call..This film was from Great Britain and it was the film that won the Oscar. In a way this film was a an unfair advantage over the other four because it featured two well known actors; Academy Award nominee Sally Hawkings and Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent. It is the story of a woman who works at a suicide prevention hotline (Hawkings) and her converstion with a man who calls in (Broadbent). The film is really well done. You feel the tension building as Hawkings tries to save Broadbent’s life. Both actors are great, even though you never see Broadbent. I won’t spoil the ending but I will say I really liked how it ended.
4. Aya…This film was from Israel. This was by far the most bizarre of the five films. It is the story of a woman who is asked to hold a sign at an airport while she’s waiting to pick somebody up while the driver goes to move his car. When man who the sign is for arrives she chooses to pretend she’s his driver. As the two of them drive from the airport to his hotel you see them play a weird little game with each other. At the end you’re left wondering if this woman was just bored and needed a thrill or if she is really unhappy and often does strange things.
5. Boogaloo and Graham…This film was from Northern Ireland. It is the story of two young boys who receive baby chickens as a gift from their father. It is a sweet little film that touches on some of the political issues that were facing Northern Ireland in the late 1970’s. I like how the film showed fun relationship between the two brothers, their affection for their pet chickens and their sometimes contentious relationships with both their parents.
I would rank the following films inn this order from my favorite to least favorite
2. The Call
3. Boogaloo and Graham
4. Butter Lamp
If you live in Los Angeles check these films out this week if you can. I’m sure they’ll be gone after that.
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