Short films, big questions

I was feeling a little overwhelmed today – too much stuff to do these days – and after running a bunch of errands in the evening, Andrew convinced me that we should get out of the house for awhile. So, we checked out a screening of the 2008 Oscar nominated Best Animated and Best Live Action short films at the Cinema du Parc. I haven’t had the chance to watch prior years’ nominees, but, give or take a film or two, the 2008 batch dealt with the big issues of Life And Death: an older person reflecting back on their life, someone on the brink of death reflecting back on their life, someone placed in a new situation and reflecting back on their life. You can definitely pack a punch in the gut in two to thirty minutes of film. It was a little exhausting.

These were my favourites:

La Maison En Petits Cubes (Pieces of Love, Vol 1), Japan, 2008, Dir. Kunio Kato: This animated short was beautiful – a kind of scratchy, painted animation – about an old man living in a heavily flooded area. Every time the water level rises, he builds another floor on his house, resulting in a cubist Habitat 67 esque tower. He takes a scuba diving trip to retrieve a dropped item, and as he descends deeper into his house, he relives moments from his life. It’s the kind of movie that made even Andrew a little weepy. I hope this one wins Best Animated.

In the Live Action category, I can’t pick between two. New Boy (Ireland, Dir. Steph Green) is based on a Roddy Doyle short story about a young African immigrant starting school in Ireland. It’s only 11 minutes long, but the film feels way more substantive than that. The children acting in this are fantastic. It makes me wonder if short stories are the best form of literature to adapt into films – there’s just so much more space to work with (i.e. think of “Secretary” or “Brokeback Mountain”). Auf Der Strecke (On the Line) (Germany, Switzerland. 2007. Dir.: Reto Caffi) is almost 3 times longer than New Boy, which allows it to incorporate more ambiguity and a longer story arc. It’s about a department story security guard who spies on a bookstore employee. He regularly “accidentally” boards the metro with her because he can see when she’s leaving work, which eventually leads to his bizarre and sad involvement in a tragic part of her life. There’s a scene where he overhears her discussing Zadie Smith’s “On Beauty”, and then buys a copy for himself to impress her. You see him flipping through the book and creasing it up to make it look like he’s actually read it. He should’ve read it! It’s a fantastic book.

Anyway, I’m curious to see who wins on Sunday. As for my other Oscar picks, all I want is for Mickey Rourke to win Best Actor for The Wrestler. Everything else, whatever. Oh, and Heath too, but that’s a given, isn’t it?

ETA: So, my favourite for best animated short won. Yay! My favourite for best live action short did not. Boo! And Mickey Rourke sadly did not win Best Actor, thus denying the TV audience of a repeat of a speech like the one he gave at the Independent Spirit Awards. Double boo.

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