Short films, long rewards

  • by Roberto Friedman
  • Tuesday February 10, 2015
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Every year, Landmark Theatres screens programs of Oscar-nominated live action, animated and documentary shorts. Last week, Out There caught the first two compilations. Watching them is a good reminder that the medium of film does not, in itself, limit itself to comic-book superheroes, romantic comedies and movie biographies. There's a whole world of feeling, insight and culture to be found in these short works.

Still from filmmakers Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney's Boogaloo and Graham, part of the program of Oscar-nominated live action films. Photo: Shorts HD

The program of animated shorts will get you in and out of the theater in a trim 77 minutes (five nominated entries, plus four also-rans). In Me and My Moulton (by Torill Kove), a daughter of Norwegian modern architects illustrates what her childhood was like. The Disney entry Feast (Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed) is a pup's-eye view of life, and simply adorable. The Bigger Picture (Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees) is a sophisticated stop-motion recounting of how two brothers deal with their mother's end-of-life challenges. A Single Life (Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins, Job Roggeveen) is another contemplation of mortality, a big theme deftly and wittily explored in just two minutes. The Dam Keeper (Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi) is an ambitious fable about childhood cruelty and environmental destruction, as embodied by the unlikely characters of anthropomorphized animals.

The additional animated shorts that fill out the program (Sweet Cocoon, Footprints, Duet and Bus Story) are a mixed bag of delights. They all tell stories, whether of a couple's courtship or of a caterpillar's metamorphosis. It made us wonder, why does film always seem to compel narrative? Other art-forms (painting, sculpture, music) don't always tell stories. Is it because film unfolds in time, therefore taking time, naturally, as its subject?

The live action shorts range all over the globe. In Parvaneh (Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger), a young Afghani woman overcomes hardships as an immigrant worker in Switzerland. Aya (Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis ) is an interesting two-hander that examines an encounter between a Danish musicologist and an Israeli woman. Butter Lamp (Hu Wei and Julien Feret ) is an unusual and humorous look at Tibetan native culture clashing with modern values. In The Phone Call (Mat Kirkby and James Lucas ), acclaimed English actress Sally Hawkins is a phone crisis-line worker who has a suicidal man (the equally acclaimed Jim Broadbent ) on the line. And finally, for comic relief, it's hard to beat Boogaloo and Graham (Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney ), in which two young brothers bond with their pet chickens big-time in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

As you can tell from the thumbnail descriptions, each omnibus of film is quite a diverse assortment of subject matter and approach. That's one of the virtues of shorts programs: if one offering is not your cup of tea, another will be along shortly. We didn't screen the nominated documentary shorts, which this year are being offered in two separate programs. But we're sure the same observation holds true for them.


Beyond the tube

B.A.R. readers who know Lavender Tube columnist Victoria A. Brownworth only from her TV coverage should get to know her as a true woman of letters. An author, editor and journalist, Brownworth has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and has won the Lambda Literary Award and Moonbeam Award. Her latest novel, Ordinary Mayhem, is just out from Bold Strokes Books. From the cover blurb: "Faye Blakemore is a photojournalist for a major New York newspaper, specializing in 'blood-and-guts journalism.' Faye convinces her editor to send her to Afghanistan and the Congo to report on the acid burnings, the machete attacks, and the women survivors." Sounds like strong stuff. Congrats, VAB! ~ RIF.