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2009 Oscar Shorts

March 1, 2009

MrsDoF and I saw the 2009 Oscar Shorts last evening at the Historic Normal Theater.  These are short films that you pretty much never see except at film festivals.  Which is a pity, because there’s something about having to tell a story in five to thirty minutes that concentrates the creator’s mind wonderfully.

Among the animated stories my favorite was ‘Lavatory Lovestory’, a charming Russian piece about a lonely middle-aged woman working as a lavatory attendant, and her secret admirer.  The film was drawn in the style of a New Yorker cartoon, with simple lines.  Other animated shorts featured gloomy Japanese expressionism, and over-the-top CGI 3D that didn’t do much for the stories. They were (mostly) entertaining but not memorable.

Among the four live-action shorts, I most enjoyed;

  • “Toyland”, a Dutch film about trying to shield children from awful truths in Nazi Germany
  • “The Pig”, a Dutch film about religious freedom versus freedom of speech
  • “New Boy”, an Irish film about an African immigrant boy trying to adjust ato an Irish grade school
  • My favorite was “Auf Der Strecke” (On The Line), about a lonely Swiss department-store security guard in love with one of the clerks.  He makes one, awful momentary decision, and finds himself tangled in intractable guilt, along with the grief of the woman he loves.  This is an incredible piece of storytelling.

The fifth live-action film was “Manon On Asphalt”, about a pretty girl dying on the pavement after a bicycle accident, and her thoughts as life ebbs away.  It was a little heavy-handed on the “live every day as your last” moral lesson.  That death comes at random times, and that a person’s totality matters more than the last sentence out of their mouths, is something I think most people understand about others, but not so much about ourselves.

I’ve noticed the European films seem less obsessed with tying up every loose end in a story.  Sometimes you don’t learn how it turned out.

Short films can be tremendously powerful.  Find “Auf Der Strecke” if you can.

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