Brief Reviews of Six Oscar Short Film Nominees for 2015
By John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Volunteer Director

Like the literary genre of the short story, an effective short film can tell an entire tale and convey everything that needs to be seen and said in a matter of minutes.  At the same time, these vignettes can leave enough spaces between the lines to engage the viewer’s imagination.

Note: The Oscar nominations for Best Short Film has three categories, documentary, live action and animated. Over Valentine’s Day weekend in February, Mountain Shadow’s audiences enjoyed all five of the live action shorts, along with one of the animated titles.  Most of the other animated shorts will be included with our feature films in the coming months.  The ballot results of the combined audiences from this show can be found at the end of this review!

We will acquire a DVD copy of the Oscar Shorts for our Member Lending Library as soon as it becomes available. Here is a brief commentary on each of the six shorts we’ve enjoyed.

FEAST (USA) 6 min.
From Disney Animation Studios, a man’s best friend discovers the joy of (junk) food. If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, Winston the dog teaches us where human’s learned the trick.  This cartoon before our five live-action shorts just dishes up some fun.

PARVENEH (Switzerland) 25 min.
Two young women are from the same generation, but very different worlds. Parveneh (which means ‘butterfly’ in Afghan) is separated from her mother only by distance; while the other girl (whose name is never disclosed) and her mother suffer only from typical generational estrangement. As a foreign worker seeking asylum in Switzerland, “Pari” will try spreading her wings. When the viewer suspects no good can come of the chance encounter of Parveneh’s innocence or naiveté with the party girl’s tough “street smarts,” the two discover those places of the heart otherwise known as true friendship. jb

– (France / China) 16 min.  There’s always a backstory to every story. The photographer’s backdrop for his subjects may change in an instant, but it’s only a façade as the real faces of our humanity wend their way through life’s stages. There’s the large family’s portrait with one member missing as only a memory, the wedding couple’s hopes and dreams, the young boys dreams of fame and glory, the grandmother with her prayer wheel prostrating herself before only the painted image of a shrine.  The photograph that’s left behind is only a reminder of those deeper stories. jb

Heather volunteers at a crisis intervention center. When a call comes in, her training skills become immediately apparent as she gently coaxes the distraught voice on the other end of the line through his despondency and grief. As the minutes tick by and run out, and Heather gradually moves from her head to her heart, one watches and waits to see if it’ll all come to a good end. It does; but not as one might typically suspect. It’s a story about living and dying, old loves lost and new love found. A sad and sweet tale for Valentine’s.

AYA (Israel / France) 39 min.
Waiting to pick up her arrival in the airport terminal, Aya observes the comings and goings of travelers, including some romantic reunions. Given the chance to impersonate someone else for a brief time, Aya takes innocent flirtation to a whole new level.  As the object of her fantasy however, Mr. Overby is a no-nonsense music critic and researcher who’s firmly convinced it is utter folly to ever follow one’s heart. It only takes a car ride with a woman his rational side tells him is completely loony to gradually arouse in himself something he realizes – perhaps for the first time – is “remarkable.”  (His piano performance from the front seat of a sedan is absolutely erotic.) Perhaps it’s not so much a matter of whether – but how, and in which direction – one allows one’s heart to be driven.  When one comes to a fork in the road, with the turn signal blinking, one must decide. 

BOOGALOO AND GRAHAM (Northern Ireland) 14 min.
With possible reminiscences of “Old Yeller,” here’s a tale of boyhood recollections. It’s 1978 in Belfast. In the midst of the tension and turmoil of that time and place, a father gives his two sons a pair of chicks.  The father calls himself an “occasional laborer,” while the boy’s mother calls him a lazy bastard. But in the end, she agrees he’s just a big soft lump.  As the narrator recalls his father’s extravagant gesture at the conclusion of his story, “As demonstrations of love go, I think that’s pretty fine.”  jb

Ballot Results: 

The combined audience for the Film Society's two showings reached 257, of which a total of 179 ballots were cast for favorite Short Film in our line-up. While all are worthy Oscar nominees in their own way, here are the results of our straw poll, with the number of votes received for each:
1.     Boogaloo & Graham (N. Ireland) – 52
2.     Aya (Israel/France) – 43
3.     Parveneh (Switzerland) – 34
4.     The Phone Call (UK) – 31
5.     Butter Lamp (China/France) – 11
6.     Feast (USA) – 8