Easily the most mainstream lineup in this category in years, which should boost the program's theatrical potential.
Most years, Oscar’s live-action shorts lineup is the show’s second most internationally eclectic mix (after the ever-controversial foreign-language film category), representing an impressively diverse cross-section of nations and genres. Not this year: Of 2010′s final five, all but one was shot in English, and three feature alarmingly similar, Academy-friendly tales of young people learning poignant life lessons. The other two include an amusing NYU student short and an uneasy Belgian-made look at African racial politics. It’s easily the most mainstream set of finalists in this category in years, which should boost the program’s theatrical potential.Commercials director Tanel Toom’s 26-minute “The Confession” is set in rural England, where a pair of boys fret that they won’t have anything significant to unload during their first confession. Impressionable Sam (Lewis Howlett) lets his bad-seed best friend, Jacob (Joe Eales), convince him that the sensible thing would be to commit a worthy sin or two, and things quickly escalate from there. Toom shows an impressive grasp of filmmaking, such that the entire episode brims with childhood guilt and unfolds with a chilling, understated fatalism — the sort of vignette that would tickle Stephen King and Alfred Hitchcock alike. Brit TV helmer Ian Barnes follows with the extremely satisfying emotional entry “Wish 143,” centered on a teenage cancer patient whose dying desire is to lose his virginity. Working from Tom Bidwell’s sharp script while anchoring the whole enterprise with a perfectly unsentimental performance from you-saw-him-here-first young thesp Sam Holland, Barnes defies every bad-taste trapping such a story might suggest to deliver a warm, witty and wonderfully lived-in portrait of a boy dealing with premature mortality in the most understandably human way imaginable. Expect everyone involved to parlay this treasure into feature-length industry work. More taxing is director Ivan Goldschmidt’s 20-minute “Na Wewe,” set in Burundi circa 1994, as a tactless Belgian traveler observes the racial conflict between Hutus and Tutsis firsthand. Pitched somewhere between absurd satire and pointed political statement, the short concerns a deserving enough issue — after all, the Belgians carry a heavy burden of responsibility for the cruel in-fighting that resulted after they withdrew from their Congo territory. But it does so in a way likely to conjure a strange mix of reactions. Slick production values and topicality clearly account for its place in the five. Irish grade-school comedy “The Crush” stars director Michael Creagh’s son Oran as an 8-year-old boy who sincerely believes he belongs with pretty Miss Purdy (Olga Wehrly) at school, going so far as to challenge her undeserving boyfriend to a duel. Said rival patronizingly agrees to show up for the standoff, leading to the sort of one-joke payoff better served by a 60-second TV spot than a 15-minute short. Still, Oran Creagh’s wide-eyed perf makes the short likable enough. An odd-looking bird with a big nose, soft chin and crazy head of hair, helmer Luke Matheny is perfectly suited to play the awkwardly lovesick chap at the center of his black-and-white NYU graduate thesis project, “God of Love.” In this contempo Cupid story, an everyday New Yorker discovers a box of magic darts capable of making whomever he chooses fall madly in love for six hours. However modest, Matheny’s endearing entry delivers what a good short should, demonstrating enormous creative potential while leaving its aud wanting more. An odd-looking bird with a big nose, soft chin and crazy head of hair, helmer Luke Matheny is perfectly suited to play the awkwardly lovesick chap at the center of his black-and-white NYU graduate thesis project, “God of Love.” In this contempo Cupid story, an everyday New Yorker discovers a box of magic darts capable of making whomever he chooses fall madly in love for six hours. However modest, Matheny’s endearing entry delivers what a good short should, demonstrating enormous creative potential while leaving its aud wanting more.
The Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2011: Live Action
A National Film and Television School presentation. Produced by Emily Williams.
Directed by Tanel Toom. Screenplay, Caroline Bruckner; story, Toom. Camera (color, widescreen), Davide Cinzi; editor, Marianne Kuopanportti; Paul Lambert; production designer, Luke Hull; sound (Dolby Digital), Jo Vale; sound designer, Jussi Honka; visual effects supervisor, Giacomo Matteucci. Running time: 25 MIN.
With: Lewis Howlett, Joe Eales, James Simmons, Gemma Atkins, Peter "Rooster" John Mossford.
A Union Pictures & Swing and Shift production in association with BBC Film Network and Lighthouse Arts and Training. Produced by Samatha Waite. Executive producers, Claire Spencer Cook, Gerard O'Malley, Emily Kyriakides. Co-producer, Ian Barnes.
Directed by Ian Barnes. Screenplay, Tom Bidwell. Camera (color), Maggie Chappelhow; editor, Sam Williams; music, Norwell and Green; production designer, Tim Overson; art director, Nicola Scott; costume designer, Maggie Chappelhow; sound, Richard Brooks; assistant director, Richard Lynn; casting, Margaret Crawford. Running time: 23 MIN.
With: Sam Holland, Rory Kinnear, Kieran Hardcastle, Lizzie Roper, Jodie Whittaker.
A Cut! and A Private View presentation of a Cut!-A Private View-RTBF-Menya Media co-production with the support of the Flemish Audiovisual Fund, Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Unesco.
Directed, edited by Ivan Goldschmidt. Screenplay, Jean-Luc Pening, Goldschmidt. Camera (color, widescreen), Guy Maezelle; sound (Dolby Digital), Philippe Vandendriessche. Running time: 20 MIN.
With: Floris Kudwimana, Renaud Rutten, Ciza Muhirwa, Ismail Kaposho.
A Purdy Picture production. Produced by Damon Quinn. Executive producer, James A. Creagh.
Directed, written by Michael Creagh. Camera, Jim Creagh; editor, Ciara Brophy; music, David Geraghty; sound, Garret Farrell; assistant director, Quinn; associate producer, Denise Creagh; casting, Thyrza Ging. Running time: 15 MIN.
With: Olga Wehrly, Rory Keenan, Oran Creagh, Charlie Bonner, Neili Conroy.
God of Love
Produced by Gigi Dement, Stefanie Walmsley, Ryan Silbert.
Directed, written by Luke Matheny. Camera (B&W), Bobby Webster; production designer, Casey Smith; costume designer, Becky Lasky; sound, Ian Harnarine, Rob Meyer; sound designer, Arjun Sheth; assistant director, Nick Ordway; casting, Stephanie Walmsley. Running time: 18 MIN.
With: Luke Matheny, Marian Brock, Christopher Hirsh, Emily Young, Miguel Rosales.