Intense nominees for Oscar live-action short films.
by John DeSando, WCBE 90.5 FM Film Critic (JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com)
Four of the five Oscar nominated live action short films of 2019 involve young boys in dangerous situations. Contrarily, the fifth story depicts a lonely, elderly woman on the brink of hope. All are exemplary versions of the poetic tale artfully spare and to the point.
Pre-teen boys can be reckless, deadly at times, and French-Canadian director Jeremy Compte with Fauve captures that and the caprice of fate exacting a punishment for antics that don’t deserve it. The boys play and pick on each other around a quicksand-like surface mine until they realize the deadly consequences of random stupidity.
This intense short, with its stark landscape, counsels being mindful at any age of right ways to act, especially when Mother Nature is involved.
Madre (from Spain) emphasizes the angst of a mother whose 6-year-old child has lost his father at the beach and contacts mom by cell. That she cannot determine where he is, be it Spain or France, is an ultimate torture as his battery is failing and he is being approached by an unknown man.
Figuratively, this drama, set almost stage-like in an apartment, serves as a warning about the desperate nature of parenthood and the dangers of the world that cannot easily be avoided. Moms will identify immediately and forever with this frantic Madre. Fathers, too, in fact anyone who loves a child enough to fear what is so succinctly and harrowingly narrated here.
Based on a true story, the Irish Detainment, directed by Guy Nattiv, chronicles the challenges for police when two ten-year-old’s kidnap and murder a small boy. The boys, one especially skilled in defending himself at interrogation, confound the parents and detectives either out of fear or cunning. Regardless, they are convicted of murder.
The theme of innocence vs evil is starkly offered as no one can wring the truth out of these lads. Caution is the operative word if we ever face erring children whose protestations cannot be believed. Horror it is when kids are involved; these are the two youngest convicted murderers of the 20th century.
Another harrowing boy story, the American Skin, is a blunt lesson about bigotry and the sins of the parents vested on the children. Eight-year-old Troy learns from his Neo-Nazi dad how to shoot and live large in a rough, white-trash way.
After beating up a black man for smiling at Troy, Dad will get an audience-approved comeuppance and a further touch of irony in almost a Twilight-Zone mode. It’s an ingenious conceit, especially pleasing if you’re seeking retribution for gross bigotry.
The French-Canadian Marguerite is as sweet as the other four shorts are sour. The titular senior is tended to by a gentle lady, who turns out to be a lesbian. In the daily ministrations of gentleness and caring, Marguerite opens up that she once loved a woman but without carrying through. As the caregiver gently ministers to Marguerite, caring and love and hope converge as an antidote to the youthful horrors of the previous stories.
My two favs of the five are Skin and Marguerite. If you want to experience the short but intense beauty of cinema spare and beautiful, spend a couple of hours with these Oscar -worthy stories.