A Spectrum of Emotion: Our Review of the Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - February 09, 2018
A Spectrum of Emotion: Our Review of the Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts

This year’s group of live action nominated shorts are longer than their animated counterparts. Most of them also take their inspirations from real life stories to evoke emotional reactions. They also have characters that experience oppression because of their ethnicity, different abilities, and religious affiliations. There will be positive reactions towards these depictions. But it’s also as if films can only show our lives in peril instead of us leading normal lives.

The series does start with its strongest short, Reed van Dyk’s DeKalb Elementary. Here, a troubled young man (Bo Mitchell) holds the titular school and its receptionist (Tara Riggs) hostage. Admittedly, most of my love for this short is because of Tarra Riggs. She should have been a star after her great work in Lance Hammer’s Ballast. But the short’s other elements complement her, showing control in depicting a tense situation.

The program then goes from its strongest to its weakest with Chris Overton and Rachel Shenton’s The Silent Child. Libby (Maisie Sly), a four year old child who is deaf. She develops a sisterly relationship with a social worker (Shenton) who specializes on children like Libby. There’s an effective drama within this short but it heavily relied on obvious musical cues. It does raise awareness on the lack of resources for deaf children.

Then there’s Kevin Wilson Jr.’s My Nephew Emmett, which visualizes parts of Emmett Till”s (Joshua Wright) last day. Its focus, however, is more on Till’s preacher uncle Mose Wright (L.B. Williams) and the latter’s premonitions. There’s a lot of great cinematography to depict Wright’s interiority, great use of pastel skies and lights. Wilson makes some interesting choices that other audience members might disagree with but a different approach is good.

We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming with Derin Seale and Josh Lawson’s The Eleven O’Clock. This short shows a light take on a heavy subject matter which starts out with a temp secretary (Alyssa McLelland). She partially deals with two men (Lawson and Damon Herriman). One of them is a psychiatrist and the other is a delusional patient who think he’s a psychiatrist. It’s a fun ride.

Lastly is Katja Benrath and Tobias Rosen’s Watu Wote: All of Us, which is very trope-y. It centers on a broken Christian Kenyan woman (Adelyne Wairimu) who inadvertently shakes her bigotry of because of a fateful bus ride. The said ride happens to be the one that the al-Shabab takes hostage in 2014. The Islamist group endangers both Christian and Muslim passengers, and my least favourite short makes Christians realize things.

Perhaps I’m underselling these shorts. The through line exists within them and their running times are a bit longer than the animated ones. It’s still a marvelous thing to watch human interactions and how they transform characters in relatively short time. Another thing these shorts have in common is how isolated these characters feel even while with others. But these people reach out, which is what we in the audience should be doing.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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