‘Take Two’ review: 2017 Oscar Nominated Shorts

Oscar short films often get overlooked amidst the hype of Best Picture etc, so for your consideration, in the first of what hopefully will become a regular segment, Amy Peterson and Diana Nakelski – known collectively as Take 2 – bring us a blow-by-blow account of the shorts at the Academy Awards this year.

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Diana:  I have never understood why short films do not get much exposure in the US.  Short film-makers have 2 to 30 minutes to tell a story that is poignant and memorable.  It requires a high attention to detail, focus, and personal sacrifice to pull this off.  Often, these storytellers are young, visionary filmmakers working outside the scope of a major production company.  The resulting work can sometimes be raw, and simultaneously refreshing. 

My sister—to whom I attribute credit for my cultural upbringing—brought me into this world years ago by having me participate in some of the amazing film festivals she programmed.  She exposed me to an art form that is not yet lost, but sorely unrecognized.  I remember watching my sister fight passionately to ensure the short filmmakers were invited to the VIP parties of some festivals.  Sadly, in the US, there is limited access to this art form.  Hopefully, someday movie studios will follow Pixar’s lead in reviving the tradition of showing short films before full-length feature films.  For now, I must settle with the few avenues I am aware of: attending film festivals and the annual, 2-week showing of the Oscar-nominated short films in select theatres.  The latter has become one of my favorite traditions that I share with my wife, a fellow film-lover.

Without further ado, here is our take on this year’s class of nominees for animated and live-action short films.

Key: Take 2 Rating System

  • Ahluvit!
  • Solid.
  • Close, but no ciggy
  • Meh.Iiiiiiiihate it!

Animated

Pear Cider & Cigarettes

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A gritty, noir film about addiction and loyalty.  This film is definitely not for children.  The animation style felt like a graphic novel, and the story left us feeling raw.  The craftsmanship was on-point—from animation to story to character development—and it felt like a deeply personal story.  We felt this film should have won the Oscar.

Diana’s Rating:  Solid.

Amy’s Rating:  Ahluvit!

 

Piper

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Another Pixar slam-dunk.  While this film took home yet another Oscar for Disney in this category for its all-ages accessibility and superior technique and budget, we’re beginning to think they should have their own category.  Nonetheless, the film is light-hearted as it celebrates the coming-of-age of a new generation marked by open-mindedness and adaptability.

            Diana’s Rating:  Solid.

            Amy’s Rating:  Solid.

 

Blind Vaysha

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We appreciated the folksy style of storytelling in this film, but the animation itself was a bit too raw for our tastes.  It entails a narrated story about a girl with a unique disability: one eye sees only the future and one eye sees only the past.  Her struggle to interact with the world is relatable during a time when society is so divided in its values regarding the values of the past and the possibilities of a better future.

Diana’s Rating: Close, but no ciggy

Amy: Close, but no ciggy

 

Borrowed Time

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We were disappointed in the numerous plot-holes we found in this story, particularly given its 7-minute run-time.  The focus of the filmmakers seems to have been on the quality of animation rather than character development.  Nonetheless, you will enjoy it if you appreciate the American Southwest aesthetic.

Diana’s Rating: Iiiiiiiihateit!

Amy’s Rating: Meh.

 

 

Pearl

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This story felt shallow due to its narrow relatability—a story we felt was only accessible to Miley Cyrus wannabes.  It follows the relationship arc of a father and daughter throughout the young woman’s upbringing, as the father attempts to make a living as a travelling musician.  The story takes place from the point-of-view of the father’s car, capturing the feeling that the car is a significant member of the family.

Diana’s Rating: Meh.

Amy’s Rating: Meh.

 

Honorable Mention: The Head Vanishes

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We were shocked that this film was not nominated for an Oscar, let alone the winner.  Perhaps we were swept up by the emotional poignancy of the story.  Regardless, we felt that it perfectly captured the pain of Alzheimer’s disease—from the confused perspective of the afflicted to the hopelessness experienced by the caretaking family member.  The animation contrasted the emotions evoked by incorporating a bit of lighthearted whimsy throughout the story.

Diana’s Rating: Ahluvit!

Amy’s Rating: Solid.

 

Live-Action

Ennemis Interieurs

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We give this film points for relevance and relatability, but it failed to tell us anything new about the world or how to solve racial discrimination in government.

Diana’s Rating: Close, but no ciggy.

Amy’s Rating: Close, but no ciggy.

 

La Femme et le TGV

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This film was based on the true story of a small-town woman in Sweden who for years waited for the TGV twice a day so she could wave at passing commuters.  Eventually, the conductor begins throwing letters to her out the window, and they develop a correspondence.  We enjoyed the themes of the story: generational gaps and misunderstandings, the plight of diminishing rural towns and values, and the increasing isolation that comes with modernization.

Diana’s Rating: Solid.

Amy’s Rating: Ahluvit!

 

Silent Nights

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A Danish woman working at a shelter falls in love with a homeless refugee. The film seems to be warning the audience not to judge a book by its cover by revealing the backstory of a homeless immigrant.  However, as the plot moves it is revealed that the man was not forthcoming about his wife and kids back home.  To us, this movie fell short.  They fail to develop the character’s motivations, providing no justification for the Danish woman’s unconditional forgiveness.  In the end, we felt the film villainized immigrants, almost warning us not to be fooled by their misfortunes.

Diana’s Rating: Iiiiiiiihate it!

Amy’s Rating: Iiiiiiiihate it!

 

Sing

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We loved this movie!  Using children to illustrate the power of resistance was an affective choice.  It could easily have been a story about the most-talented singer being a bully, but she defies expectations when she organizes a resistance.  She chooses justice and inclusion over competitive prestige.  This film celebrates the bravery and uncertainty in questioning authority as well as the power of unification.  The Oscar was well-deserved.

Diana’s Rating: Ahluvit!

Amy’s Rating: Ahluvit!

 

Timecode

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Nope, not a sci-fi!  This charming love-story was creative and sweet.  To avoid ruining the feeling of discovery that the story evokes, we will tell you only that this film recreates the excitement of an adolescent passing love-notes in the hallway at school.

Diana’s Rating: Ahluvit!

Amy’s Rating: Solid.

 

 

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