Sunday, February 24, 2019

Movie Review: 2019 Oscar-Nominated Documentary Short Films

Here are our reviews for the Oscar-nominated documentary shorts: "A Night at the Garden," "Black Sheep," "End Game," "Lifeboat," and "Period. End of Sentence."

Director: Marshall Curry
Running Time: 7 minutes

Stock footage of a Nazi rally that took place in Madison Square Garden pre-WWII.

This is an odd nomination because it is entirely comprised of 80-year-old archival footage. Sure, rewatching it now can recontextualize it through hindsight as we see 20,000+ American people gather at Madison Square Garden for a Nazi rally. It reminds us how fascist ideas can easily take hold, even in America. At least back then, the people who attended had the excuse that it was a pre-Holocaust rally, that they had no idea what Hitler really had in mind. What would be scarier is showing 20,000 people at a Nazi/any rally today where those ideas are being espoused because today, we know exactly what type of horrors such rhetoric leads to. This short offers little more than a repackaging of someone else's work with little to no modification or commentary.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
Black Sheep 2018 Oscars short film movie poster
"That could have been me, that's what scared my mom the most." (Image Source)
Movie"Black Sheep"
Director: Ed Perkins
Running Time: 26 minutes

A man recounts his youth as a black kid living in Essex and tells of the extraordinary lengths he went to to fit in.

"Black Sheep" may document one man's story told through mostly reenactments, but it's a film that shows humanity's inherent desire for acceptance. It looks at how striving to be part of the pack can lead to hate and violent actions and can cause people to turn a blind eye to racism. If you ever hear someone say "how can I be racist if I have a black friend?" "Black Sheep" explains this pretty well. We felt a lot of emotions while watching this documentary short, but we were mostly disgusted by the actions of this man's so-called "friends," and pity that he had to try and gain the acceptance of those who mistreated him in more ways than one. This is a great short!

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
End Game Netflix 2018 Academy Awards short film movie poster
"You told me to make friends with death. I failed the assignment." (Image Source)
Movie"End Game"
Director: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Running Time: 40 minutes

A look at numerous different people at the end of their lives as they come to terms with death.

More often than not, the nominees for the 'best documentary short subject' category are endlessly depressing. Out of all the dismal choices this year, none is sadder than "End Game." Have you ever had to watch your family members waste away and die? We have, and we don't wish that experience on anyone. This short is basically 40 minutes of watching multiple people die, and quite frankly, we don't see much of a point to having to witness other people go through the same horrendous occurrence. The ultimate point of this short is that death is part of life and life is part of death, but we should all already know that. Does that mean it needs to have a short film made about such a subject? No. Medicine doesn't help. Doctors don't help. Being in the hospital doesn't help. Hospice doesn't help. Reframing your mind when you're on death's doorstep doesn't help. Trying to find/make/establish a relationship with death doesn't help. There's literally no point to this short other than massive amounts of pain and suffering told in the most invasive, awards-baity way possible. Oh no, that's not true, it's that dying sucks. As if we needed a documentary to tell us that. We will all have to face death whether we accept it or not, just don't ask us to watch people die when we don't have to.

My Rating: 3.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 3/10
Lifeboat 2018 Oscars short film movie poster
"Who knows what's gonna happen to them." (Image Source)
Director: Skye Fitzgerald
Running Time: 34 minutes

A German human rights group navigates the Mediterranean sea rescuing refugees who have fled on lifeboats from Libya.

Over the last few years, we have seen a lot of films like "Lifeboat," ones that show the struggles fleeing refugees have to endure to find safety. It explores the horrors refugees face in Libya. After being abducted and held as prisoners, many men, women, and children are tortured, raped, and sold into youth military or sex slavery. "Lifeboat" tries to put a face on the crisis and remove the detached rationalizations so many have when it comes to refugees. It wants people to stop seeing refugees as a statistics and start recognizing them as individual human beings that live in conditions so bad they are willing to risk death on the open ocean instead of remaining in their situation. That being said, we did find the display of dead, bloated bodies that had drowned in the last segment of the film to be a little unnecessary and a bit much. It's important to understand that people die trying to find freedom, but we didn't need that image burned in our minds for the rest of our lives.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
Period End of Sentence 2018 Oscars short film movie poster
"The world can't go ahead without women. We are the creators of the universe." (Image Source)
Movie"Period. End of Sentence."
Director: Rayka Zehtabchi
Running Time: 26 minutes

A group travels to rural Indian villages and educates women on menstruation, bringing them a machine that will help many gain access to inexpensive sanitary pads.

"Period. End of Sentence" is the one film of the bunch that isn't utterly depressing. In fact, it is massively uplifting and arouses hope for the future. Director Rayka Zehtabchi takes a look at life in rural villages in India and explores the taboo nature and misunderstandings around the natural function of menstruation. The women in these parts of the world don't have access to products that first-world countries take for granted, mainly sanitary pads/napkins. This charity supplies a machine to these villages that allows them to make and sell affordable pads to try and remove the stigma surrounding something that should be viewed as normal. Many of the people interviewed (men and women) for this film have wildly inaccurate views about women's bodies and menstruation in general, and many girls even drop out of school because of the stigma surrounding their periods. This informative, interesting, captivating short was our favorite of the bunch.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10

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