Sunday, February 17, 2019

Movie Review: 2019 Oscar-Nominated Live Action Short Films

The Oscar-nominated short films always seem to be the most depressing movies nominated at the Academy Awards each year. This year is no different, and the theme of almost all of the shorts seems to be "how can we screw kids up irreparably?" Here's our review for each of the five nominees: "Detainment," "Fauve," "Madre," "Marguerite," and "Skin."

Detainment 2018 short film movie poster
"He couldn't come alive again if he had been chopped in half." (Image Source)
Director: Vincent Lambe
Running Time: 30 minutes

A true crime story about one of the most heinous murders in British history.

This short film is based on the audio transcripts of the interrogation of the two ten-year-old murderers who kidnapped and beat two-year-old James Bulger to death. It is written and directed by Vincent Lambe and stars Ely Solan and Leon Hughes as the young killers. It is a depressing story that takes a look at the darker side of humanity. It begs the question, are some kids are just born psychopathic monsters? Beyond that, we don't get much understanding and depth, or answers about why this crime happened apart from the killers being remorseless little psychos who did not regret what they did, just that they got caught for James's murder. It is a well put together film, and the people involved give excellent and believable performances. That being said, this short has been marred by a bit of controversy as the mother of victim James Bulger has since come out and stated that this movie was made without her permission or consent. Since it doesn't shed any new light on this case or give further, fresh understanding of the situation, one could argue that it merely puts on display the worst part of mankind. We wonder if this short is worth the pain the family members may have endured reliving this tragedy.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
Fauve 2018 short film movie poster
"The first one to laugh is dead." (Image Source)
Director: Jeremy Comte
Running Time: 17 minutes

Two boys playing silly games in places they shouldn't get caught in a tough situation.

Written and directed by Jeremy Comte, "Fauve" tells the story of two boys named Tyler (Félix Grenier) and Benjamin (Alexandre Perreault) who are playing a game of one-upmanship with each other. The two stumble into a place they know they shouldn't be, and it is then that their game goes too far. This is a depressing story that depicts an unfortunate, tragic accident that is sure to cause everlasting pain to everyone involved. The locations where this short was shot create the opportunity for some stunning cinematography. The story, however, seems like little more than a play on "the boy who cried wolf." The boys spend so much time trying to trick each other and lie to one another about injuries and dangers that when a real crisis arises, they don't take it seriously, which costs them precious time and opportunity. Though this is a well put together film and though there's nothing wrong with it, it just wasn't our cup of tea.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
Madre 2018 short film movie poster
"Why isn't dad coming?" (Image Source)
Director: Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Running Time: 19 minutes

A woman receives a call from her six-year-old son telling her that his father has disappeared after leaving him alone on a beach, which sends her into a panic.

"Madre" is one of those movies that takes a parent's worst nightmare and brings it to the screen with palpable tension, frustration, and terror. It provided us with a tense, frantic watch as all of the unlikely but frightening scenarios start to pile up on top of each other. To make matters worse, the mother in this situation induces panic in her son from what may be his only chance for help. Bringing this unsettling uncertainty alive will be enough for some, but it doesn't have much to offer beyond a scary premise. Despite some good acting, we were left wanting a bit more.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
Margeurite 2018 short film movie poster
"I won't live forever, you know." (Image Source)
Director: Marianne Farley
Running Time: 19 minutes

An old woman learns a personal detail about her caregiver that causes her to look back and find peace with her own life.

Writer/director Marianne Farley has found a sweet spot between beauty and sadness in "Marguerite." This is a story about a dying woman (Béatrice Picard), which is inherently sad in and of itself, but it is also a story that shows it's never too late to be true to yourself and uncover repressed feelings. It quickly establishes characters and shows a strong relationship between the older Marguerite and her young caregiver Rachel (Sandrine Bisson). They are very friendly with each other and get along well. Then, Marguerite learns something personal about Rachel, and all of a sudden, her face changes. It was at that exact moment that we held our breath and wondered how this information would affect her view of Rachel and their relationship moving forward. From there, this short unfolds in a delicate, tender, graceful manner that left me sobbing my eyes out and BigJ on the verge of tears. This was our favorite of all of the Oscar-nominated short films, and we urge you to seek it out.

My Rating: 10/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
Skin 2018 short film movie poster
"Just like we trained." (Image Source)
Director: Guy Nattiv
Running Time: 20 minutes

A Neo-Nazi who instills ideas of violence and hatred in his child's mind and heart faces poetic justice.

We don't think we have ever hated a character as vehemently and quickly as we hated Johnny (Jonathan Tucker) in "Skin." By the short's midway point, we had a fit of seething anger towards him and his horrific actions. We were angry and felt sick about the hateful values he imparted to his wife Christa (Danielle Macdonald) and young son Troy (Jackson Robert Scott). Just as we reached a tipping point, the film takes a dramatic moment to deliver some of the best poetic justice we've ever seen put to film. One might argue that the actions of everyone in the story simply furthers the perpetual cycle of hate in our society, but we personally found it interesting seeing a person's toxic actions and ideas come back to bite them in the end. If that makes us messed up, so be it. If you want to see what Tupac Shakur meant by "THUG LIFE," "Skin" is the perfect example of that concept.

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

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