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Discover the 2017 Oscar Short Film Nominees

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CHICAGO – One of the more overlooked set of nominees at Academy Awards time is two categories for Best Short Film – Live Action and Animated. The 2017 nominees are packaged as two presentations that are currently screening in Chicago at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema.

Historically, the short film – both in live action and animated forms – were part of the early tradition of movie exhibition. In the days before television, movie theaters would show the newsreel, the short film and of course “cartoons” before a main feature, and that tradition only petered out when audience tastes shifted around the 1950s, and television took over the exhibition of cartoons. The live action short languished in near anonymity, banished to film festivals and rarely shown to the general public. The age of the internet has revived the form substantially (in both categories), and their availability have garnered enough interest to exhibit the presumed “best of the best” – Oscar edition – in theaters once again, albeit in limited markets.

The 2017 Oscar Nominated Short Films
Photo credit: Shorts HD/Magnolia Pictures

Below is a short description of the films in each category, ranked by order of preference. The overall two presentations are given a generic four out of five ranking, not as an average of their relative scores, but as a catch-all for how scattered the film subjects can be, and the connection that was experienced. If I were to rank the joy of going to the movies and viewing the 2017 Oscar shorts, it would be solid perfect score. Note the national origin of each short, for the cultural elements of different countries are part of the trip.

Star2017 Oscar Nominated Short Films – Live Action

“La Femme et le TGV (France, Directed by Timo Van Gunten and Giacun Caduff)

There is the cinema dream of authentic life in this film, as directors Gunten and Caduff use the magic of visuals to create a purpose for a lonely widow, whose main activities involve waving to a bullet train that goes past her house twice a day, and grumpily running her legendary-but-dying bakery business. The film is reminiscent of the French New Wave in its delicacy, with atmospheric treats throughout, and a magnificent hangdog performance by Jane Birkin.

“Timecode” (Spain, Directed by Juanjo Giménez)

This is the type of film that might have you thinking, “why hasn’t someone thought of this before?” Well, it needed the twist that director Giménez provided, as two bored security guards (Nicholas Ricchini and Lali Ayguadé) start leaving notes as they relieve each other on their shifts. The result of these notes combines the footage of the modern security camera with the human need for expression. The film also has a killer punch line.

Jane Birkin in ‘La Femme et le TGV
Photo credit: Shorts HD/Magnolia Pictures

“Mindenki” (Sing) (Hungary, Directed by Kristof Deák and Anna Udvardy)

Girl power is the theme in this emotional tale of how adults tend to ruin childhood, based on a true story. Young Zsófi (Dóra Gáspárvalvi) is the new kid in school, who longs to be in the award-winning kids choir. Although anybody can be in the group, the director Miss Erika (Zsófia Szamosi), has a different path for the singers she considers sub par. When Zsófi befriends Liza (Dorka Hais), the two plan a countermove against the adult authority, while developing their own friendship toward each other. Childhood is depicted accurately, with all of the pain, confusion and moments of purity.

“Silent Nights” (Denmark, Directed by Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson)

Immigration is the theme for the last couple of shorts, and this film takes place in Denmark around Christmas, where a Salvation Army volunteer named Inger (Malene Beltoft Olsen) falls for an African immigrant named Kwame (Prince Yaw Appiah). Their star-crossed love is tested by the environment of disapproval and Kwame’s poverty. Although telling and symbolic regarding European’s attitudes toward the immigrant situation, the short narrative structure contains too much plot, which gets in the way of everything else.

“Ennemis intérieurs” (The Enemy Within) (France, Directed by Sélim Azzazi)

The second immigrant-themed short has more of a straightforward story line, but also has many elements that have been explored before. Najib Oudghiri and Hassam Ghancy portray an interrogator and applicant, in this case an Algerian national applying for French citizenship. The film builds through the question-and-answer tenseness, eventually leading to an on-camera interview. Although set in 1996, it had the hindsight to the paranoia and cruelty that Muslims currently suffer, as they seek to define “home.” Most intriguing is the clash between questioner and applicant, as they are cut from the same background.

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