The Wolfpack’s Window Feel

For your viewing pleasure, the short film the Angulo brothers were making at the end of The Wolfpack.  Nothing tremendous here; it’s obviously derivative of David Lynch (whose films are never mentioned in the documentary), but it’s honest and simple and sweet.  These boys have some talent, which makes their shuttered existence all the more intriguing.

Film Brief: Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales)

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Relates Salvajes is being marketed in English as Wild Tales, but a more accurate translation would be Savage Tales — this movie exposes the animalistic side of human nature.  Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian nails it:

Argentinian portmanteau movie is a tinderbox of delights

Writer / director Damián Szifron proves to be a masterful storyteller and an equally skilled director.  Wild Tales is beautifully put together — the filmmaking prowess matches the strength and style of the six stories, and demonstrates the power of linear storytelling.  I can hardly wait for more — hopefully a ‘standard’ feature from Szifron.  Incredibly entertaining and highly recommended,  Wild Tales offers a thrilling escape from cinematic doldrums.  8/10

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Oscar Nominated Shorts

Tonight I watched the Shorts HD presentation of the Oscar Nominated Short Films – Live Action.  There was nothing particularly devastating, but they were on the whole good, entertaining, thought-provoking movies.  The first one shown was Death of a Shadow (Belgium/France), which I did not care for a great deal but did have a kind of cool steampunk aesthetic, faintly reminiscent of Hugo.  Next was Henry (Canada, in French), about an old man who is in conflict with his own memories.  Not a bad portrait of the awfulness of memory loss with age.  These first two however I found a little too single-note.

MCurfewy personal favorite — the one I’d most like to see again, and the only one in English — was Curfew (USA).  A story about a young man trying to mind his own business and commit suicide,who is interrupted with a summons to babysit his strong willed 9-year-old niece.  Featuring a fun little musical scene in a bowling alley, this is the most “likable” of the shorts to a wide American audience, not that you’ll ever see it on Bravo.

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The last two I was not necessarily looking forward to, but I kept an open mind.  When you’re talking about boys in Kabul, Afghanistan, or in a Somali fishing village, visions of impoverished gritty life take over and don’t necessarily make me think – yes!  That’s what I want to see.  But these two movies I enjoyed very much.

Without knowing specifics about the state of the campaign, I would have to say that Buzkashi Boys (Afghanistan/USA) probably is the odds-on favorite to win the Academy Award.  At 28 mins., it is the longest short, and it offers the most complete, most long form-like story, and a cinematic vision amenable to Academy voters.  The story is of two hardscrabble boys who are seeking a better life in the bombed-out Afghan capital, so it has the right political mix to edge out the others in Academy voting.  The Academy rarely rewards the best in any category, but in this case you could say that Buzkashi Boys is at least as good as the other contenders and probably the most deserving to win.  We’ll find out tomorrow night.

The last film was also the shortest, at 18 mins — Asad (South Africa/USA).  It too is about young boys trying to eke out an existence in their impoverished community, in this case a Somali fishing village.  All the while they are dealing with pirates who rule the streets.  Reminiscent of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (because there’s an old fisherman plucked right out of that story), Asad takes a delightful comic turn at the end to finish the shorts presentation on a positive note.  Buzkashi Boys and Asad are indeed gritty, but also charming and rewarding.

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I am not assigning numerical values to these movies.  On their own, I recommend only Curfew, Buzkashi Boys, and Asad — though there is not a clunker in the bunch.  I’m not sure what the mechanism is for watching any one of these movies by itself.  Your greatest chance of seeing any one of them is to see them all.  As a whole, I recommend the Shorts HD presentation, which also features commentary by past Best Short winner Luke Matheny — not about the films themselves, but rather about his own experience with the awards process.  His commentary provides a little light comic relief in-between the featured shorts.

In a world dominated by full-length features, it’s refreshing to see some quality short films from around the globe.