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Until a couple years ago, I more or less ignored the Academy Award nominations in the short film categories. But every year watching the Oscars, I’d be intrigued by the snippets they’d show of the short films, and I’d make a resolution to watch them the next year. Luckily, year before last I discovered a local arts theatre that shows both the Live Action and Animated Oscar-nominated short films!

The shorts vary in length, some as long as 30 minutes, while others hover around the 10-minute mark. If you really think about it, shorts could be the future of film-viewing, especially when you consider how popular Vine has become and how the public is getting more used to consuming entertainment quickly, and in smaller bites.

shorts collage

So far I’ve only seen the Oscar-nominated live action shorts. Maybe after I get paid on Friday I’ll be able to afford to see the animated ones as well. The live action shorts cover a range of subjects this year, some more humorous than others. The short films this year had the audience thinking about questions of life and death, marriage, war, and GOD. Here is the roster of Academy Award Nominated Live Action Short Films for 2014. I’ve included the trailer for each film, the synopsis and stats, as well as my personal rating. I encourage you to seek out a theatre near you where they are showing these shorts. They are definitely worth the price of the ticket!

AVANT QUE DE TOUT PERDRE [JUST BEFORE LOSING EVERYTHING] (France, 2012)

Margaret’s rating: 10/10
For me, this is far and away the best live action short subject film nominated this year. I don’t know if it’s a clear winner, because of the subjects of some of the other shorts, but as a film, AVANT QUE DE TOUT PERDRE held the tension and built the suspense in such a graceful way as befits an Academy Award wining short. The half hour short film is about the mother of two children trying to escape an abusive husband. Most of the film occurs at her place of work as she tries to quit her job and take the children away before her husband suspects anything.

Directed and written by Xavier Legrand.
Starring Lea Drucker, Anne Benoit, Miljan Chatelain, Mathilde Auneveux, and Claire Dumas

HELIUM (Denmark, 2014)
*WINNER 2014

Margaret’s rating: 7/10
A clumsy hospital janitor consoles a terminally ill little boy with wonderful stories about the make believe land of Helium, where sick children go to get strong. This touching narrative borders on the sentimental, with an all-too predictable plot line. Although the visions of Helium are charming, they are not quite profound enough to make up for the general banality of the story. That said, the heart of the film is definitely in the right place, offering a tender message of hope and humanity.

Directed and written by Anders Walter
Starring Casper Crump, Pelle Falk Krusbaek, and Marijana Jankovic

AQUEL NO ERA YO [IT WASN’T ME] (Spain, 2012)

Margaret’s rating: 9/10
By far the most difficult short to get through, this film is about child soldiers in Africa. This is the film that makes the Live Action shorts rated R, with violence, rape, you name it. Not a happy movie, but shot very well, with a documentary feel to it. The performances given by the major players are also pitch-perfect.

Directed and written by Esteban Crespo
Starring Alejandra Lorente, Gustavo Salmeron, Babou Cham, and Mariano Nguama

THE VOORMAN PROBLEM (UK, 2012)

Margaret’s rating: 7/10
THE VOORMAN PROBLEM is typically British in that it is difficult to discern whether this is supposed to be a comedy, drama, or psychological thriller. I guess it’s a bit of all three. Unlike most Oscar-nominated shorts, this one has a recognizable actor, namely Martin Freeman of THE HOBBIT (2012/13) and “Sherlock” (2010-14). He plays a straight-laced psychiatrist called in to examine an inmate who believes himself to be a god. Unfortunately, Voorman succeeds in confusing Dr. Williams, and the audience for that matter, so that nobody (but Voorman) knows which way is up. And what did he do with Belgium? And don’t say “What’s Belgium?”!

Directed by Mark Gill
Written by David Mitchell and Baldwin Li
Starring Martin Freeman, Tom Hollander, Simon Griffiths, and Elisabeth Gray

DO I HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING [I’m not even going to try to write that in Finnish] (Finland, 2012)

Margaret’s rating: 7/10
This sweet comedy about a mother trying against all odds to get her family out the door for a wedding has a bit of a cliché ending, but it’s all too related for anybody who’s ever been a mom or an au pair (I’m speak from experience here). And as FROZEN (2013) has proven, we all love little Finish girls. They’re so cute! I ALSO WANT TO GIVE BIG PROPS TO DIRECTOR SELMA VILHUNEN WHO IS ONE OF ONLY TWO FEMALE DIRECTORS NOMINATED THIS YEAR (the other is Lauren MacMullen for Disney’s Oscar-nominated animated short GET A HORSE!)! You go girls!

Directed by Selma Vilhunen
Written by Kirsikka Saari
Starring Joanna Haartti, Santtu Karvonen, Ranja Omaheimo, and Ella Toivoniemi

LAMB devours oscars

This post is written in conjunction with The LAMB Devours the Oscars 2014, hosted by the Large Association of Movie Blogs, of which I am proud to be a member. If you haven’t already done so, an Oscar ballot may be found at oscar.go.com. You can either submit your predictions online HERE or download the PDF (great for distributing at your Oscar party). Here are my picks.