Saturday, February 16, 2008

Magnolia's Best Live Act Short Films for 2007 (Oscar Nominees)

Magnolia Pictures and Landmark Theaters arranged for moviegoers to see the five Oscar nominees for best live short, and best animated short. I saw the collection of five live films, and a couple of them are remarkable in content.

The presentation cropped the 2.35:1 films onto the standard size screen with one lens, and did not take full advantage of the screen space.

At Night (“Om natten”, 2007, Zentropa, dir. Christian E. Christiansen, 39 min, Denmark, 2.35;1) has three young women hospitalized with cancer over the Christmas holidays. One of them has harrowing and risky surgery and wants her parents. Another young woman faces surgery but does not want to call her parents, because before she had not been willing or able to give up school for a year to be with her mother with breast cancer; the father had quit his job. (The situation recalls the film “One True Thing”). Finally, one of the girls goes into a coma, and the prodigal girl calls her father. The film is quite intense, set in hospital wards with nurses responding to night emergencies; the European exteriors barely show. The Scandinavian health care system doesn’t seem to relieve the intense pressure on family members for support in situations like this. Julie Olgaard, Lauara Christiensen, Neel Ronholt

The Tonto Woman (2007, Knucklehead, dir. Daniel Barber, story by Elmore Leonard, 35 min, 2.35:1, UK/Spain). A frontier woman Sarah (Charlotte Asprey) has been kidnapped by Indians and kept as a squaw. He husband (Richard Brake) has found her but kept her out of site in a shack. A Mexican Ruben Vega (Francesco Quinn) arrives and re-unites then but then Richard wants to get rid of this new “threat” with a gun battle. A curious “Spanish western” filmed near Seville, Spain and processed in England.

The Substitute (“Il Supplente”, 2007, Frame by Frame, dir. Andrea Jublin, Italy, about 20 min, 1.85:1) A lively male substitute teacher (about 35) in a high school social studies class both entertains and whipsaws the students, getting a souvenir away from one kid while pretending to be exercising “classroom management.” The sub climbs out a window (I had two middle school kids do that when I was subbing) and goes next door where there is a delegate political negotiation with China. We learn of his ulterior motive. In fact, the school realizes he was even authorized to be in the building. It’s like taking a sub assignment without having a job number assigned or even being hired as a sub. Security would never let you do that (or would it?) The kid still wants his soccer ball back. Artisan /Lions Gate owns a movie franchise called “The Substitute” and has several feature films in a series.

Besides the window incident mentioned above, there is another way that this film fits the paradigm of something that happened when I was subbing. Yes, I have a script for it. Stay tuned.

The Mozart of Pickpockets ("Le Mozart des Pickpockets", 2006, Kare, dir. Phillipe Polet-Villard, about 25 min, France, 1.85:1) Two clever thieves (making gay jokes at one another) “adopt” a deaf homeless boy (even stowing him in a duffel bag) to act as a pickpocket on Paris streets and in cinemas. The cops catch them at a bowling alley. A grimy look at Paris, almost mocking Victor Hugo.

Argentine Tango ("Tanghi argentine", 2006, Dreams in Motion, dir. Guy Thys, Belgium, in Dutch with titles, 2.35:1, 14 min). A businessman gets caught surfing the social networking sites at work for dates, after hooking up with a tango queen; but he manages to get his colleagues beef up his tango skills and throw tango party (even with some same-sex dancing). Filmed in Ghent.

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