Friday, February 01, 2013

Luke Matheny hosts Live Action shorts for 2013 Oscars; "Buzkashi Boys" takes right to Kabul

The Oscar Nominated Short Films for 2013 are now packaged into hosted programs by The ShortsHD Channel, part of HDNet and Magnolia Pictures. 

The “Live Action” shorts are hosted by Luke Matheny, winner of the award last year for “God of Love”.
I saw these at Landmark E Street Cinema today. When short films are packaged, the theater must decide how to show a mix of films in different aspect ratios.  Since Landmark actually uses its full wide screen space for “2.35:1”, when it mixes in regular “1.85:1”, it has to crop the wider screen films vertically, reducing potential visual impact that would be available if the films were shown separately.
Landmark’s link (leading to others) is here.
Let’s run down the films:
Buzkashi Boys” (Afghanistan, directed by Sam French, written with Martin Desmond Roe), 28 min, is the longest and I think the most visually striking in the set.  The film is shot entirely on location in Kabul, with subdued colors, and 2.35;1, to give a sweeping panorama of poverty, giving the moviegoer the feeling of being on another planet.  I’d love to see this in Imax.  The story is tragic.  A vagabond boy tempts his friend, the son of a blacksmith, to roam the city looking for horse polo games of Buzkashi. The blacksmith is trying to force the son to learn his trade and accept his lot in life.  The adventure in a wasteland leads to tragedy for one of the boys. In Farsi or Urdu with subtitles.   I recall a blacksmith shop in Colonial Williamsburg, and a glassblowing shop in Jamestown. The polo scene (despite the snow) recalls the Disney short film "Stormy" from the early 1950s  

Asad”, (South Africa, directed by Bryan Buckley, 18 min), confronts us with the ragtag life of a little boy in coastal Somalia.  A relative tries to teach him to be a fisherman, but young men from a pirate ring harass him when he says “I don’t lie girls”.  The boy goes on a trip in a boat, and finds a yacht where a family has been slaughtered by pirates, and rescues a beautiful cat.  The film has imagery that reminds one of “Life of Pi” and the cat is almost like a domesticated “Richard Parker”, and by no means a fish.  In a Somali dialect with subtitles.
Henry” (Quebec, directed by Yan England) shows Henry (Gerard Poirier) , a former concert pianist, dealing with the confusion of being in a nursing home and trying take sense of his memories fading with Alzheimer’s disease.  He is floundering badly after losing his wife.  The film tries to simulate what Alzheimer’s would really be like.  The film uses music by Schumann and a Liszt transcription of a famous Leoncavallo aria. In French with subtitles.   The film deserves comparison with “Amour”. 
Curfew” (USA, dir. Shawn Chrsitensen) is a fable about involuntary family responsibility.  Richie (Christensen) is slitting his wrists when he gets a call from his sister to babysit his smart niece. She really babysits him. Maybe people really should take care of their siblings’ kids. 
Death of a Shadow” (Belgium/Netherlands, dir. Tom van Avermeat, “Dood van een Schaduw”). Soldier Nathan (Matthias Schoenearts) had been shot during WWI.   He senses he is reincarnated inside and around a museum keeping an infinite labyrinth of images of shadows of dead people.  He gets to see what happened to his true love, and finds he had competition.  There will be consequences.  Visually, the film is quite striking in the fantasy world it presents, based on where someone living in 1917 might have expected technology to go. In Dutch, with subtitles. 
Luke Matheny (36 in Wikipedia, but he looks much younger biologically) is quite engaging as a host, and says that the thing for a filmmaker to do is make the film he wants to watch.  He mentions his history as a problem child, and how he turned the tables on the middle school bullies in Delaware.  He looks, acts and moves a lot like young NYC pianist and composer Timo Andres, and expresses the same world view.  Luke could definitely play Timo the Pianist in a movie, but also vice versa. 

Picture above: from rural Loudoun County, VA; it sends a message.

Below: Landmark's venue today:

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