Oh the Oscars… A Review of the Best Live Action Shorts

Still from Fauve. Still from Fauve.

It’s extremely heartening and exciting to see that two Canadian live action short films have made it to the short list of nominees at the Oscars, which are this Sunday (February 24, 2019). I am hopeful that all the controversies surrounding this year’s event will not take away from the awards and recognizing the amazing work that some of the nominated artists have done. While not all amazing artists make it to the nominations and eventual wins, I still harbour some nostalgic connection to the awards, as I grew up watching and dreaming about them.

In preparation for the ceremony, these are the five that have been nominated for Best Live Action Short. This category (one of my favourites) was almost not going to be aired until a few days ago, when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (the home of the Oscars) decided to rethink their ludicrous decision (after considerable and scathing criticism) of handing out a few categories off air. So here are the nominees:

Detainment is based on the real-life murder of James Burgler, a two-year-old boy who was killed in 1993 by two ten-year olds Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. The film takes real life transcripts of the accused who were caught and sentenced for killing the two-year-old James and weaves them into a narrative. The film faced a lot of flak for this ‘artistic’ choice. Per the filmmaker Vincent Lambe, he was attempting to shine light on how juvenile detainees are treated.  The film is not the easiest to watch and certainly couldn’t have been easy to make but gives an interesting insight into the perpetration of the crime.

One of the two Canadian shorts is Marguerite, an interesting take on aging and the reflections that come with. Marguerite is being cared for by a nurse named Rachel, but the two of them have more in common than Marguerite ever thought. Upon learning about Rachel’s sexual orientation, Marguerite is forced to go back in time and face her own unresolved reality.

I liked Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s Madre, for it crafted an interesting single-take narrative of a mother, who is taken over by frenzy as she responds to her son’s call for help. The son, who is vacationing with his father somewhere in France, is lost and calls his mother for help. Crafted to keep you glued as you become invested in what the mother will do, the fact that the son doesn’t even make it on screen makes it both extremely intriguing but also slightly unsatisfying.

The next film to be nominated is Skin, where we meet a (visibly redneck) family that is planning a trip to the lake. While they spend time doing what they routinely do, things take a turn when at the end of the day when the family is at a grocery store. The nine-year-old son Troy inadvertently becomes friendly with an African American man, Jaydee, who is shopping a few aisles down. Things take a unexpected turn, which exposes the deep and entrenched fissures of racism in our communities. An all-too-familiar reality for people of colour no matter where they are.

Fauve is the tale of childhood, of the foolish things that we do as kids, and how when pitted against nature, we find ourselves doing whatever we can to just survive. I believe the film is close to the filmmaker Jeremy Comte’s own experiences of growing up in the countryside. This film also won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance in 2018 and is a must-watch for his juxtaposition of the human mundane and the all-powerful nature.

As part of its pre-Oscar fare, these shorts are playing at Cinema du Parc until Sunday.