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Posts Tagged ‘Oscar nominated live action shorts’

2019 OSCAR-NOMINATED DOCUMENTARY SHORTS  Overall rating: B+ 

“A SISTER” (Belgium, 16 minutes)  My rating: B  

It would be hard to find a more tension-filled 15 minutes of screen time than is delivered in Delphine Girard’s “A Sister.”

A car heading down the highway at night. At the wheel is a man; beside him a woman using her cel phone to call her sister to check in on her kids. We view them from the back seat, so we don’t really get a good look.

On the other end of the line is a police emergency dispatcher (Veerie Baetens) who quickly deduces that a kidnapping is in progress, asks carefully-posed questions (all “yes” or “no” answers, lest the driver catch on) and dispatches patrol cars to intervene.

It’s very well done, but here’s the catch:  It’s almost like a condensed remake of “The Guilty,” a 2018 Danish film with almost precisely the same premise.

“BROTHERHOOD” (Tunisia, 25 minutes) My rating: B

Family issues and sociopolitical concerns permeate Maryam Joobeur’s “Brotherhood,” in which a son’s return from fighting in Syria for Isis triggers upheaval in a family of Tunisian goat ranchers.

Father Mohammed (Mohamed Grayaa) is suspicious when his oldest boy Malek mysteriously appears with his new wife in tow. She’s covered from head to toe in black — all you can see are her eyes — and this display of fundamentalist piety only infuriates Mohammed, who views Isis fighters as murderers. His wife Salha, though, is thrilled to have her boy back in the fold.

Tensions percolate until Mohammed does something that can never be taken back, and which will probably mean the breakup of his family.

“THE NEIGHBOR’S WINDOW” (USA, 20 minutes) My rating: A

Marshall Curry’s “The Neighbor’s Window” is not only the best movie about voyeurism since Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,”  it’s one of the best movies of the year, period.

Brooklyn thirtysomethings Alli and Jacob (Maria Dizzia, Greg Keller) find themselves obsessed with the new neighbors across the street — a young couple who are forever having sex in front of their curtainless apartment windows.

For Alli and Jacob this is both titillation and a rebuke…she’s pregnant, they have two toddlers, and their sex life is nonexistent.

Curry’s script starts out darkly humorous as the couple watch their neighbors’ sexual shenanigans (“Disgraceful.” “Stop drooling.” “Whoa, that’s a new one.”) They even get a pair of binoculars to better catch the show. (“They’re like a car crash you can’t look away from.”  “Do they have jobs…or clothes?”)

But all this leads to jealousy and anger…our protagonists are too exhausted to even think about that sort of unbridled passion.

And then Curry’s film shifts effortlessly from comedy to tragedy, becoming a humanistic triumph that will leave viewers dealing with killer throat-lumps.

“SARIA” (USA, 23 minutes) My rating: B+

Set in a Guatemalan “orphanage” that feels uncomfortably like a Nazi work camp, Bryan Buckley’s “Saria” tells the true story of rebellion and mass escape by the teenage inmates.

It’s all seen through the eyes of Saria (Estefania Tellez), who dreams of making her way to the United States and, perhaps, making a little whoopee with Green Shirt, a resident of the boys’ dormitory.

These are kids who’ve been left to fend for themselves, first on the crime-riddled streets and now in an institution where they awaken each day to a matron banging on the bunkbeds and screaming, “Time to get up, bitches!”

No sense giving away the film’s tragic denouement…let’s just say “Saria” gives us reason to hope before having it all crash down on our heads.

“NEFTA FOOTBALL CLUB”  (Tunisia/France, 17 minutes) My rating: B

A couple of soccer-crazed Tunisian brothers (Eltayef Dhaoul, Mohamed Ali Ayari) are puzzled when they come across a headphone-wearing mule in the mountainous desert that separates Tunisia from Algeria.  Searching the baskets on the animal’s back, the older boy discovers a fortune in heroin. He tells is younger sibling that it’s laundry detergent and makes plans to sell the drugs.

Meanwhile two smugglers (Lyes Salem and Zichem Mesbah) wonder what has happened to the mule they trained to carry contraband across the border (it’s a drug mule, literally).  Turns out the animal is guided  by an Adele song that plays on the headphones.  But somehow the wrong song got played and now the animal is in the wind.

Yves Piat’s film is an extended joke, but a satisfying one featuring an ironic conclusion worthy of O. Henry.

| Robert W. Butler

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