Move aside Black Swan, and you too, The King’s Speech. Later for you Inception, and all the other Oscar-nominated movies up for this year’s Best Picture award. This year’s selection of the Academy’s “Live Action Shorts” collection offers a creative bunch of movies, an indication that the immediate future of movie-making is in very talented hands. This reporter was fortunate to view the five short films, and even participate in a very unscientific vote taken by the theatre owners.
The Confession comes from the U.K., and runs 26 minutes. The story: two nine year old boys, best friends share the upcoming “first confession” in their Catholic school. One of the boys is world-wise, and has no problem coming up with sins to confess, the other is quiet and shy, obviously struggling with even one transgression to offer. Well-acted, and even paced, we see Jacob pull Sam along on a scheme of wrong-doing, sure to provide a sin. But, the childlike plan, innocent at first, takes a terrible turn, ending in the deaths of three strangers, and taking the life of one of the boys. The boy left standing has to live with this, is already having nightmares, and ultimately, though we don’t see, will become a fourth “victim,” of the story.
Wish 143 also out of the U.K. concerns the dying wish of a fifteen year boy. Stricken with what we are led to believe is lung cancer, he is visited by a local “make a wish” foundation-type representative. Though enticed with a trip to Disneyland, or meet a celebrity, David is only interested in one thing: an opportunity to lose his virginity. In such a short amount of time: 24 minutes, we are drawn to this character, his likability, his sense of humor at this crucial point in his life, and the friendship he has with the hospital’s chaplain, who is sympathetic to his young friend’s desire. A meeting is set up with a local hooker, and their scene together is tender and heartfelt. “Have you ever been touched,” she asks. “Only pricked with needles,” he says wearily, and then breaks down. This was a movie that left audiences – at least this reporter – wanting more.
Belgium’s Na Wewe takes us to Burundi, a small country of Central Africa during the period of unrest between the ethnic Hutus and the national army made up of Tutsis. Ordinary citizens are attacked by rebels who proceed to interrogate them, and sort them by race: “Hutus to the left, Tutsis to the right.” The soldiers humiliate the people by examining their facial features: a quick way to tell one from the other. This true story is tense, and moves quickly. A disagreement between the leaders provides a sense of the chaos when life and death decisions were made on the spur of the moment. In the end, we see a sign of hope that perhaps in our differences, we are more alike after all.
The Crush, at only 15 minutes, is a delightful story of a crush on a teacher gone too far. Eight year old Ardyll is madly in love with his teacher. He presents her with a ring (that the teacher accepts as an innocent gesture), and he writes in a 10 year calendar that he will marry her. Too bad she becomes engaged, and the toy ring is replaced with a diamond. In a very well-written scene, Ardyll challenges his rival to a duel, with pistols. The next day, at the set time and place, they meet, and the result is a frightening reminder of how something so innocent can get out of hand. (A theme similar to The Confession).
Last but not least, God of Love, from the NYU Film School, is a black and white comedy about how much control—or how little—we have when it comes to love. Written and directed by Luke Matheny, the story centers around a lounge-singing-expert dart player, who can score a bulls eye while crooning a tune. Soon the darts become symbolic for Cupid’s Arrow, and he hatches a goofy scheme to win the heart of a fellow band mate. She, however, has eyes for the guitar player. In what is being touted as a “bohemian charmer,” we find that we all have a place in the universe, and that, indeed, love cannot be planned.
The movies were viewed at The Downing Film Center, a theatre specializing in indies, foreign and classic films, located at the Newburgh Waterfront. Recliner rockers and a snack bar with Earl Grey tea and home baked goods make this a popular tourist destination and a treasure for the locals. According to the Director of the Downing, Brian J. Burke, booking these movies was a coup. “These films are only show in about 95 theatres across the country.” Too bad.
Leaving the theatre, this reporter thought the movies could have been longer. We wanted more.
But then, they wouldn’t be “short films.”