An exclusive feature-length presentation showcasing this year's Oscar award nominees for Best Live Action Short Film - Do I Have To Take Care of Everything? (Finland), Helium (Denmark), Just Before Losing Everything (France, That Wasn't Me (Spain), The Voorman Problem (UK).Written by
A collection of live action shorts bound once again by the struggle to deal with a darker outlook on life
"Helium" (Denmark - Directed by Anders Walter).
We begin with Anders Walter's "Helium," a Danish short that follows the life of a young boy named Alfred (Pelle Falk Krusbæk), a terminally-ill young boy who is wasting away in a children's hospital. Alfred, however, has his mind temporarily taken off his illness when he meets Enzo (Casper Crump), a janitor who tells him of a place called "Helium," an alternative place to go rather than Heaven. The idea of Heaven is unexciting to Alfred, and the idea of "Helium" even owes itself to the fact that Alfred loves balloons, blimps, and all sort of objects that fly thanks to air. Enzo makes him a red balloon dog, which he informs Alfred will allow the airship that will eventually pick him up to know where he is at and that he wants to go to "Helium" rather than Heaven. This is a tender short, and another one in the Academy Awards' long history of finding and nominating ones that deal with death and the afterlife. If you have a soft heart, I foresee the last three shots of the film being something of a rough sit.
"The Voorman Problem" (United Kingdom - Directed by Mark Gill).
While Mark Gill's "The Voorman Problem" is intended to be darkly comedic, I found the short mostly disturbing and often offputting. That's definitely not a bad thing, but the comedic element, in my opinion, is something I found extremely subtle rather than prominent, as many viewers of the short had claimed. The film is a neatly and intriguingly shot short following a psychiatrist named Doctor Williams (Martin Freeman) who is called into a mental hospital for urgent evaluation of a patient named Voorman (Tom Hollander), who has convinced practically every other patient in the facility that he is indeed God. When Williams visits Voorman, he takes note of his slow, confident speech and his wily personality, as Voorman claims to have created the world in nine days. The short is beautifully shot, with wide, spacious shots depicting both men in conversation and even a terrific overhead shot that shows the contents of a desk early in the film. "The Voorman Problem" finds ways to intrigue the same way it finds ways to mystify.
"Avant Que De Tout Perdre" (France - Directed by Xavier Legrand).
Easily my favorite of all the live action shorts of 2014 is Xavier Legrand's "Avant Que De Tout Perdre" (Just Before Losing Everything), one of the tensest and most unsettling short films I've seen in a while. The short opens with a young boy walking to school before being stopped by a teacher driving to school telling him to hurry up. Instead, he goes underneath a bridge to play near a creek before being picked up by his mom. After picking up the boy's older sister, they arrive at the mother's place of employment. In the office, she talks with her boss about how she needs to press charges against her husband and that she's leaving town tonight. The boss fires her, allowing her to receive her severance package. Things get even more hectic when the husband arrives at the store, asking his wife's friend to speak to her immediately. What unfolds is something of a cat-and-mouse thriller, in one particular setting, with one goal in mind - getting out of the store. The short is consistently tense, providing for a greatly unsettling experience that toys with ones emotions in such a bold and unexpected way. Legrand has made a gripping and pervasively unsettling short that should guarantee him a future feature-length project in no time.
"Aquel No Era Yo" (Spain - Directed by Esteban Crespo).
After watching the strongest short that the Oscar-nominated short special had to offer, it's unfortunate to say we hit the weakest link with "Aquel No Era Yo" (That Wasn't Me), a Spanish short focusing on a group of doctors that are apprehended by child soldiers and are eventually taken hostage by extremely violent revolutionaries who are rebelling against their home country. If anything, the short shows how young minds without appropriate parental guidance are warped into believing just about whatever a seemingly-well-meaning adult will tell them while they're still young and naive enough to take orders. However, "Aquel No Era Yo" ditches this idea quite early in favor of shock and ugliness such as an unnecessary rape scene that does nothing but throw a wrench in the film's flow. When also accounting for the excellent photography and naturalistic gunfire as well as its depiction of brainwashing, but then also seeing that the pervasiveness of the gunfire makes it become a bit of an action movie and never that oriented on its characters, makes "Aquel No Era Yo" a somewhat-likable but entirely uneven mixed bag.
"Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa?" (Finland - Directed by Selma Vilhunen).
After all of that, the comic relief the Finnish short "Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa?" provides is nothing shy of pleasant and welcomed. The film centers around an average family who wake up late the day they're supposed to attend a wedding. The mother, father, and two sisters rush around the home, breathlessly trying to find formal attire to wear that isn't dirty, a gift to bring that isn't too tacky, along with eating a substantial breakfast in such a small amount of time. Right away, director Selma Vilhunen allows for relatable notes to be played, reminding many audience members of times they have felt rushed and overwhelmed. It's frustrating just thinking about, but it's nice to see Vilhunen forgoes a heavy-handed look at the subject, but instead, a light-hearted one that concludes on a devilishly funny note.
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