The LAMB Devours the Oscars – Best Live Action Short Film

by Dylan · February 7, 2009 · LAMB Devours the Oscars · No Comments

Editor’s note: Welcome to the tenth of a 24-part series dissecting the 81st Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!

By Dean from Filmicability with Dean Treadway

The Live Action Short category for the Oscars can be a place for filmmakers to go to or come from.

This partial list of one-time nominees or winners that went on to notable feature film careers is short but interesting. Jean-Claude Carriere (whose films as a writer include That Obscure Object of Desire, The Tin Drum, Birth, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being) won in 1962 for producing Happy Anniversary. For his first film, 1965’s Le Poulet (The Chicken), Claude Berri, later acclaimed as the writer/producer/director of Jean De Florette and Manon of the Spring, vanquished both Noel Black (Pretty Poison) and Muppets creator Jim Henson for the award. Taylor Hackford parlayed his 1978 Academy Award for Teenage Father into a 30-year career capped by a 2004 Best Director nomination for Ray. Dean Parisot shared the Oscar with comedian Dennis Wright in 1988 for The Appointments of Dennis Jennings, and went on to helm Galaxy Quest and Fun with Dick and Jane. Peter Catteano, a nominee for Dear Rosie in 1990, was cited by the Academy for his direction of The Full Monty in 1997. And this year, Martin McDonagh was tapped for a Best Original Screenplay nomination for his debut feature In Bruges, but the man already has one golden boy—won it for his short Six-Shooter in 2005. There are others success stories out there, too—Pen Densham, Jacques Yves Cousteau, Stephen Verona, Chuck Workman, Lesli Linka Glatter, and Andrew Birkin, for starters.

There’s also an interesting list of established film industry names retreating from features and dabbling in Oscar-nominated short films, often as a precursor for a directing career of their own. Peter Sellers, George Coe, John Astin, Dyan Cannon, Peter Capaldi, JoBeth Williams, Sean Astin, Christine Lahti, Peter Weller, Griffin Dunne, Jeff Goldblum, Ray McKinnon, Peter Riegert, Lisa Blount and Kenneth Branaugh–all are actors who’ve had unlikely nods as producers of acclaimed short films.

It’s difficult to write about or predict the winners of the short film awards without seeing them all. Luckily, the Academy—for the fourth year in a row—released theatrically here in New York (and in a few dozen other venues) the ten nominated live action and animated shorts. And you can probably see them later on this year packaged together on a DVD release. However, I haven’t yet seen the 2h12m shorts program, so I’ve tried to scrape up as much information on each film as I could, but pickings from even the Academy Awards’ own site are slim at best. Thus, my article is going to only cover the basics.

NOMINEE: Auf Der Stricke (On The Line)
DIRECTOR: Reto Caffi
WINNER: Student Academy Award, Best Narrative Short at Brooklyn, Hamburg, Switzerland, and Crakow film fests.
SYNOPSIS: A department store security guard is secretly in love with a clerk in the store’s bookshop. When he witnesses a seeming rival being attacked in the train, he gets off instead of helping him. Not being able to deal with his bad conscience, his formerly controlled life breaks down.

NOMINEE: Manon Sur le Bitumen (Manon on the Asphalt)
DIRECTOR: Elizabeth Marre and Oliver Pont
WINNER: Best Narrative Short, Toronto Shorts Film Festival
SYNOPSIS: A young woman gains a new insight into life while she’s near death.

DIRECTOR: Steph Green
WINNER: Best Narrative Short at Belfast, Berlin, Melbourne, Tribeca, Seattle, Rhode Island film fests.
SYNOPSIS: Captures the experience of being the new kid in school through the eyes of Joseph, a nine year-old African boy. Based on a story by Roddy Doyle (The Commitments, The Snapper, The Van)

DIRECTOR: Dorthe Warnø Høgh
WINNER: Best Narrative Short at Hamptons and Miami film fests.
SYNOPSIS: Is personal freedom more important than religious rights? An epic debate staged over a tiny painting in a bare hospital room.

NOMINEE: Spielzeugland (Toyland)
DIRECTOR: Jochen Alexander Freydank
WINNER: Best Narrative Short at Palm Springs, Ashville, and Bermuda film fests.
SYNOPSIS: 1942: what happens when a German kid believes that his Jewish neighbors are going to Toyland? A story about lies and guilt.

Given these choices, the more cynical of us might think that Holocaust-related Toyland is going to be the winner here. But I don’t cotton to the notion that a work merely has to be Holocaust-related to win. Seems a rather dim view of things, if you ask me. So, though I think The Pig sounds like the most interesting of the five films, it seems to me that Ireland’s New Boy might have the heat at the moment, given its slew of festival wins, and its Roddy Doyle pedigree. As you well know, however, it’s difficult to tell, unless you’ve seen the films. That’s what makes this category the scourge of all Oscar prognosticators.

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