By: Justin Cudahy, Staff Writer
With this year’s Oscar-nominated live-action short films, audiences were taken across the globe; Hungary, Denmark, Spain, France and Switzerland to witness heartbreak, fear, hope and other topics all play out on the big screen. In the end, it’s going to be tough to only choose one from the bunch. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out on awards night, which takes place February 26.
Based on a true story, Sing is set in Budapest in 1991. It follows Zsófi, a young girl who decides to join the school’s nationally recognized choir as a means of fitting in. She is treated poorly by the instructor; meanwhile, it seems like everyone can’t stop talking about how “great” she actually is. When Liza, Zsófi’s friend, decides to investigate the true nature of their instructor, the choir is forced to face a difficult truth. Sing takes on the challenge of standing up for what you think is right, and applying it in the most unlikely of situations, keeping viewers interested throughout its entirety. Themes of innocence and friendship come back into a full circle in an ending that audiences will not expect, making this short a classic tale of good versus evil.
Silent Nights is a 30-minute short that depicts a volunteer’s relationship with an illegal immigrant. Kwame has left his home in Ghana in search of a job as a way to support his family but is constantly faced with daily doses of racism, violence and hunger. Inger, who faces her own troubles at home, dedicates her time volunteering as part of the Salvation Army, feeding and housing those without a home on the streets of Denmark. The two meet, and it isn’t before long that they start to fall for each other. While perfect at first, Inger begins to find out more about Kwame’s other life, putting the relationship at stake. Silent Nights is a short that is sure to stick with you afterward because of how real it seems. It’s beautifully shot, has excellent dialogue as well as phenomenal acting from both Malen Beltoft and Prince Yaw Appiah, who really sells the dynamic relationship between the two. It’s a bittersweet short that is certainly a favorite to win the category.
Timecode is the shortest film out of the list of nominees, clocking in at only 15 minutes. It starts out as what appears to be a normal short about normal people who live normal lives as parking lot security guards. Luna works a 12-hour shift during the day, and Diego works a 12-hour shift at night, with minimal dialogue between one another when they switch off. This is a cycle that repeats itself, until one day Luna discovers something about Diego while watching archived footage from a security camera, changing her perception of her colleague. Timecode is great, in that it leads the audience into believing one thing, and completely throwing an 180 at them, changing everything. It’s a silly short that is guaranteed to make you smile and is definitely the most “out-there” kind of short out of the four other nominees.
Ennemis intérieurs is another short with a ‘90s setting, except this one takes place in France and is centered around a more serious topic: terrorism. A French-Algerian born man finds himself being interrogated in an office, accused of withholding the identities of possible terrorists. The interrogator has the power to change this man’s life forever with just a signature, which is quite scary to think about. This short is nothing but back and forth dialogue between the man and the interrogator for its entirety, which sounds boring on paper, but is rather exciting to watch unravel. This due in part to the excellent dialogue written by Sélim Azzazi, who also directs this short. It’s an interesting concept that gives viewers a look into how The French Republic ran things back then during a time of unrest with its former colony.
The last of this year’s short films takes viewers to Switzerland in this rather odd but sweet short. La Femme et le TGV is centered around Elise, a lonely woman who performs an odd routine every day, like waving her Swedish flag out of her window when the TGV train passes her house every morning. On one of these occasions, a letter gets thrown her way from a man named Bruno, who compliments her appreciation for life and optimism. Exchanging letters back and forth, they begin to develop a bond between each other, giving Elise something to look forward to once again. La Femme et le TGV is shot in a way that could pass for a Wes Anderson movie. It’s cheeky humor and dialogue is sprinkled in throughout, making this a sweet little short that almost everyone will enjoy.