Thursday, March 1, 2018

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Live Action Short

The nominees:
Dekalb Elementary (B-)
This is a particularly tough watch given its subject matter – a man who walks into an elementary school with a gun – and the recent mass shooting at a Florida high school that has been dominating the news. Knowing that this story is based on a real 911 call that was placed by a receptionist adds depth and purpose, but this reenactment, if that’s what it’s meant to be, feels less than genuine. The most difficult part is that this film takes a less destructive course than what has actually happened in reality so many times, offering what might be a hopeful prediction for the future but one that sadly doesn’t hold much water.

The Eleven O’Clock (A-)
This very clever and entertaining short is reminiscent of two past nominees from this category, “The Voorman Problem” and “The New Tenants.” It stars Josh Lawson from “House of Lies” and Damon Herriman from “Justified,” both using their native Australian accents, as a therapist and his patient, who has a delusion that causes him to believe that he is a therapist. Watching both of them try to run the session with the other refusing to play the role of the patient is extraordinary fun, and this thirteen-minute ride doesn’t try to accomplish too much, allowing its two hilarious leads to play off each other superbly for a very memorable interaction.

My Nephew Emmett (B)
This short centers on the abduction of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till from his uncle’s house after he was accused by a white woman of whistling at her, leading to historically relevant events that helped pave the way for the civil rights movement. Seeing Emmett’s uncle try so hard to protect his nephew while still acknowledging the circumstances around him and playing a purposely subservient part is harrowing, but there isn’t much about this dramatization that stands out aside from the power of the true story itself.

The Silent Child (B+)
The past two winners of this award have given a focus to those without much of a voice, and this poignant film amplifies that with its story of a young deaf girl whose parents don’t know what to do with her. When a social worker arrives, she begins teaching her sign language and develops an unprecedented bond, but her parents don’t seem interested in investing in such an effort. This call to action for helping those with disabilities thrive with the right support is compelling, and its story is equally sweet and effective.

Watu Wote/All of Us (B)
This student film from German director Katja Benrath takes place in Kenya, where a Christian woman takes a bus to visit relatives that is attacked by a terrorist group that insists on separating the Christian passengers from the Muslims. Adapted from a true story, this film examines cultural clashes and preconceptions while presenting a relatively straightforward recreation of events. While unspectacular, this is far better than past requisite nominees like “That Wasn’t Me” in 2014 and “Na Wewe” in 2011 about third-world incidents like this one.

Previous winners: Sing, Stutterer, The Phone Call, Helium, Curfew, The Shore, God of Love

Who should win: I wasn’t too fond of “Dekalb Elementary,” and I don’t think it’s just because watching anything related to a school shooting these days is more than unpleasant. “My Nephew Emmett” and “Watu Wote” both evoked real-life events but didn’t accomplish more than just portraying them on screen. “The Silent Child” was easy to like and would be a perfectly deserving winner, and I’d enthusiastically throw my support behind the shortest but most worthwhile of these nominees, the delightfully entertaining “The Eleventh O’Clock.”

Who will win: I think that any of these could win, but I think the likeliest given the recent films that took home the award is The Silent Child.

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