Film Pulse Score

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Release Date: January 31, 2014 (Limited)
Directors: Various
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 8/10

For the last several years before the Oscar telecast the short films that have been nominated for an Academy Award are given a rare theatrical release.   Presented as separate programs for each short category Animation, Live Action and Documentary, moviegoers have the opportunity to see the shorts that in the past they would seldom ever get to see.   For some it’ll give them a leg up in their office Oscar pools.  Outside of knowing that these films are nominated it can be kind of exciting for a filmgoer because you never know what’s in store and this year’s selections were no different.    This year’s nominees feature science fiction, comedy, fantasy and drama.

Helium (Director: Anders Walter) is a touching drama/fantasy about giving hope to those who have none.  In it a hospital janitor befriends a terminally ill boy who knows his fate but is clearly unsure about what lies beyond.  In an effort to give him some peace of mind, Enzo tells him about the magical world called Helium.  As Alfred’s condition grows grave Enzo makes a point to be there to tell him more about Helium even at the risk of his own job.   This is a well written and directed film that features some solid visual effects.  It can be easily dismissed as schmaltzy but the performances and the world of Helium itself keep from sinking into maudlin melodrama.

The Voorman Problem (Director: Mark Gill) is an amusing little piece of science fiction/psycho drama.  A specialist is brought in to evaluate a patient who claims to be a god.  Dismissed as a nut Voorman proves to have quite the influence over his fellow inmates.  Dr. Williams sets out to disprove Voorman’s claims but has he already put Williams under his influence?   Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander star as Williams and Voorman, respectively.  Director Gill and his actors are able to set things up quite well in what little time they have and it all comes together in a conclusion that’ll either make you snicker or have you saying “whatever.”

Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?  (Director: Selma Vilhunen) is an entertaining little comedy that many people can surely relate to.  When a mother oversleeps she hurriedly tries to get her family ready for the big wedding.  It’s a comedy of errors as one thing goes wrong after another and it leads to a very funny conclusion.  Well written and directed it features some great comedic performances and again a premise that so many of us can easily relate to.

That Wasn’t Me  (Director: Esteban Crespo) is an often tense dramatic thriller that takes place somewhere in Africa and follows the kidnapping of a pair of Spanish aid workers by mercenaries.  Much of the tension comes from the fact that many of these mercenaries are merely children being forced into military service by the junta.  It can be unsettling at times as they are pressured into doing acts unbecoming their age.  While the situation is bleak it does attempt to give it a hopeful spin by framing the story with a speech being delivered by one of the young mercenaries.   It is nicely acted, well written, ably directed and features some potent action sequences for a short film.

Just Before Losing Everything (Director: Xavier Legrand) is a tightly wound drama that builds up until a tension filled climax.  The film follows Miriam as she prepares to leave her abusive husband.  With her children in tow she takes refuge at her place of employment as she puts the final details together so she can’t get away clean.  However, things don’t go as planned and the suspense begins.   Solid writing and directing by Legrand, a fine leading performance by Lea Drucker and sharp editing by Yorgos Lamprinos make this the one to beat come Oscar night.

This is a great series of shorts that features something for everyone.   This year’s class may even be better than last years.   The Live Action shorts are making their way across the country.  Check your local listings to see if they are playing in a city near you.  The Oscars will be given out on Sunday March 2nd.

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