2018 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Live Action
2018, NR, 95 min. Directed by Various.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Feb. 9, 2018
Remember the lull in your Oscar party back in the Stone Age when the room would clear as winners in the short film categories were announced? It was the time when guests would make a beeline for the bathroom, the alcohol, or a second helping of that inedible queso slowly congealing at the bottom of your Crock-Pot. Without the ability to view the nominees beforehand, everyone’s interest in the awards show would temporarily flatline. Today, you have no excuse. The nominated short films are available online or in selected theatres prior to broadcast. Check them out, as there are always a few gems in the bunch.
This year, three of the nominated live action short films emphasize the power of human compassion, sometimes for a complete stranger. In the tense "Watu Wote: All of Us," based on an actual event more than two years ago, a distrustful Christian woman is saved by the selfless actions of her fellow Muslim passengers on a bus hijacked by terrorists near the Kenyan/Somali border. In the even more nerve-racking "DeKalb Elementary," inspired by an actual 911 call, a grade school receptionist empathetically convinces a troubled young man entering the premises with a rifle to surrender himself before doing harm. As the unsung hero of the day, Tarra Riggs gives a riveting performance deserving recognition in its own right. On a slightly calmer note, "The Silent Child" earnestly pleads for sign-language support for deaf children in England’s educational system, as a young tutor tries to convince the family of an isolated 3-year-old pupil to better prepare the child for a life among the hearing.
On a historical note, the austerely directed "My Nephew Emmett" chronicles the day leading up to the 1955 nocturnal abduction of 14-year-old African-American Emmett Till in rural Mississippi for the offense of whistling at a white woman. While this short film feels somewhat unformed and incomplete, its segue into actual vintage footage of Till’s elderly uncle testifying about that tragic night is chilling. Finally, the only comic entry in this year’s competition: "The Eleven O’Clock" is a wonderfully absurd confrontation between a psychiatrist and a deluded patient who thinks he’s a psychiatrist, playing like the bastard offspring of Mamet and Ionesco. With its nifty twist, it’s a pure delight. If Oscar has a sense of humor, this one’s the winner.