Oscar Shorts 1993
1993 Directed by Various.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 18, 1994
When casting your vote every year in the office Oscar pool, the categories of documentary and live-action shorts are usually met with shoulder shrugs and confusion. No one's seen them, or even had the opportunity to see them. Starting this year, that's about to change. Strand Releasing has put together a feature package of most of the 1993 nominees in these two categories, along with last year's winner of the live-action short award. This attempt to resurrect the stature of the short film comes on the heels of the Academy's precipitous announcement last year that they thereafter planned to do away with the two categories. Well, they changed their minds about that following some rumbles of complaint. But, still, you've got to wonder just how many folks are voting on these things. All in all, this is an excellent collection of films, as well they should be as Academy Award nominees. Included are six films: three documentary shorts (the total for that category), two live-action shorts (out of a total of five) and last year's live-action winner by Sam Karmann, “Omnibus,”about a harried office worker who boards his regular train to work not knowing that the schedules have changed and how good intentions can sometimes breed disaster. In the documentary category are “Blood Ties: The Life and Works of Sally Mann” by Steven Cantor and Peter Spirer, “Chicks in White Satin” by Elaine Holliman, and “Defending Our Lives” by Margaret Lazarus and Renner Wunderlich. “Blood Ties” is an interesting if problematic film about the photography of Sally Man, who uses her three children, often posing in the nude, for her artwork. Though she's been condemned by some for using her children in a potentially prurient fashion, the only counter-argument “Blood Ties” presents is Pat Robertson of the religious right. Mann's work is rife with potential questions regarding censorship, social values, aesthetic direction, etc., but the film primarily serves as a mouthpiece for Mann to respond to all the flak that's come her way. “Chicks in White Satin” documents a lesbian marriage ceremony from the picking out of a china pattern to the mailing of invitations to all the relatives. “Defending Our Lives” speaks with women incarcerated for fighting back against abusive husbands or boyfriends. It shares much in common with Suzanne Mason's locally produced documentary “Stories from the Riverside” (showing once on Saturday at the SFMC Festival). The two live-action films included here are both inspired: “Down on the Waterfront” by Stacy Title, a spoof of On the Waterfront starring Edward Asner and Jason Alexander; and “Black Rider (Schwwarzfahrer)” by Pepe Danquart, an amusing German film about reactions to verbal abuse. Oscar Shorts 1993 is a solid collection of material that is getting some good exposure through this group teaming.