The Austin Chronicle

Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2011: Live Action

Not rated, 102 min. Directed by Various.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Feb. 11, 2011

Catholicism and kids: Narratively speaking, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Two of the films nominated for this year’s Best Short Film (Live Action) dip into the well – the spooky “The Confession,” about a quiet, well-behaved child stymied due to his lack of bad deeds to take to the confession box, and “Wish 143,” in which a terminally ill teenager enlists a priest in the fulfillment of his last wish, to lose his virginity – while a third, Michael Creagh’s “The Crush,” is set in that seat of Catholicism, Ireland, but skips the religion for a pitchy take on kids doing the darndest things (with guns). Guns also figure strongly in Ivan Goldschmidt’s harrowing Belgian production, “Na Wewe,” which takes place in 1994 Burundi (a border country of Rwanda) during the civil war between the Hutus and Tutsis. When a van of travelers is stopped en route by a band of rebel fighters, men with machine guns demand the passengers sort themselves accordingly: “Hutus to the left, Tutsis to the right.” Subsequent infighting between the rebels tips the film dangerously close to farce, but it does a very fine job of dramatizing the terrifying absurdities of war. The final nominee, “God of Love,” swings the pendulum wide to the absurdities of love. Writer/director Luke Matheny’s black-and-white short looks like a student film; indeed, it was his thesis film for NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and it’s already bagged a Student Academy Award – but that’s not the only sense in which it’s winning. Matheny also stars; freakishly tall with a pronounced overbite, he makes a likably unlikely leading man. He plays Raymond Goodfellow, a dart champion cum lounge crooner who, pining for his band’s drummer, prays nightly for some assistance in wooing her. Help arrives, and cosmic chaos ensues, but to say any more would step on the gossamer charms of this romantic comedy.

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