Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015 – Live Action

While I’ll be elated if I’m wrong, give the Oscar to The Phone Call over Boogaloo and Graham.

Of the five films nominated in this category, two are genuinely captivating while a third one knocks on the door. Let’s begin with the two genuinely superb nominees.


The Phone Call

The first is The Phone Call (England) which stars Sally Hawkins. She plays a young woman working at a crisis center where she receives phone calls from desperate people. The entire film, which runs 21 minutes, concerns one phone call that involves Ms. Hawkins and an emotionally troubled man. Her character, Heather, tries to offer heartfelt support while the unknown caller exhibits signs of imminent death.

Though the caller is unseen, you recognize the voice as the great English actor, Jim Broadbent. Breaking down repeatedly into tears, he acknowledges that he has taken a lot of antidepressants as he shares the story of his marriage and beloved wife.

Heather’s eyes fill with tears as she hears the caller describe the love for his wife of 31 years who had courageously battled breast cancer. When he relates the agony the couple suffered from the death of their stillborn daughter years earlier, you are left almost as emotional as Heather.

While Heather tries to get his address to send help, he simply responds, “It’s too late. It’s already done.” The movie embraces the cycle of life, and leaves a message that we all need to remember. While we all know what happens at the end of life’s Bell Curve, we still need to hold on to love along the way.


Boogaloo and Graham

As powerful as The Phone Call is, you’ll be left repeatedly laughing during Boogaloo and Graham (Northern Ireland). Taking place in Belfast in 1998, soldiers patrol the streets as a father brings home two baby chicks for his excited sons. While his wife simply shakes her head, the boys treat the chicks as their newfound friends.

It doesn’t take long for the chicks to become annoying to the parents, particularly when they find a way to relieve themselves as the boys hide them under the covers in bed. I can promise you a smile on your face when you watch the lads escort the chickens in public places while they seek a bit of adventure.

Of course, you know that there will come a moment when the parents are forced to find a way to dispose of the annoying chicks. Though they try to convince their sons by having a chicken dinner one evening, the boys respond that they have decided to become vegetarians. I’m not remotely exaggerating when I say that the dialogue between these kids and their parents is as funny as anything you have seen in the theater this past year.


Parvaneh

Not falling far behind the two films listed above is the Swedish film Parvaneh, which chronicles a young Afghanistan immigrant living in Zurich. Rejected by Western Union in her attempt to send money to her ill father because she lacks an appropriate I.D., she befriends a young Swedish girl who agrees to help her.

The film deals with two girls of completely different backgrounds who accidentally become friends following an overnight adventure. Parvaneh is warmhearted at every turn, and you end up wanting to embrace them as firmly as they do each other while saying goodbye.


Butter Lamp

Butter Lamp (China) is a tiny film showing a young photographer’s attempt to make a living photographing Tibetan immigrants. The entire movie is on one set as eight different groups of relatively poor nomads seek to have their picture taken in front of various sets provided by the young artist.

Many of these individuals are having their pictures taken for the first time, and their reactions are frequently quite amusing. In one instance, an elderly grandmother bows at the artificial backdrop thinking it has religious significance. At that moment you realize why Butter Lamp was nominated in this category.


Aya

(Israel/France)
Unfortunately, Aya is a 34-minute fim that seems to last much longer. It centers on a young woman, Aya, who is standing in an airport waiting on an unknown passenger. Asked to hold a sign with the name “Mr. Overby” by a driver who has to move his car, she is subsequently greeted by this fellow and proceeds to act as his chauffeur.

To be quite honest, the acting is far better than the actual plot itself. Aya is an attractive, smart woman of 29 who is caught up in the erotic excitement of escorting the stranger to a Jerusalem hotel. Her passenger, Mr. Overby, is a Danish citizen arriving in Israel to judge a musical competition.

Along the way, Aya begins to flirt with Overby, and she is far too alluring to be ignored. Though the question confronting the two is if she will join him at his hotel, it unfortunately becomes hard to care about her response. From my end, it was the weakest of the nominees.