lunes, 11 de febrero de 2019


The 15 films nominated for the Academy Awards tackle racism, aging, parenthood, and more.
Dan Schindel

From Late Afternoon (courtesy ShortsTV)

For the 14th year, ShortsTV and Magnolia Pictures have teamed up to publicly screen the 15 films nominated for the Academy Awards’ three shorts categories: Best Live Action Short Film, Best Animated Short Film, and Best Documentary (Short Subject). With the Oscars ceremony in continual uncertainty, it’s possible some or all of these categories will be among the ones relegated to getting handed out during commercial breaks. The selections, though, are idiosyncratic, with a few gems mixed among some truly bizarre picks.
Some of the nominees invite comparison. The documentaries Black Sheep and A Night at the Garden both tackle racism and white supremacy. Black Sheep is a first-person profile of a black youth relating how he survived his family’s move from London to the countryside by changing to “fit in” with his violently racist neighbors. The interviews with the main subject are mesmerizing and harrowing, but its power is undercut by the unnecessary incorporation of reenactment sequences. They feel as though the filmmakers had no better idea as to how to make the story feel cinematic enough. A Night at the Garden is composed entirely of archival footage, presenting a brief glimpse of an American Nazi rally held in Madison Square Garden in 1939 (20,000 people were in attendance). While a longer look at the night in question could have been far more edifying, the brief running time is part of the point. Made by Field of Vision, it’s intended as a pointed, punchy reminder of how antisemitism and fascism are not recent developments in American populist movements.

These two docs’ nuanced understanding of the effects of racism stand in sharp contrast to the absurd parable of Skin. In it, a neo-Nazi leads his cohorts in an attack on a black man at a supermarket. Later, a black gang abducts him and, in retribution, tattoos his entire body black, which leads to an ironic Twilight Zone-lite twist ending you will absolutely see coming. Setting aside that spectacularly ill-conceived hook, Skin‘s processing of racism through a “safe,” easily hateful outlet of a repugnant white-trash stereotype and its fetishistic depiction of violence against a black body are nothing new to American film, though no less ugly for it.
End-of-life care emerges as another running trend in this year’s nominees, with an example in each of the three categories. End Game follows terminally ill patients in a San Francisco hospital, telling their stories through snapshots of their interactions with their doctors and families. It has a light, respectful touch, but doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from similar movies which the Academy has nominated in this category in recent years (like Extremis and Joanna). The animated Late Afternoon shifts back and forth between the past and present of an elderly woman with dementia, exploiting its medium to blend the two. It’s an effective story, although the ending is a bit overly manipulative for my taste. The best of the three (and the best nominee for live-action short) is Marguerite, about an elderly woman whose deep attachment to her caretaker is eventually revealed to be due to more than mere loneliness. She reveals she is a lesbian who has never been with a woman due to former societal standards — a touching twist on the old trope of an older character facing the regrets of their life. It ends on a remarkably graceful note……………..

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