Sally Hawkins in The Phone Call
The five live-action shorts nominated by the Academy were a mixed bag. The compilation opened with Parvaneh, from Switzerland. This bittersweet look at European immigration starts heading in one direction but veers toward another, more pleasant, destination as young Afghan immigrant, Parvaneh (Nissa Kashani), looks for someone who can legally wire money to her ailing family.
On the streets of Zurich, Pari meets a punkish young Swiss girl, Emily (Brigitte Beyeler), who exceeds everyone’s expectations. Iranian-Swiss filmmaker Talkhon Hamzavi and her work certainly deserve this nomination.
The magnetic second entry, Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak), would be my pick to win. Framed like a photograph, Butter Lamp opens shutters on the world of nomadic Tibetans and the traveling photographer who captures them before backdrops from faraway, fantasy lands like Disney World and the beach. One old “grandmother” cannot take her eyes off revered Potala Palace, despite the ministrations of a motor-scooter driving mayor. The final shot is expected, satisfying and revelatory. What a tremendous bit of short filmmaking from Wei Hu!
The next two entries are the supposed highlights, one due to its familiar actors, the other to its length. The Phone Call was the purported frontrunner, and it won, with past Academy Award nominee Sally Hawkins and Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent (who is never seen). Hawkins works at a suicide call center; Broadbent calls in as a man grieving the loss of his wife. Somewhat predictable, but technically solid and beautifully written.
The same can be said for the 39-minute Aya, an Israeli/French joint-venture about a young woman (Sarah Adler) acting as the assigned driver for a visiting Dane (Ulrich Thomsen, “Banshee”). More playful than The Phone Call, Aya is strongly written and acted.
Thankfully, the live action shorts climaxed with the uproarious UK entry, Boogaloo & Graham. Filmmakers Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney are the ones to watch as this sweet story of two boys raising chickens thanks to their tender dad gave a serious challenge for best short. These shorts have been held over, plus you can watch the trailers at shorts.tv/theoscarshorts/the-films. Each is a jewel of a short story.