Academy Award Live Action Shorts – Reviews by Diane Carson

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Academy Award Live Action Shorts Nominees deliver serious messages

Each year, a selection committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences narrows a large group of nominees to a select five competing for the Oscar in the live-action short film competition. The 2022 group highlights films with serious personal or political content, implicitly or, at times, explicitly presented, reflecting current concerns and the contemporary zeitgeist.

The most recognizable star, Riz Ahmed, anchors The Long Goodbye in which an extended, multi-generational British South Asian family enjoys a wonderful celebration. Unexpectedly, an armed group attacks with gut-wrenching violence. As the 12-minute short concludes, the searing, extended rap monologue that Ahmed delivers sums up the terrifying reality of what Ahmed says “goes through my head every day . . . [and] the heads of all of my loved ones. . . being broken up with by the country they live in.” The Long Goodbye drives this message home with visceral impact.

Similarly, Ala Kachuu (Take and Run) chronicles tragic events in the life of Sezim, a young Kyrgyz woman intent on escaping tradition through a college opportunity. She flees from her small home to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan where she is kidnapped for an arranged marriage. Driving the point home, the credits state, “Every year thousands of girls are kidnapped and forced into marriage.”

Equally heartbreaking, On My Mind finds disheveled husband Henrik in a Karaoke bar fighting to sing the title song, insisting he must sing right now. A contentious bar owner argues with a sympathetic woman bartender as Henrik’s insistence becomes clear for a distressing reason. With a contrasting style but equally cheerless, Please Hold follows Mateo (a terrific Erick Lopez) walking to work as a drone arrives, arrests, handcuffs, and imprisons him. Mateo can’t get beyond the computerized world to learn his supposed crime or to make any human contact. In this satirical take on a dystopian future, all communication is channeled through interactive screens, as terrifying as it is believable.

Finally, The Dress identifies emotionally with Julka, a lonely dwarf working as a motel maid in rural Poland. Julka and colleague Renata reveal sad emotional truths. A truck driver expresses interest, to Julka’s delight, with events unfolding in unexpected ways. All worthy, thoughtful nominees, the award for the Best Short Live Action Film will be announced March 27.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.