Academy Award Live Action Shorts – Reviews by Diane Carson

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.

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SPOTLIGHT September 2021: Jane Campion, feminist filmmaker, Dame Companion and Lumiere Honoree

Jane Campion has furthered the cause of women in film by holding steady to her own extraordinary aesthetic, unique career choices and creation of dazzling visual poetry. Throughout her career, her feminist approach to filmmaking has been expressed in her distinctive vision and directorial style, and in her consistent creation of strong, complex and fully fleshed out female characters who rank among the finest, most compelling in film history.

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RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT – Review by Martha K Baker

In her 70 years in show biz, Rita Moreno has won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. That’s how versatile she is as an actor, singer, and dancer. But this excellent biodoc about her long life shows her to be also political, persuasive, puckish, and dedicated — attributes that also led to all those awards.

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MY OCTOPUS TEACHER – Review by Susan Granger

I’ve seen hundreds of nature documentaries but nothing like Craig Foster’s compelling, Oscar-winning underwater adventure, chronicling his free-diving – without wetsuit or scuba gear- in the frigid Atlantic Ocean in the Cape of Storms, off the Western coast of South Africa every day for a year. Best known for filming The Great Dance (2000) about the indigenous Kalahari San trackers, Foster was, admittedly, mentally depressed and physically exhausted when he started swimming in a shallow cove with a dense kelp forest.

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WEEK IN WOMEN: Women achieve historic wins at 2021 Academy Awards – Brandy McDonnell reports

At the 2021 Academy Awards ceremonies, women earned a record 17 trophies, the most in Oscar history. Considering the ceremony awarded 30 male winners, that means women received 36% of the statuettes awarded in the 23 competitive categories. Compare that to 2020, when a third of the 39 winners were women, and 2019, when 15 of the 54 winners were women, which is 27.8%.

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Maria Sødahl on HOPE, Survival and Filmmaking – Loren King interviews

With her stunning drama Hope, Norwegian writer/director Maria Sødahl artfully uses a woman’s cancer diagnosis as the portal though which she examines nothing less than life, loss, marriage and mortality. Hope is deeply personal: Sødahl’s own cancer diagnosis forced her to take a nine-year hiatus from filmmaking after her acclaimed debut, Limbo, set in 1970s Trinidad. About four years ago, as Sødahl found herself ready to write again, her life-altering experience was something she simply could not avoid exploring in a script.

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HOPE – Review by Diane Carson

Norwegian director Maria Sødahl’s autobiographical film Hope sounds, at first glance, potentially off-putting. Instead, embrace this jewel. Anja Richter, a middle-aged dance choreographer, returns to Oslo from a successful performance in Amsterdam, pleased with reviews. But something feels off, just not right. Anja’s dizzy and has trouble seeing clearly even with her glasses. An MRI will confirm her suspicion.

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WOMEN MAKE HISTORICAL ADVANCES IN THE 2021 OSCAR RACE – Susan Granger reports

History was made when the Oscar nominations were released for the Best Director category. Only five women have ever been nominated before. This year, Chloe Zhao was chosen for her elegiac road-trip drama “Nomadland,” along with first-time feature-filmmaker Emerald Fennel for her #MeToo revenge comedy “Promising Young Woman.” Chloe Zhao, the first woman of color nominated for Best Director, is the most nominated woman in a single year in Oscar history, since she’s also competing as Best Picture producer, along with Adapted Screenplay and Editing. That’s a record-breaking four nominations in a single year.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 16, 2021: HOPE

Maria Sodhal follows up 2010’s Limbo with another quiet yet powerful exploration of relationships under pressure; in this case, a shocking cancer diagnosis. Andrea Braein Hovig and Stellan Skarsgaard put in sterling performances as the long-term couple whose stale relationship is shaken up by the terminal illness. Writer/director at Sodhal – who drew on her own experiences – eschews overwrought melodrama and obvious emotional cues in favour of deeply felt observation, and delivers a film of raw realism and genuine humanity.

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