Each year since 2009 my wife and I have made a day-long date of visiting Keystone Art Cinema, the only dedicated art-film theater in Indianapolis, to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not. A few of the past marathons have varied wildly in quality, but this year’s proved a superb bunch. To be honest, this is the first time in memory that I’ve preferred the live-action contenders to their animated colleagues.
Presented below are my rankings of this year’s five Live-Action Short Film nominees, from the most effective to the slightly flawed. None of these appear to be streaming online for free as the animated nominees are, but it’s my understanding they’re available on iTunes or on Video On Demand if your carrier offers the channel called Shorts HD (ours doesn’t). Links are provided to the most official-looking sites I could locate. Enjoy where possible!
Curfew: Writer/director/editor/star Shawn Christensen plays a deadbeat at the end of his rope, granted a fateful reprieve in the form of a phone call from his estranged sister, begging him for one night of babysitting the niece he hasn’t seen since infancy. The premise easily could’ve been expanded into a ninety-minute dumb-adult/smart-kid mismatch comedy starring Jason Bateman and a doomed child star. The tentative reunion, expectant life lessons, and mandatory cutesy musical number belie the sharp turns taken in the later scenes, when we learn more about the rift between siblings, and about how Mom spent her evening out. A charming, disturbing, sometimes intense drama about family, forgiveness, and our sad propensity for overlooking our importance to others who love and need us.