The MCC 2021 Oscar-Nominated Live-Action Short Film Revue

"Two Distant Strangers" short film

Two strangers from “Two Distant Strangers”, but not the actual distant ones in the title. Points for dramatic irony.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover

Each year since 2009 my wife Anne and I have paid a visit to our city’s singular, fully dedicated art-film theater 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.

This year’s environment threw a wrench into the works. On the bright side, by the end of the pandemic Indianapolis may have as many as three such theaters to its credit if our old standby and the two hopeful newcomers can stay solvent till then. On the downside…well, there’s that notorious pandemic. Unlike certain Best Picture producers we could denigrate here, the folks at Shorts.tv, which packages the nominees for theatrical release each year, realizes not everyone is ready for theaters yet, and won’t be for a good while to come, not even for Oscars season. In their benevolent cognizance they made special arrangements to let email followers of participating theaters rent streaming access to this year’s shorts for a limited time and a fair price, with the respective theaters receiving a cut of our proceeds. Those theaters get a little help living a little longer, and in exchange so do we…

Our annual shorts rundowns continue with the Live-Action Short Film nominees, ranked from Most Adrenalizing to Most Side-Eyed. Relevant links are included where applicable. As a value-added bonus, the following week after the Oscar Shorts were released in theaters, our first two nominees hit Netflix and increased their potential audience hundredfold.

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“Operation Finale”: The True Story of the Holocaust Head Honcho Heist

Operation Finale!

That moment between the thought of “What harm could one conversation do?” and the point when your blood begins boiling like a teakettle.

In an era when the word “Nazi” is being overused as an insult to the point of meaninglessness and being cherished as a badge of honor by warped minds with zero sense of morality or history, perhaps it’s a wise time to return to one of the classic Hollywood subgenres of yore: the Nazi-huntin’ adventure flick.

Operation Finale could have taken the crowd-pleasing shoot-’em-up route and very few who matter would’ve complained or been surprised with a mainstream director at the helm like Chris Weitz, whose credits include The Golden Compass, the second Twilight, and the original American Pie. The results are surprisingly low-key, mostly faithful to the original event, and curiously devoid of either bullets or accurately sickening Holocaust violence…which makes sense given that Eichmann wasn’t caught till 1960.

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“Annihilation”: It Tampered in God’s Domain

Annihilation!

“I don’t care what the kids like these days. Trying to watch this movie on a 2-inch screen is the worst.”

It’s been years since we’ve seen a major studio act so sheepishly about a film of their own doing as Paramount Pictures has with Annihilation, the strikingly “intellectual” new brainchild from writer/director Alex Garland, whose past successes include science fiction head-trips like Sunshine and the Oscar-winning Ex Machina. Paramount’s last-minute no-confidence vote has denied it an international theatrical release in favor of dumping it on overseas Netflix. Paramount’s official page for the film provides only the trailer embedded via YouTube and a link to the film’s “official site“…which just redirects to a Facebook page. I’m accustomed to short films and indie projects setting up shop on Facebook, but it’s disappointing for a corporation of Paramount’s size to limit their own product to such a minuscule online footprint. Apparently they were holding out hope that Garland might rewrite and reshoot to add some super awesome monster fights.

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #8: Of Pee-Wee and Poe

Pee-Wee's Big Holiday!

When Pee-Wee and Joe saw the breadth of their diorama, they wept, for there were too many worlds left to conquer.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s me jotting down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I’ve Been Watching at home. Some of this is catch-up that missed the cut last time due to memory loss, so consider this a handy wrap-up of 2016 home viewing to date. I think. More or less. Not counting Netflix series, anyway.

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Yes, There’s a Scene After the “X-Men: Apocalypse” End Credits

X-Men Apocalypse!

In an unprecedented negotiation victory, the cast’s contracts allowed them to rewrite the entire screenplay between takes to their own satisfaction and without the director’s input. Believe it or not!

Marvel’s merry mutants are back! Academy Award Winner Jennifer Lawrence and her amazingly lower-paid friends return for X-Men: Apocalypse, the ninth film in a cinematic universe that’s unwritten at least 3¾ previous installments out of its own continuity. Everything you thought you knew, every film you thought was worth saving, every character you thought was more important than other characters, you’re wrong. Shut up, go to the concession stand, and don’t come back until you agree to stop thinking so hard about any of this. Just be happy that director Bryan Singer is finally telling the one major story that You, the Viewers at Home, clearly demanded most: the secret origin of Professor X’s bald head.

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #7: Oscar Prep Time

Bridge of Spies!

Oscar champ Tom Hanks weaves through an argumentative viewing public with past nominees Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) and Alan Alda (The Aviator) in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s me jotting down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. In this batch: we prepare for Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony starring Chris Rock and a crowd of soon-to-be-flabbergasted white folks with brief notes on the final Best Picture nominee, one nominee in other categories, and one tiny overlooked film that would make a great double feature with one of the other Best Picture nominees.

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