Jan 31, 2014

The Oscar Nominees: Animated Shorts

In Shuhei Morita's Possessions, the ghosts of discarded objects haunt a man seeking refuge in an abandoned temple. (Image courtesy of ShortsHD and AMPAS.)
Some Oscar-nominated filmmakers, the ones who write and produce the cinematic equivalent of the short story, rarely get the critical attention they deserve. They make “short subjects,” Animated, Live Action and Documentary movies of less than 40 minutes. This post is a review of the 2014 Animated shorts. To read my published reviews of the 2014 Live Action and Documentary categories, click on the links to the right in “Film Reviews (Online).”

Feral (USA, 13 minutes) by Daniel Sousa, Dan Golden

A still from Feral in which a "wild child" grapples with his true identity. (Courtesy of ShortsHD and AMPAS.)

This “wild child” tale is rendered in sharp, menacing drawings, mostly black on a white or gray background, appropriate to the film’s dramatic subject matter. The boy at the center of the story seems to shape-shift from boy to wolf; a hunter “rescues” him, and for a short time, he wears clothes, attends school and struggles with living indoors. Like many a child before him, he is tested in the schoolyard when he is jeered at by the other students. He reverts to wolf and bares his teeth. It is not long before the boy heads out of the city, shedding all vestiges of “civilization.” While the story’s denouement is enigmatic, it is also quite stunning—and the music, by composer Golden, is affecting. This is a simple, yet beautifully realized short.

Get a Horse! (USA, 6 minutes) by Lauren MacMullan, Dorothy McKim

It was only a matter of time before Mickey and Minnie went 3-D, as they do in this clever, fast-paced cartoon in which the mice, as usual, do battle with a demon cat. A rare female filmmaking team make quick work of updating the old characters, allowing them to leap in and out of the screen, and from black and white to color. Even those for whom the anthropomorphic mouse holds little appeal will smile at the skill and imagination illustrated by MacMullan and McKim.

Jan 29, 2014

An Interview with Oscar-Nominated Palestinian Filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad

Palestinian resistance fighter Omar (Adam Bakri) and Nadja (Leem Lubany), the woman he loves, in a still from the film "Omar," to be released in the United States on February 21st. (Courtesy of Adopt Films)

Hany Abu-Assad never had any formal training as a filmmaker; in fact, the Nazareth-born writer-director began his professional life as an airplane mechanic in the Netherlands. The first of his movies to be released in the United States, Paradise Now (2005), is about the recruitment and training of two friends who are aspiring suicide bombers. While he remains a controversial figure for his resolute position on Palestinian statehood, Abu-Assad is an engaging and talented artist—and his newest film, Omar, while providing an uncompromising view of Palestinian resistance and Israeli occupation, opened in Tel Aviv in January and will open in New York City on February 21st. It is an Oscar nominee in the Foreign Film category.

You can read my interview with the filmmaker in Film Journal International: http://www.filmjournal.com/filmjournal/content_display/news-and-features/features/movies/e3ied404e4ee6feeb949ff624d2e10d378a