Short film review: Oscar-nominated live action shorts (2015)
Ivan Radford | On 22, Feb 2015Reading time: 3 mins
Short films are a sadly overlooked part of awards season, but the VOD release of this year’s Oscar-nominated shorts on Vimeo and iTunes means that the talent and creativity behind this year’s miniature gems can be seen by as wide an audience as possible.
In the run-up to the 2015 Oscars ceremony, we review some of this year’s live action short nominees.
Boogaloo and Graham (UK)
The words “set during the Troubles in Belfast” immediately puts you in mind of the film ’71, but Boogaloo and Graham is a much milder affair. The film follows two young brothers – Jamesy and Malachy – who are given baby chicks by their dad. Dubbing them Boogaloo and Graham, the ensuing animal rearing takes place under the gaze of their highly skeptical mother, who’d rather cook them than keep them.
It’s a enjoyable enough family dynamic and the performances from the central duo are likeable, while directors Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney shoot the small-scale drama with an impressively professional sheen. Quietly contrasting the positive love at home with the tensions in the wider city (the Troubles are referred to only briefly in the opening shots), Boogaloo and Graham is short and sweet, but leaves you wondering what more could be done with its context.
The Phone Call (UK)
Why has Sally Hawkins never won an Oscar? Or even a BAFTA? Stealing scenes in movies for years – if not the whole movie itself – Hawkins has proven time and again to be one of Britain’s best, and arguably most underrated, actors. The Phone Call takes all of that talent and distils it into 21 minutes of moving brilliance.
Hawkins plays a woman working in a crisis centre, who answers a call from an older man (Jim Broadbent). It soon becomes apparent that he is planning to take his own life.
It’s a simple premise, one that’s well suited to a short film – think Phone Booth, but with emotions over action and characters over contrived twists. Mat Kirkby directs it simply too, allowing his cast to shine.
The pair are a perfect match. Broadbent voices his problems through heartbreaking sobs, each tremble hinting at a chasm of loss. We never see the caller, though, instead paying attention to the person on the other end. Hawkins spends almost the entire time on camera and her silent expressions speak volumes. While Jim speaks, his feelings wash over her face; the kind of subtle performance that could be lost in a bigger movie, but here is showcased in stirring close-up.
As their exchange continues, she tries to find out more about him so she can telephone an ambulance, while he gradually reveals his motivations. All the while, Kirkby cuts away to ticking clocks and case files with minimum fuss, subtly increasing the suspense in James Lucas’ nuanced script. By the time the moving conclusion arrives, though, you’ll be too busy crying to notice.
A hugely moving short, The Phone Call is a reminder of how powerful the tiniest stories can be. Sally Hawkins, you suspect, may effectively win that Oscar after all.
Note: We’ll be adding more reviews to this list of live action Oscar-nominated short films in the coming days.
The Academy Awards take place on Sunday 22nd February at 1:30am. For more information on where to watch the Oscars online in the UK legally, click here.