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2019 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Live Action

by Greg Vellante
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Feb 8, 2019

Content that is both disturbing and delicate define this year's "Live Action Oscar Nominated Shorts," an eclectic mix of great, good and disappointing works that run the gamut when it comes to a scale of ideas and execution of themes.

Starting off with the strongest entry, Marianne Farley's "Marguerite," viewers will find themselves immersed in the story of the eponymous elderly woman and the young caretaker who tends to her daily. A small detail about the caretaker's personal life is revealed during a simple conversation one day, leading Marguerite to resurface old memories that ultimately shatter both her and the audience. The film is characterized by truly moving scenes rooted in naturalistic dialogues, with final minutes that will puncture your heart with pure, human emotion.

Another profound entry is Jeremy Comte's "Fauve," which focuses on an incident that occurs while two young boys are playing on the outskirts of town. Brilliantly shot, edited and acted by its young talent, "Fauve" punches you in the gut with its final sequence, leaving you absolutely broken inside. On the opposite side of the spectrum, "Madre" is a thrilling film about a mother receiving a strenuous call from her young son, who is trapped on a beach by himself after being abandoned by his father, but includes final moments so bafflingly jarring in their tonal shift that it takes you out of everything that preceded it.

While the strange ending of "Madre" is forgivable, it's harder to pardon the flaws of the final two entries -- "Skin" and "Detainment." The former follows a white family led by a patriarch (a strangely cast Jonathan Tucker) who is clearly involved with white nationalist practices. When his gang gets into a violent altercation with a black man in a supermarket parking lot, beating him within an inch of his life in front of his family, it sets off a chain of events that thematically focus on race and childhood innocence in increasingly hackneyed ways. As the film progresses, it grows more and more eye-rolling ridiculous, leading up to final moments that are trying to get a certain point across and fail miserably. Let's just say this; in a current news climate where blackface controversies are dominating the daily cycle, maybe this isn't the best film to be celebrating with an awards nomination.

However, it's nothing compared to the ghastly "Detainment," which manipulatively focuses on the true story of James Bulger, a two-year-old who was kidnapped, brutally tortured and murdered by two 10-year-old boys in the early 90s. It's an admittedly shocking event that will make you sick to your stomach even if you simply read its Wikipedia page, but "Detainment" handles it with such a lack of compassion that it feels cheap and rightfully controversial (the family of Bulger has very vocally protested the film's existence and subsequent Oscar recognition). Swapping between the detainment and interrogation of the two 10-year-olds and dreamlike footage of them leading Bulger around town, "Detainment" boasts some truly atrocious editing where no shot seems to last more than three seconds. It's frantic and exhausting, with overacting by its cast (both kids and adults) and pretentious, pointless direction by Vincent Lambe.

Predicted Winner: "Fauve"


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