Monday, August 12, 2013

Henry (2011)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Film, Live Action - Yan England

Amour was a heartbreaking and harrowing tale of indignities that can come with growing older, but it wasn't even the most frightening film about aging nominated for an Academy Award last year.  The short film "Henry," directed by Yan England, is a terrifying yet entirely sincere look at the horrors that come with memory loss from aging.

Gerad Poirier plays Henry, an elderly man confused by what is happening to him as his wife goes missing.  England wisely confines us to Henry's viewpoint for most of the film, putting the audience in the same sense of confusion as Henry as both protagonist and audience attempts to put the pieces together.  Though the conceit should become evident to the viewer rather quickly, as it is intended to, it is no less harrowing watching Henry as he struggles to determine what is happening around him.

Part thriller and part emotional drama, "Henry" is a well made film that is touching without becoming sentimental.

Remaining: 3132 films, 865 Oscars, 5375 nominations

Monday, August 5, 2013

Death of a Shadow / Dood van een Schaduw (2012)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Film, Live Action - Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele

The last few years have marked a career breakthrough for actor Matthias Schoenaerts, a 35 year old who has been acting for over a decade but is just now coming to worldwide attention.  His leading roles in Rust and Bone and Bullhead opened up new doors for him, and over the next year he'll appear in Alan Rickman's upcoming directorial effort A Little Chaos and the adaptation of the novel Suite Francaise.  

During the time of these career-making roles, Schoenaerts also appeared in a strange but beautiful short film made by writer/director Tom Van Avermaet, "Dood van een Schaduw," translated as "Death of a Shadow."  Just over 20 minutes in length, the film tells the story of Nathan Rijckx, a deceased World War I soldier who is tasked with capturing the shadows of 10,000 dead people for a collector, in return for returning to life.  While on one of these missions, he sees that the woman he loved before his death is now in love with another soldier, and decides to capture the shadow of this soldier and return to life shortly after his rival's death to reclaim his love.

This detailed and complicated concept would take nearly twenty minutes to describe in a feature length film, but Van Avermaet introduces it with such grace and subtlety that the exposition never feels clunky for a moment.  The film is also beautifully shot with deep, rich colors, and the expressiveness of Schoenarts's face is intensely striking.  

The film is neither comic nor emotionally wrenching, the two qualities that seem to describe every film nominated in the Best Short Film Live Action category every year.  It is instead a lovely and genuine short that I will likely remember long after I have forgotten most of the feature length efforts from the same year.

Remaining: 3133 films, 865 Oscars, 5376 nominations