Tonight I saw all five of the nominated films in the Live Action Short category. I'll present my reviews in the order they were shown.
In this dismal drama, a young boy desperately wants to go to school, but instead must work to repay his father's debt by constructing bricks. It's inspiring to see how resourceful and clever this slave child is, but the scenes of abuse his family endures make the film almost too unbearable to appreciate.
THE NEW TENANTS (Denmark)
A gay couple moves into an apartment that was recently vacated due to the murder of its former tenant. After a somewhat witty rant from one of the occupants, there is a knock at the door, which results in the first of four visitors that take this potentially smart concept past any point of pleasurable comedy. It feels more like a college film project than an Academy Award nominated piece. Plus, the ending is just silly.
MIRACLE FISH (Australia)
A child of modest means goes to school on his birthday only to be teased by his classmates for not getting the latest toys as gifts. He heads to the sick room where he dreams of having the school all to himself, free of the pain. When he wakes up, the hallways are dark and the classrooms are empty, so he begins to enjoy the new-found freedom. It's very satisfying to watch this victim of a bully dive into treats he normally wouldn't get and take pleasure in the solace that comes with eliminating negativity in life. But he soon finds out he's not alone and the film makes a sharp turn. Luckily, the impact of the message remains crystal clear.
THE DOOR (Ireland)
Only those familiar with the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl will fully absorb the tragedy played out here, as a family struggles to navigate their loss and suffering. The first scene, though relevant in its purpose, is vastly out of pace with the rest of the film, which makes it hard to accept the muted rhythm that permeates each additional scene. Nonetheless, a powerful snapshot of a horrible historical event.
INSTEAD OF ABRACADABRA (Sweden)
The only blatant comedy of the bunch, this silly scenario centers around a 25-year-old man who wants nothing more than to be a professional magician. He tests tricks out on his parents (sometimes unsuccessfully), shocks children at birthday parties and develops a crush on a pretty blond, whom he tries to impress with his hobby. This is a fun, if not pointless, ride to take, and the ending is fabulous.
It's probably not hard to guess that my pick for this year's Live Action Short Film statue goes to Miracle Fish, but I wouldn't be terribly disappointed if The Door prevailed instead.