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REVIEW: Oscar Nominated Shorts

Either Kavi or The New Tenants will get the statue

The New Tenants.
Courtesy photo

The last few years, I always told myself I’d do this, and I never did. This year I got my lazy butt off the couch and made it down to the Ken on Adams Avenue to see the Oscar nominated short films. My friends all stayed for the animated shorts that followed, but after a few disappointing evenings at Spike and Mike’s thing in La Jolla, I don’t usually give those shorts a chance.

The first thing I wondered was why when there were only 10 people in the theatre, did people that show up late have to sit directly behind me? Sure, we were in the middle -- the prime seats -- but still. You have an entire theatre of empty seats to choose from.

And then I have to listen to them talk for five minutes. That is made all the worse by the fact that I don’t know if it’s appropriate to tell them to be quiet. You see, the first film was from India and had subtitles. They could very easily tell me there’s nothing to “hear” so talking shouldn’t be a bother.

When they finally stopped talking, I had to listen to five minutes of trying to open a box of Red Vines. So, about 2/3 of this 18 minute short was ruined.

It’s weird, because Kavi was a powerful little film about labor camps that was filmed well. I just lost interest after about seven minutes (not because of the noise distractions). Most of the audience seemed to enjoy this short the most. I liked it least.

Sure, it’s heartbreaking watching a boy haul bricks around and wishing he was playing cricket with the other kids. I just felt like I was watching a PSA (especially with the message at the end telling us about slavery and labor camps).

Instead of Abracadabra would’ve been a lot better if the amateur magician didn’t make me think of Napoleon Dynamite. And at a film festival last year, I saw a movie about a drummer that played “air drums.” He was also a Napoleon. Come on, people! Let’s be a little more creative with how you make the nerds look. They don’t just need bad hair and bad glasses.

This picture comes from Sweden and casts Saga Gärde as the blonde neighbor that’s a nurse and moves in next door (that sounds like the start of a completely different kind of movie). She has blue eyes that would make Judy Collinsenvious.

It’s so strange that the magicians parents (who bug him to get a ”real” job), let him perform magic at the dad's 60th birthday. He accidentally stabbed his mom attempting one of his tricks just days earlier (I don’t usually give away such plot points in my reviews, but I know realistically, most people aren’t going to go out and see the shorts).

The ending of the movie – when the blonde finally starts to come around – has perhaps the funniest conclusion you’ll see in a movie all year.

The New Tenants, a film from Denmark, was what My Dinner With Andre would’ve been if written by Quinten Tarantino instead of Wallace Shawn. My friend that loved Kavi, hated this, but I enjoyed it.

When a gay couple is having dinner and one character is being annoying and talking non-stop, I love the fact that we can see why his lover wants him to shut up. And why he would be with a person this interesting.

The cast of characters that show up at the door keep getting stranger and stranger. Vincent D’Onofrio plays a heavy that is more intimidating than the one he played in Full Metal Jacket. And listening to him accuse one of these guys of sleeping with his wife, before balling his eyes out and telling them all the problems with his marriage, is priceless.

Kevin Corrigan, who seems to pop up in a lot of indie movies (I loved him in Big Fan from last year), plays a twitchy drug dealer perfectly. When he asks these new tenants if they found heroin he had stashed there, and he notices they look at each other (they gave it to an old lady that showed up earlier asking to borrow flour), it’s interesting that a guy so out of it, notices the way they looked at each other and starts interrogating them even harder. He seemed to channel his inner Christopher Walken.

Over the years, we’ve been used to so many TV shows giving us lame dialogue between roommates. The one here in which two guys debate whether or not to eat the potato chips that belonged to the former tenant that’s now dead (”Why would you eat a dead guys chips? You don’t know where they’ve been”), would probably be a great topic of discussion over a bowl of Doritos at the next Super Bowl party.

Australia gave us Miracle Fish. This is a film that I wished was shorter (something that never sounds like a ringing endorsement when you’re talking about ”shorts”). You never really feel the sympathy you should for a little boy that’s picked on in school (he reminds me of the boy in Kramer vs Kramer and The Shining).

When he wakes up in the nurses office to find everyone in school gone, and a book on a desk about ”alien abductions” you start to wonder. When you see a few bloody hand prints, you’re really on the edge of your seat.

It turns out, someone has gone insane and shot up the school. The boy finds this out when he answers a cell phone, and the conversation between him and the killer that walks in, is very powerful stuff. Even more so in this day and age with so many school shootings.

I usually win the Oscar pools I’m in, but this is a category I have no clue on. I’m guessing the liberal Academy voters will lean towards Kavi.

But the well-known actors and top-notch script of The New Tenants might bring in the gold statue.