Category Archives: Oscar Shorts

Wasp Review

The 2005 Oscar winning short film Wasp left me with a bad sting. Directed by Andrea Arnold, the film takes you into the lives of a poor, young, beat down baby-mama and her four children.

The entire film is one big reminder that not everyone who has a child is ready to be a parent, as is shown through Zoe, who is irresponsible, selfish and ultimately abandons her children for the majority of the movie. Yet, Arnold draws into question the meaning of love and marternal instincts that are naturally given to every mother.

Though Zoe does leave her daughters hungry and stranded outside of a bar, while she is inside hooking up with a mystery man from her past, the movie does open with a strange but interesting scene of Zoe running to her neighbors house and beating her while screaming “Don’t you ever fucking touch my children!” She also bolts out of mystery mans car while they are hooking up as soon as she hears her daughter call her name.

Its interesting to evaluate Zoe’s character because while we are meant to believe that she is a sort of white trash slut who just doesnt give a damn, it is clear that she is very young, and almost represents the new “Teen Mom” phase that America is currently going through, even though this movie is based in England.

The only part of Wasp that made me feel anything was through the acting, but that doesnt hide the fact that the story line is completely pointless. I understand Arnold wanted to just throw the viewer into the lives of this demented family but it really did not portray any sort of substance.

In the mist of it being Oscar season, I saw more talent in this years short film nominees than in this winner. It is truly mind-boggling to comprehend why it won.

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The Wasp Lost Its Wings

After watching the film, “The Wasp,” and especially being told that it won an Oscar for best Live Action film in years past, I truthfully feel like it didn’t take off. Though my perspective is limited and I have an inexperienced view on short films, I personally feel there was much missing. For such a lengthy short, it lacked the strong background story as to why Zoe was without the father of her kids or why they lived they so harshly.

I’ve learned not to expect too much detail from a short film seeing the average can run around 15 minutes, but come on, there was no clinging of emotion. Where were the comical side remarks here or there, the feeling of anger from abuse or neglect, the sigh of relief for a successful turnout at the end.

It was almost as if her actions were okay, as a bad mother, by the way the film end. Yes, there was the woman that could be imagined by the viewer, standing out to alert and challenge the mother for not properly taking care of her kids, but what lesson was learned.

In the 2011 Oscars section for live action short films, each nomination in some way could’ve debated to have some lesson or at least understanding of the human condition. However, where is that in “The Wasp.” The mother barely has money to feed her kids only providing them with chips and a single glass of coke. She leaves her kids recklessly in the parking lot for hours on end while she relives fast moments of freedom before having kids I suppose.

I personally feel this film was an upset in its seeming lack of direction or imagination. Though the filmmaker did manage to capture some heartfelt emotion in the mother’s eyes and actions, I couldn’t help but feel my skin slightly crawl as the uplifting music at the end presents the thought that it’s okay to be a bad parent.

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Wasp fails to impress

“And the world’s best mother award goes to..,” which a classmate shouted out sarcastically after the 2005 Oscar-winning short film “Wasp” ended, summed up the film for me. “Wasp” follows a day in the life of Zoe, the young mother of four unkempt children. The opening scene sets the tone of the entire short film, as we follow Zoe and her three children and baby as they go to jump some woman who hit her daughter. Curses, as well as fists, were freely thrown in front of the children, who treated it like a normal day occurrence. On the way home, Zoe is approached by an old male friend who invites her out for a drink. Since she can’t find anyone to watch her kids, she takes her kids with her and makes them wait outside the bar.

Now, I understand that this film won an Oscar, but for the life of me I can’t comprehend WHY. Sure, the film reels you in and you laugh at the right moments and wait in anticipation for the climatic turn of events, but then you’re left extremely disappointed. It was like being a kid and waking up on Christmas expecting toys and getting nothing but new clothes. I kept sitting there waiting for something really exciting to happen, maybe her kids would get hurt or even worse kidnapped! but what really happened was so anti-climatic. If anything, it made me just hate the mother even more for getting away with her stupidity. Maybe I’ve just been programmed to think that people should get what is coming to them, at least in movies.

I’ve noticed that it’s the most shocking and usually depressing films that get recognition from the Academy, and for the life of me I can’t understand why. I guess I would have found the film to be much more entertaining if something blew up or there were some CGI animations. I guess blockbusters have jaded me for independent films forever.

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Stung by Wasp

The 2005 Live action short film Oscar winner, Wasp (Andrea Arnold) is a gripping film about a negligent, single mother trying to go on her first date in years.  I saw this short about a year and a half ago and having seen it again today, I can honestly say that I’m still in awe of how terrible of a parent Zoe- the mother- is.

This time, however, the style of the film really caught my eye.  The first time around, I was so caught up in the story, I didn’t see the unique and thoughtful style this film possesses.

Swift, shaky camera movements skillfully chronicle the chaos and disorganization within this flawed clan.  Seeing the world through the eyes of the children, running around, trying to find some form of entertainment heightens  the drama and makes the viewer truly feel the possible danger that these children are exposed to.  It gives the film a raw, gritty feel that, although unsettling, makes the film that much better.

Sound also plays a huge role in this film.  The drowning out of the girls’ voices as they walk over the overpass as rush hour traffic roars below them, puts the family’s situation in perspective.  It is clear from the start of the film that Zoe is not a responsible parent, but to literally see them, zoomed out, highway symphony blasting below, hints at how small they really are.  In this vast urban landscape, their problems are just one of a million others.

Arnold is able to put the focus back on the family and presents Zoe with an opportunity to somewhat redeem herself when her youngest child, Kyle, is in danger.

Everyone’s moral compass may be slightly off kilter in this film (save for Zoe’s oldest daughter, whose street survival skills are scarily advanced for a child of her age) but it is the ending which really ties the drama in neatly and speaks to the bit of common sense and humanity in the characters.

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When There Is Nothing To Confess

The Confession directed by Tanel Toom, is a phenomenal and brilliantly created film that brings its viewers everything from drama and mystery to suspense and tragedy and it also, very successfully, brings innocence into the picture. A film so extraordinary that leaves the viewers wanting more, wondering and questioning what would have happened if the film would have simply kept on rolling.

The film, set in a small town in England, greatly influenced by religious beliefs,   follows the story of Sam, an innocent 9 year old who is close to facing his first confession. His only problem: He has nothing to confess, something that brings him continuous anxiety. As a result, his friend Jacob assures him that together, they will come up with a sinful act that would allow Sam to face confession properly.

At this point, the film takes a dramatic turn when Sam and Jacob decide to take a scarecrow from the cornfields and place it in the middle of the row as an effort to scare Sam’s father. Not thinking of the consequences of their acts, Sam and Jacob witness the horrific death of three passengers of a passerby vehicle but Sam and Jacob are more concerned with hiding the scarecrow and making sure no one ever finds out.

“It was an accident” is all Jacob keeps assuring Sam hoping he will eventually be convinced but Sam’s consciousness tells him otherwise. The film goes from wanting something to confess to having something to actually confess but not being able to do so out of guilt.

Tanel Toom is known for producing films that speak to the heart; films that would impact his audience. He is known for incorporating religion and death in his works. An example would be The Second Coming(2008) about a soldier who is having a hard time coping with the death of his brother.  

Let’s not go without noting how well the acting helped the film deliver its message. Both Lewis Howlett who played Sam and Joe Eals who played Jacob did an extraordinary job with the acting. They were successfully able to reach the hearts of the viewers and send the right feelings whenever they needed to be sent.   

It is not a mystery as to why The Confession obtained an Oscar nomination, because no other short live action film was able to bring together such a variety of genres in just one short film as well as The Confession did.

Lewis Howlett as Sam in The Confession

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The One That Got Away

The Confession, Tanel Toom’s eerie but exhilarating tale of adolescence heavily influenced by religious ideals is one that leaves the viewer with an ominous feeling that causes them to question the films motives long after it is over.

The beautiful cinematography sets the mood for the film. A serene landscape shot of a sunrise over a cornfield with a simple silhouette of a scarecrow on a cross seems peaceful yet foreshadows the shuddersome plot that has yet to unfold.

The film continues in a Catholic school classroom in a small town in England. The story follows Sam, an innocent nine year old boy whose biggest anxiety is not having a sin to reveal to the priest at his first communion. Sams best friend Jacob convinces him not to fear for together they will execute a sinful act so he can properly confess.

They decide to steal the scarecrow from Sam’s father’s cornfield and it is then that the film quickly escalates from a light hearted story about a boy’s first communion to one of horror and tragedy. “It was an accident.” Jacob tries to convince Sam, but Sams conscious is the driving force for the rest of the film.

Tanel Toom has another widely acclaimed short film called The Second Coming (2008) about a soldier who has a hard time coping with his brother’s death. Toom has a knack for incorporating death and religion into his cinematic works.

There is a way that Toom tugs on the viewer’s heartstrings by reminding the viewer that these are just nine year old boys with seemingly innocent intentions. The scenes of them riding their bikes to school and playing in their secret spot in the woods serves as an innuendo of this.  Toom taps into the human condition and exploits the significance that is placed upon the concept of religion. The balance between youth and sin makes it hard for the audience to form a solid opinion on the matters at hand, which seem to be religions negative impacts on its followers.

Lewis Howlett in The Confession

But it is also noteworthy to say that the child actors, Lewis Howlett who plays Sam and Joe Eals who plays Jacob, are who bring the driving emotions to the film. The intensity they bring to their roles are what rub off on the audience and leave them with shivers. Sam’s ultimate dilemma is not simple to find an answer for. Howlett really depicts the struggle he faces in where he has to place his faith.  Is it within God, his best friend, or himself?

It is all this and more that make it clear as to why The Confession has earned its Oscar nomination for best live action short film. When showing the shorts at the IFC Theater in New York City, the Academy chose The Confession as the first film to appear within the sequence and sets off the theme of humans coping in their darkest hour.  Although, as Bernardo Villela writes from The Movie Rat “It is so shockingly rare to see a short film that is so layered and plays on so many levels as this one does.”

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I Must Confess, God of Love Should Not Have Won

In this year’s Oscars, five films were nominated for Best Live Action Short Film. While my favorite film was The Confession, I was surprised that my least favorite film, God of Love, was the winner last night. It’s not that God of Love was a bad film, but I wouldn’t say it was Oscar-worthy in comparison to the other films it went up against. It was fluffy, while the other films had so much more depth and emotion.

The Confession, for example, is an unpredictable film that raises questions about how innocent a child truly is. The film features a 9-year-old boy named Sam who is preparing for his first confession. Sam is so innocent that he can’t think of anything to confess. In an attempt to help Sam, his best friend, Jacob, comes up with an idea to steal a scarecrow from a nearby farm. A harmless prank results in a chain of events causing the death of a family and the murder of Jacob and when it finally comes time to confess his sins, Sam cannot bring himself to tell the priest what he has done.

The Confession was the first film played out of the five short films, and while I remember the mood in the theater being very light at the beginning of the film, I also remember the exact moment that the mood turned dark. It was the scene where Jacob and Sam had left the scarecrow in the middle of the road to scare the farmer and instead, he turned down a different street. The audience laughed, until a few seconds later, when another car came flying down the road, swerved to miss the scarecrow and hit a tree. We all shared a unanimous gasp.

Moments like this, when I’m so lost in a movie that I actually gasp, are when I know it’s had an impact on me. I loved it. I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. Looking over at my mom towards the end of the film, I noticed that she was crying. Afterwards, she told me how moved she was by the film. “You just don’t get that kind of emotion from commercial films these days,” she said.

 The film’s director, Tanel Toom, studied filmmaking at the Tallinn University and aside from The Confession, he has directed several short films including The Second Coming, which was premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2008 and won an award for Best European Short at the Archipelago International Film Festival.

After deciding to go back to school, Toom graduated from The National Film and TV School in England in 2010. The Confession was his diploma film and won the Student Academy Award for Foreign Film. This film is evidence of Toom’s passion for stories that leave an impression on his audience and it seems The Confession is only one of many influential films to come from this creative director.

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To Wish Upon a…Condom?

"Just hold me."

To think of cancer as anything but a crippling and deadly disease that kills more people in the US than the entire population of Luxembourg is, well, just wrong. The life of a cancer patient is not a happy one, and cases like Michael Douglas’s triumphant defeat of the dreaded infliction are far and few. We all live in fear — and rightfully so.

All, that is, besides David, or so he would like us to think.

Wish 143, directed by Ian Barnes, stars Samuel Holland as David, a fifteen year old boy diagnosed with cancer that has a wish far less noble than one expects from a boy in his position — to lose his virginity.

The plot line is almost a mockery — if placed in the wrong hands, it can easily become a teen comedy that mocks the protagonist’s attempt to come-of-age rather than encourage it; however, Holland treats the character with a maturity that extends far beyond his years.

That’s not to say, however, that the film does not have moments of comic relief. While the film’s genie, a member of the British version of the Make a Wish Foundation, suggests that David would be better off meeting Gary Neville, or, perhaps, going to a film premiere, the boy insists on having sex with a naked woman — preferably on the hood of the car. His attempts to find a willing woman are valiant yet also hint at desperation that not only brings the laughs, but tears as well.

What sets this twenty three minute gem apart from the other Oscar contenders is that instead of using a younger protagonist to portray the fickleness of emotions at such a tender age, like rivals The Confession and The Crush, David is shown to be so sure of his actions and desires, and is every inch an adult in a situation where it is absolutely okay to be a child. He does not falter from what he believes is right — in this case, getting laid.

What ultimately won me over (and unfortunately, not the Oscar voters) was when David was finally given the choice to fulfill his wish with Maggie, a prostitute his father recommended. Instead of leaning toward the kiss and touch of actress Jodie Whittaker, David leans away from her, and in a rare moment of intimacy, he whispers:

“Just hold me.”

It was with this line that the film took a turn from being a dark comedy to the most touching and most revealing short films this reviewer has seen.

Wish 143 holds nothing back, and between each giggle and tear, formed an inseparable bond between viewer and character, one that forces us to find the David inside each one of us — flawed, chasing after unlikely goals, and, most importantly, hungry for a friend.

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Wishing for a Change of Pace

Many movie-goers today are cynical, pessimistic; constantly seeking the destruction of metropolises and hopeless hearts being broken. We do, however, still need the occasional light-hearted take on an unfortunate situation. Director Ian Barnes and writer Tom Bidwell brought this to fruition in Wish 143, a short film focusing on a terminally ill teenager’s wish to lose his virginity before it is too late, and my personal favorite short of the Oscar nominees.

While there is an obvious air of gloom and doom because of the setting, the pediatrics ward of a hospital, and the main character’s situation, a downhill battle with cancer, the filmmakers took a more whimsical approach to presenting his plight, and created a fabulously believable mindset of a teenage boy approaching the end of his life. The muted colors and dim lighting reminds viewers of the seriousness of the situation, but the dialog, mostly the unconventional quips of the lead, David, keeps it from dipping too low into morbidity. When approached by the British equivalent of the Make a Wish Foundation, David matter-of-factly writes down that he wishes to lose his virginity, to the distress of the wish-giver. The mix of sex-talk, the sinking realization of David’s pending fate, and the setting of a kiddie table in the pediatrics ward play room makes for a scene too awkward for words and perfect for some uncomfortable laughs.

As the film goes on, we see that David’s wish is fueled by more than just raging teenage hormones, but the desire to become a man before it’s too late, and to have the chance to really be close to a woman. The desperation sets off a tragic stream of events sprinkled with humor to keep the tears at bay. His unlikely accomplice in fulfilling his wish, Father Carter, works tirelessly to counter David’s irrational plans to make his wish come true, and eventually puts aside his beliefs and sets up a safe and secure way for David to reach his goal.

Not surprisingly, David reacts with fear and uncertainty when faced with the opportunity to fulfill his wish. Rather than acting out the moment of passion he’s had in his head for years, he is hit with the realization of all circumstances leading to this point, and curls up in the arms of the call girl, desperate for comfort. This heart-wrenching scene is not broken with humor, for good reason. It made for an extremely real, raw show of emotions and a believable response on all characters’ parts.

The end of the twenty-four-minute emotional rollercoaster brings us back from the brink of depression with David’s positive attitude, and the comforting presence of Father Carter. Some banter about their shortcomings over a light-hearted session of skeet shooting is an uneasy reminder that all is not well and things have not gone the way David wished, but leaves us with a feeling that he has found some kind of inner peace in realizing that he can’t control his fate or force himself to mature at a certain pace.

Wish 143 was on the verge of heartbreaking, but managed to keep the pieces together with some much-needed laughter. It didn’t seem forced, though. The mood followed David’s journey accurately; airy and awkward at first, sad and uneasy through his trials, and finally relieving and light again as David accepted his circumstance.

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Death, Guilt And Why Kids Have To Sin

Young boy's are told to confess. But what if one has never sinned?

The Confession shows no mercy toward the audience. The opening scene of two boys dragging a dead body through a forest is just the beginning of a dark and painful tail of sin, guilt and the confused minds of two catholic boys.

Sam is a 9 year old boy, living a simple and harmless life playing around the cornfields with his best friend Jacob. They go to a catholic school and one day it is time to do their first confession. Sam stares at the list of sins in front of him, and realizes that he has never sinned. Still, he is told to confess, as all “real Catholics” do. His naive mind feels guilt. What is he going to confess? To Sam’s relief, Jacob the “bad boy,” has an easy solution: Together they will do a sin.

But what happens when their little prank turns into a serious accident, leading to the death of three innocent people? How will a young boy be able to live with this new and awfully dark sin haunting the back of his head? Will God really forgive, and make everything go back to normal? Though questions are piled in font of these young boys, and when you think the story could not get any darker, death strikes again. Their world is now turned upside down.

It is not the first time the young director of this film, Tanel Toom (28 years of age) handles the themes of death and religion. In one of his past short films, The Second Coming (2008), a solider is unwilling to accept the death of his brother. One can clearly see a pattern that both of Toom’s films follows, portraying friendship, death and God.

“The Confession” is Toom’s graduation project for his degree in fiction direction at the National Film and Television School in England. Toom himself is Estonian, and most of his previous projects, both films and commercials, are all in Estonian.

The characters in The Confession are quite familiar: Sam, the innocent boy next door, and Jacob, his big mouthed alter-ego friend. Together they are a perfect team, sneaking through the cornfield of a grumpy farmer, riding their bikes and hanging out at their secret spot in the forest. What destroys this idyllic picture of childhood is the dark shadow of death and guilt that seems to follow the boys. Even though they are young and playful, these two friends lay in the forest staring at the sky, talking deeply about life, death and God. They try to figure out the Catholic life they are about to enter.

The Confession will definitely emote some sort of feeling from the audience. The two big motifs in the film, Catholic-guilt and death, provokes and splits opinions. This is also what makes “The Confession” so strong, and what probably made it earn its Oscar nomination for best action short film.

Child-actors can easily destroy even the best movies, but the two boys in The Confession stunned with their performance. For the 26 minutes that this movie lasted, you really got into Sam’s confused head – the torn mind of a child, struggling to choose who to trust: his own consciousness, his best friend, or God.

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