Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel

EIGHT OSCAR 2005 Oscar Short Subject Nominees and Winners

Winners: RYAN and WASP. (RYAN was directed by U of I graduate Chris Landreth)

The title speaks for itself. This, I believe, is a first for Champaign-Urbana as well as for other locations SHORTS are a tricky thing, For most people beyond childhood the term "movie" means "feature." But there is a humongous amount of short films, with a huge variety of types, subjects, treatments and such. The directors/makers of those shorts are overwhelmingly unknown names. Not surprising since even in the case of most makers of feature movies--including blockbusters and best-sellers-- the public-at-large has no idea of what the directors' names are—but do know the names of the actors.

Please note that the works in this program have been in a huge number of short-film festival the world over, and all won prizes, in great numbers.

GOPHER BROKE (USA animation by Jeff Fowler.) A hungry, inventive gopher finds a way to shake up trucks that carry foods which spill out. But other, faster animals are around too…

TWO CARS, ONE NIGHT. (New Zealand live action by Taika Waititi & Ainsley Gardiner.) The makers as well as the actors are, so far as I know, Maori –but you have to look close. A bunch of adults are having drinks from an establishment. Two cars, close to each other in the parking area contain respectively two little boys and a just pre-teen girl. The bored boys tease (gently) the girl, the older boy gets together with her, they become friendly, then the adults return. A cute "brief encounter."

BIRTHDAY BOY (Australian, by Sejong Park, a Korean name.) Set in 1951 during the Korean War. A child, lonely in a near-empty village, tries to amuse himself, watches train convoys laden with tanks, watches distant airplanes, concocts pathetic little games. At home he finds a parcel which he thinks is a birthday present – but it's not. Pathetic in a subdued fashion.

LITTLE TERRORIST.(Indian, by Ashvin Kumar) Another boy, older than the one of the film above) also playing solo, unwittingly crosses the invisible India-Pakistan border, barely avoids getting shot by border guards. A strangely, timely item right now as the two countries are pledging peace and good relations.

RYAN (Canadian, by Chris Landreth) Thirty or so years ago, Ryan Larkin was a master of animation in Canada a major contributor to World cinema, and, among other reasons, long admired for its National Film Board (where Larkin got his start). Alas, and for reasons that would take an essay to explain, later, Larkin turned into a coke and booze addict and eventually a panhandler who lived in a Mission. Landreth's movie is a long, fascinating of meetings and conversations between Landreth and Larkin, in which both men are shown as parts (only) of their heads and bodies. The technique is a marvel, stupendous, and totally, absolutely beyond description. It takes up just a quarter of an hour but feels as though it took years to perfect it. By any standards, a A-plus work and, I believe, a milestone among Special Effects.

7:35 IN THE MORNING (Spanish, by Nacho Vigalongo) Odd stuff. A woman enters one of those very Spanish combinations of bar-restaurant-café-snackeria. The atmosphere is strange. A man intones a song about that woman, whom he obviously knows well. The others in the bar are reacting in odd ways. Etc. Then all hell breaks loose. I cannot reveal more. Unusual and definitely Iberian

REX STEELE: NAZI SMASHER (American, by Alexander Woo a film student) Pleasant nonsense, an animation rooted in older comic-books (aka Comix) heroism and in the tradition of supermen-justice makers, saviors of you-name it, and more. Took me back to long long ago serials. In wartime (1941), our government learns that Nazi Eval Schnitzer plots something near the source of the Amazon. Rex, along with sidekick Miss Penny Thimble, chases the villains to the jungles and volcanoes of of South America. Lotsa fun.

WASP (British, by Andrea Arnold) Zoe, a single mother, has three pre-teens girls and a very young baby (I guess, a boy.) She is a good advertisement for birth control. Who the fathers were is a mystery. What her revenues are must be the dole. How she treats the kids is pathetic. Anyway, she must have been man-less for some time (since the baby), so when she runs on an old flame she pretends to be baby-sitting the quartet –which she drags to a pub that the old flame frequents—eventually joins the man in his car while isolating the children. The latter eat garbage –literally. 26 minutes long. Mom is played by Nathalie Press. Very sad and affecting.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel