2015 Oscar Nominated Short Films Live Action

Film Review: ‘2015 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Live Action’

Compared with the epic all-American coming-of-age tale that is “Boyhood” — a feat 12 years in the making and nearly three hours in the telling — Oscar’s live-action short film nominees have seldom seemed shorter or smaller, and yet, judged on their own terms, this year’s offerings demonstrate genuine understanding of the form’s potential. Where the best picture category offers its selection of ambitious tapestries, these mini-narratives, which range from 14 to 40 minutes, feel more like quilt squares, intricate in their own right, yet modest and far more self-contained — overall, a quality mix available for consumption on every size of screen imaginable.

Once again, the category represents Oscar’s least American batch of nominees to be found outside the foreign-language race, which further heightens the sense of discovery we get while sampling work that hails from unknown helmers in countries rarely represented at the multiplex.

For example, director Talkhon Hamzavi’s sensitive Swiss-made graduation film “Parvaneh” invites audiences to empathize with a character common enough on the margins of big European cities, but seldom deemed worthy of protagonist status in a feature: A young Afghan immigrant named Pari (Nissa Kashani) finds herself overwhelmed with the adjustment to life in Zurich, where employers take advantage of her illegal status. In the short time we spend with her, Pari wants only to send her earnings home to her family, but even this simple task is complicated by the fact that the Western Union office won’t wire funds without a proper ID. This forces the mouselike young lady to appeal to anyone who might help, resulting in a connection, however fleeting, with a spoiled local girl (Cheryl Graf) who gradually comes to recognize how much they have in common. It’s a poignant if pat little portrait, but one that could scarcely exist as a feature — making this just the right way to experience it.

Cute but overly familiar by comparison, Michael Lennox’s “Boogaloo and Graham” concerns two Irish kids growing up amid the Troubles in Belfast. Fortunately, the country’s violent conflict serves as little more than peripheral color to a story that could just as easily have taken place in a small-town American trailer park or a Manhattan tenement. One day, a father brings home two pet chicks for his sons to raise, and while the birds brighten up the kids’ lives, their mother threatens to cook them up for dinner, until Dad invents an elaborate and unlikely solution — delivered a bit too suddenly, and without much thought to logistics in the short’s final seconds. Though thin on story, the professional-looking film clearly demonstrates Lennox’s aptitude to take on a larger project (his feature debut, “A Patch of Fog, ” is due out later this year), using its 1978 setting to supply a few vivid details to this otherwise twee trifle.

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