Tropic Sprockets / The Oscar Shorts: Live Action

By Ian Brockway

This year’s Oscar selection is a multicultural feast focusing on character. The selection is truly a window upon the world. [For showtimes and trailer, check]

First “Ivalu” from Denmark, directed by Anders Walter, explores the curious disappearance of a young girl in Greenland. One morning, Pipaluk looks for her sister Ivalu and can’t find her anywhere. She looks under the bed and icy crevices, but there is no sign of Ivalu, her younger sister and friend.With the sight of a raven at her bedroom window, Pipaluk gets the fixated notion that the raven holds the clue to her sister’s disappearance. Haunting and strange, with a touch of the unnerving, “Ivalu” emerges as a mystical episode of “The Twilight Zone.” 

Next, “Night Ride” from Norway and directed by Eirik Tveiten focuses on Ebba (Sigrid Kandal Husjord) and her brief takeover of a tram car. Sensing an opportunity, Ebba chats up the driver and assumes control of the car. She is delighted, driving on a whim spontaneously. A group of male chauvinists belittle her and a trans woman passenger. Somehow the young men’s egos are challenged and they threaten the woman. Well-acted and pointed, the tone is comical more than scary and Ebba manages to manipulate the bland and dull men.

“Le Pupille” by Alfonso Cuaron, is a portrait of a catholic orphanage during World War II. Gothic trimmings are the order of the day with a formidable Mother Superior (Alba Rohrwacher) in a dark and dingy bedroom. Only Serafina (Melissa Falasconi), a cute “bad girl,” stands in the way. With mugging little girls and imposing nuns who have no need for fun, this Disney produced film is adorably subversive around the edges. The only semi scare is the mouth rinsing scene which vibrates with realism. With all of the jitterbugging and eye-rolling going on, including a blood red cake, this film is Bunuel with the zaniness of Monty Python. 

“The Red Suitcase” is the tense and compelling story of a young 16-year-old Iranian artist Ariane (Nawelle Ewad) fighting for her independence. Dropped off by her father on a flight to Luxembourg, an older man paid the family and intends to marry the teen. Ariane is on the run but she must be sneaky. Sharply directed by Cyrus Neshvad, the tension never stops and the events are subject to change at a moment’s notice. The suspense by itself bears something of a James Bond thriller. This film which crackles with apprehension is one of the best. 

Lastly Tom Berkeley and Ross White’s “An Irish Goodbye” is tied with “Le Pupille” to be the most comical of the lot. Turlough (Seamus O Hara) is arguing with Lorcan (James Martin) who do not see eye to eye. They are brothers coping with the death of their mother. Turlough wants Lorcan who has Down syndrome to move in with their aunt and sell the house. Lorcan won’t budge. With shades of Martin McDonagh, the story quickly gives way to good feeling, culminating into a bucket list of sorts. Though it might benefit from a slightly darker tone, the film gives a real chuckle and Paddy Jenkins as the nervous priest steals the show.

Once again the category of Live Action comes through with its variety of forms, ideas and settings. This selection is the strongest of its kind in many years. 

Write Ian at [email protected]

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