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 2012 Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts 
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Tuba Atlantic: Directed by Hallvar Witzo
Tuba Atlantic: Directed by Hallvar Witzo

A rather quirky entry from Norway, Tuba Atlantic centers around Oskar (Edvard Haegstad), an elderly gent given precisely six days to live by his doctor. Oskar intends to keep Death, in the form of a beautiful blonde (Ingrid Viken) at bay while he shoots the seagulls that have long invaded his life and plots a way to reunify with his brother whom he believes is across the Atlantic Ocean.

With his directorial debut, Witzo lands an Oscar nomination and has created one of the year's most dryly humorous and inventive short films. The Norwegians have long been recognized for their ability to seamlessly weave quirk into otherwise normal circumstances, but seldom has it been done with as much conviction as we see in this 26-minute short film.

Haegstad is terrific as Oskar, but it's Viken who really shines as Oskar's "Death Angel," who begins to grow weary of his journey towards his final day.

Humorous and moving, Tuba Atlantic should be considered a dark horse contender for the 2012 Oscar. The film already won a Gold Medal in the Student Academy Awards for 2011.

Odds of Winning: 4-1

Time Freak: Directed by Andrew Bowler
Time Freak: Directed by Andrew Bowler

Certainly one of the most fun films of this year's Oscar-nominated short films, Andrew Bowler's Time Freak follows an incredibly neurotic inventor (Michael Nathanson) whose seemingly endless neuroses leads to his traveling around yesterday time and time again to the bewilderment of his best friend (John Conor Brooke).

Unlike many Oscar nominated shorts, Time Freak has already proven to be quite popular on the film festival circuit and picked up several short film awards along the way. Both written and directed by Bowler, the film is just over eleven minutes of a ludicrous set-up brought to life with humorous conviction by Nathanson and Brooke. Less complex than the other nominees, Time Freak may be the most "entertaining" of the bunch but will likely be considered too light for serious Oscar consideration.

Odds of Winning: 10-1

The Shore: Directed by Terry George
The Shore: Directed by Terry George

If only because of its Oscar pedigree, Terry George's The Shore is likely to be a frontrunner for this year's live-action short film Oscar award. George, director of Hotel Rwanda, has fashioned a fast moving tale that goes a slightly unexpected direction during the course of its slightly more than 30-minute running time.

One of the most surprising things I discovered when I began covering short films at The Independent Critic was just how often Hollywood's actors, writers and directors find themselves working back in short films - sometimes as a pet project, sometimes as a favor for friends and sometimes to be supportive of up-and-coming talent. Whatever the reason, George has assembled a nicely structured and well paced film that stays with you long after its closing credits.

The film centers around a man (Ciaran Hinds) returning to his long left behind England seashore with his now grown-up American daughter (Kerry Condon). The "Welcome Home" party reveals to the daughter many things she didn't know about her father, ranging from a best friend with whom he had a band (Conleth Hill) to an ex-fiancee (Maggie Cronin). As daughter encourages father to deal with his past, suddenly The Shore becomes a more substantial film than one ever expects.

Odds of Winning: 2-1

Pentecost: Directed by Peter McDonald
Pentecost: Directed by Peter McDonald

My personal favorite of the 2012 Oscar nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film, Pentecost is quintessential Irish cinema playing out perfectly as 11-year-old Damian Lynch (Scott Graham) is given the chance to redeem a previous failure as altar boy when the archbishop visits his town and the scheduled altar boy is unavailable. Having been grounded from his prized football for three months following his previous debacle, Damian's only hope to see his beloved Liverpool FC in the finals is to conform to the ways of his church long enough to have what one priest calls the mass of his life.

Written and directed by Peter McDonald, Pentecost is both reverent and funny while doing a wondrously spot-on parallel comparison of sports and religion as equally sacred in the lives of Irish adults and children. Graham is perfect as young Damian, the sort of lad who always seems to have a bit of a sinister gleam in his eyes and for whom the idea of conformity may very well prove to be more uncomfortable than not playing or watching football.

Pentecost is shot with an eye on both the sacred and the sarcastic by Patrick Jordan, while the original music of John McPhillips gives the film a needed extra bounce. Stephen Daly's production design is simply perfect.

With his directorial debut, veteran actor Peter McDonald (The Damned United) has assembled one of 2011's best short films.

Odds of Winning: 2-1

Raju: Directed by Max Zahle
Raju: Directed by Max Zahle

Jan (Wotan Wilke Mohring) and wife Sarah (Julia Richter) have adopted young Raju (Krish Gupta) from an Indian orphanage. Shortly after picking him up, the young boy disappears and the couple embarks on a devastating and frightening journey filled with deceit that may very well tap into the fears of nearly anyone who has ever adopted or considered adopting from overseas.

This 24-minute short film should likely be considered the frontrunner for this year's Oscar, mostly thanks to its status as the most serious and topical of this year's nominees and, well, let's be honest...children at risk are always prime Oscar bait. Mohring and Richter do a terrific, moving job as the parents who begin to realize that they are part of the problem, while Krish Gupta is solid as young Raju.

While my own preference would be for either Pentecost or The Shore to take home the golden statuette this year, Raju is likely the film to beat. The film picked up a win for Best Short Film at the Brussels International Independent Film Festival and, like most of this year's nominees, has proven to be quite popular on the festival circuit.

Odds of Winning: Even

All Reviews by Richard Propes
Copyright 2012, The Independent Critic

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