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2019 Oscar Shortlisted Short Film Reviews – Black Sheep, Marguerite, My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes

There are 30 short films which are shortlisted for Academy Awards across the three shorts categories—Best Live Action Short, Best Animated Short, and Best Documentary Short Subject. This will be cut in half come January 22nd. Before that happens, let’s take a look at a few of the shorts vying for nomination.

 

Black Sheep

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This documentary short, commissioned by The Guardian, tells the story of a man who, as a youth, moved from London to a racist suburb and took drastic measures to blend in. It is a tragic story, one that is intensely personal and unique. The interview that is heard throughout the short is powerful, the direct address to camera penetrating.

What is less powerful are the reenactments, which make Black Sheep feel like a TV news story. Actors dramatize the story as it is being told, pulling us away from the presence that is Cornelius Walker. While the short still maintains a sense of emotional emphasis, there is a stark difference between the effectiveness of seeing the man’s expression as he speaks and seeing actors replay the story.

 

Marguerite

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Marianne Farley’s Marguerite takes place entirely in an elderly woman’s small home. Marguerite (Beatrice Picard) is visited daily by her aide Rachel (Sandrine Bisson). Rachel bathes her, rubs lotion on her legs, makes sure she is doing what her doctor instructs. Largely, this is what the 18-minute film entails. We drop into this relationship and watch it blossom even further as Marguerite learns more about Rachel’s personal life.

There is a simple elegance to the film. Static shots of Marguerite alone are adequately isolating. Close-ups on the faces of the two women endear us to their friendship. The narrative does not reach very far, but it does not need to to do what it sets out to do: make us feel warmth over the sheer simplicity of companionship.

 

My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes

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As with its title, My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes is frank. But that title suggests something seedy, a gross secret to be unearthed. That isn’t exactly what Charlie Tyrell’s film sets out to do. Instead, it paints an autobiographical portrait of a family in a concise, inventive way.

The film is edited wonderfully. Taking his dead dad’s possessions and capturing them in still photographs, almost as if they are being presented as evidence in a criminal investigation. Tyrell collages them into a stop motion survey of material possession, all as a way of getting a deeper understanding of who his father was.

There may not be anything earth-shattering in My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes, something that is going to change the way we look at documentary or autobiography, but it is a film teeming with life and creativity.

 

As always, thanks for reading!

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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)

 

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