Academy’s appetizers

Oscar Nominated Shorts collection is a mixed bag

Oscar Nominated Short Films of 2010 Opens Friday. Pageant Theatre. Not rated.
Rated 3.0

The live-action films in this year’s Oscar Nominated Shorts program all have plenty of panache. Each of the five shows a certain daring in choice of subject matter, and most of them have a remarkable technical polish. The overall results, however, are somewhat varied.

The Confession (from Britain) takes on themes of guilt and innocence via the misadventures of two schoolboy pals. Director Tanel Toom, who co-wrote the film with Caroline Bruckner, packs a great deal of suspenseful drama into 26 minutes of action. Their scenario bites off more than it can ultimately chew, but this is one of the program’s standouts.

The Crush (Ireland), a stark little fable about a schoolboy’s over-the-top crush on the gallant young woman who is his teacher, reaches for oversized themes in too brief a dramatic space. But the attempt is impressively presented by writer-director Michael Creagh, who gets strong performances from Oran Creagh (the schoolboy) and Olga Wehrly (the teacher).

God of Love (USA) is preeminently the work of Luke Matheny, who writes, directs, and serves as star, narrator and lead singer for this fanciful comedy with music. Matheny plays a singing dart-thrower whose discovery of a magic love potion leads to unexpected results. The black-and-white cinematography in this little fantasy gives a charming note of pathos to the proceedings.

Na Wewe (“You too”), from Belgium, uses a tense roadside confrontation in Africa (during the Burundi civil war in 1994) as the occasion for some sardonic commentary on ethnic and national prejudices. The message is sound, but the humor that goes with it is a little too glib.

In Wish 143, also from Britain, a terminally ill teenager struggles to settle on a response to a foundation’s offer to grant him one last special wish. The balance of comedy and drama is a little uncertain, but there are good performances from Samuel Holland as the teen and Jim Carter as the earthy priest who tries to advise him.