Oscars 2017: Best Live-Action Short

This year’s Oscar nominations for Best Live-Action Short are all European: The Woman and the TGV (Switzerland), Silent Nights (Denmark), Time Code (Spain), Enemies Within (France) and Sing (Hungary). And while all have obvious merits, most fail at the short format, striving instead to be an abbreviated feature. Aske Bang’s Silent Nights is the most flawed in this regard – cramming in a passionate on-again-off-again affair, a mugging, death of a parent, deportation and sudden pregnancy into 30 minutes. Timo von Guten’s The Woman and the TGV, although entertaining and meticulously shot, suffers from a kind of Amelie envy. Kristof Deak’s Sing and Selim Azzazi’s Enemies Within briefly focus on the key of the short format – that of a specific and intense relationship – but both lose focus in the end. It is only Juanjo Gimenez’s Time Code – the shortest of the entries at fifteen minutes – that understands the structure of short films. It delivers from beginning to end with humor and insight into the human condition while never overshooting its mark – people are happier when they accept themselves.

Ice Friday: Believable Characters

As advised by Darin Strauss at a writer’s conference, “Characters must be memorable, surprising and move within their essence. Most of all, they need to have their uniqueness made clear.”“When you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.” (From J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye)

Can You See Me?

The house was long and bright, a small tour being conducted as I came home.

“What longitudinal line does the house bisect?” The guide smiled briefly, waiting only a moment before conducting the group through the sculpture gallery. “Originals, everything is an original.” My clothes were missing from some shelves, moved to a downstairs room still under construction. That’s where she was, my wife, unpacking my things. I thought of just staying there, waiting for all of this to come around to a sensible point, but gathered my wits and caught up to her before her next meeting. “I need just ten minutes.”

A loose-suited man stood beside her. “I need the same.”

Her look was reserved as she glanced between us and then back at him. “Would you like to look at the garden? Why don’t I take you out to look at that?”

“We won’t have time then?” I stuttered.

She was already leaving. “We can schedule something for next week.”

I followed them down to the train, past a half naked man engaged in a complicated ritual, artistic or personal I didn’t understand. “Henry, we’ve talked about bringing your friends.” She turned to the loose-suited man. “It’s too much, isn’t it?”

I thought that it was but had been left at the top of the stairs.

DuVernay’s Documentary “13th” Needs To Be Seen

Ava DuVernay’s Academy-nominated documentary 13th exposes the intrinsic flaw of America’s 13th Amendment. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

While abolishing slavery is well and good – how did it ever happen in the first place?! – the amendment allows for the practice to continue through the penal system, a system that systematically incarcerates black males in America, a population that, only 4% of the overall population, accounts for 40% of prisoners. DuVernay outlines America’s dismal history of discrimination and servitude, citing Jim Crow laws as well as the systematic targeting of black leaders such as Angela Davis and Black Panther Fred Hampton.Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Clinton are all indicted for the role in the morass as well as So-Called President Trump. Most insidious of all is the monetization of the mass incarcerations – corporations such as WalMart and Time Warner directly profiting from these policies – as well as the understanding that another iteration of the racist laws awaits us all. DuVernay’s film needs to be seen. Okay, so what are you doing? Watch it now!

Ice Friday: Ian McGuire’s “The North Water”

Through a stuttering veil of snow he sees at the floe edge a bluish iceberg, immense, chimneyed, wind-gouged, sliding eastwards like an albinistic butte unmoored from the desert floor. The berg moves at a brisk walking pace, and as it moves its nearest edge grinds against the floe and spits up house size rafts of ice like swarf from the jaws of a lathe. Sumner feel, as he watches, that he is seeing something he shouldn’t rightly see, that he is being made an unwilling party to a horrifying but elemental truth telling. As quickly as the chaos began, however, it ceases. The berg loses contact with the edge of the ice, and the shuddering cacophony of impact gives way to the remnant howling of the wind.

Post-Pop Idol, Vulvana, reflects on “Manitou Island”

Shortly after the burial ceremonies, Vulvana interviewed with Entertain Me Magazine: Our technological society offers nothing but self-denial and self-annihilation. Under the leadership of Gerbi Norberg, his mother Norma Butler-Norberg, the medicine man Asawasanay and the village elder Pamequonaishcung, these people have decided to forge their own course. They are returning to the essence of life, the earth itself. They are redefining human progress. They’re throwing away technology, building a society where the family and community are not just political promises.This is a land to which the forgotten people can go, you know, what Victor Hugo called the miserable of the earth, the dispossessed. This is their land. This is where they belong.