Every year, Oscars go to some films that, unfortunately, almost no one sees, like animated and live-action shorts. The New Orleans Film Society presents the 2010 Oscar-nominated live action short films.
Director Joachim Back has created ads for Bud Light, Doritos and Viagra (for which he won an award at Cannes). Some of those commercial skills are apparent in his 20-minute film The New Tenants, in which he makes every word count and uncorks some rather brilliant twists. He opens with a very tight focus on a couple of roommates who can barely contain the tension of their smoker/nonsmoker divide, but nothing resolves petty differences like the appearance of even more annoying outsiders. The neighbors come knocking and the film blossoms into a David Lynch-like mix of dark humor and inspired psychosis.
The sole intentionally funny entry is the Swedish inclusion, Instead of Abracadabra. Somewhere in his twenties and still living with his parents, Tomas has spent his life trying to master the craft of magic, adding his own clunky Nordic death metal spin. It'll be a great feat if he avoids maiming any of his unsuspecting volunteers. But when he meets a young nurse, he sets out to make the most of his modest talents and put on an unforgettable performance.
Far more serious are a trio of films involving the suffering of children. Kavi (pictured) is beautifully shot in the burnt oranges of a brick yard in India, but it is a predictable tale of the cruelty of child labor. The Australian film Miracle Fish pulls a bait and switch that is ultimately bleak and unsatisfying. And it doesn't take long to figure out what is going on in The Door, filmed in Kiev (in Russian with subtitles), but in spite of its austerity and deliberately slow pace, it's achingly well done and heart-breaking.
The international array of films is a mixed bag of subjects and tones, but The New Tenants and The Door show the kind of brilliant work that can be done with short films. Tickets $8 general admission, $6 NOFS members. — Will Coviello
2010 Oscar-Nominated Live-Action Short Films
2:30 p.m. Fri.-Thu., Feb. 26-March 4
Prytania Theatre, 5339 Prytania St., 891-2787; www.neworleansfilmfest.com