Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015: Live Action

114 minutes 2014

New
The standout among this year's nominees is the Chinese experimental film Butter Lamp, a playful and probing exercise in cinematic tableau and image making. Directed by Hu Wei and inspired by Michael Nash's photograph Warsaw, 1946, it tells of a photographer shooting group portraits of Tibetan nomads as they sit in front of pictorial backdrops both exotic (the Great Wall of China) and subversively political (Disney World, Tiananmen gate). The camera remains static, but there's a tremendous amount of movement here. As the photographer reorganizes his subjects, swapping in different-sized folks and creating unique arrangements, the kinetic placement of bodies within the frame adds new and exciting dimensions to the mise-en-scene. This is the rare short that begs for feature-length treatment; I could have watched it for hours. The other four shorts aren't nearly as worthwhile: Parvaneh and Boogaloo and Graham pack too much plot into their meager running times, Aya is a slog, and the tense story of The Phone Call is spoiled by a sentimental denouement.

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