Basics: Two British boys prepare for their first confession. Sam frets because he doesn't think he has anything to confess, so he and his best friend Jacob set out to steal this scarecrow.
My thoughts: It started funny with brochures featuring suggestions of things 9-year-olds might need to confess, but it quickly turned dark. The film didn't shy away from extremes, but none of the events were particularly shocking. The performance of Lewis Howlett at Sam kept this film from veering into the ridiculous. It's not the most unique film or script, but it was quite visually interesting and well acted.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Basics: The film centers on the story of David, a teenager dying of cancer. When presented with the option of a wish (a la Make-a-Wish), he wishes to have sex.
My thoughts: Wish 143 does a wonderful job dealing with serious subjects (cancer and death) and infusing them with humor. There's a surprising depth to both characters and setting. The filmmaker plays with fruit visually and linguistically. On the cancer ward, fruit is used to describe the size of tumors, but there are also frequent posters in the background advertising fruit and encouraging people to eat it. Ultimately, Wish 143 is successful because it doesn't try to do too much. It's honest, funny and touching.
Rating: 4 stars
The basics: An eight-year-old has a crush on his teacher and doesn't understand that she won't marry him. When he runs into her with her fiance, he is crushed and challenges him to a duel.
My thoughts: The first few minutes of The Crush are delightful and funny. Soon, however, the film careens into misogyny and becomes a (presumably) unintentional farce. The film takes itself far too seriously and tries to do too much. It does very little successfully. The foreshadowing is over the top. The suspense is far too ramped up and induces eye rolling rather than fear. The filmmaker's take on love, women and marriage is as evolved as its eight-year-old star's.
Rating: 2 stars
The basics: Set in Burundi in 1994, this film starts well. After car trouble, a film crew is welcomed into the van of a group of people of varying ages. They travel on and find themselves facing soldiers and an inquisition to determine if they are Hutu or Tutsi.
My thoughts: As much as I enjoyed most of this film, it's ending ties up the strings far too effectively and sells short its overall message. A serious film throughout quickly warps into an odd happiness because of a linguistically weak pun. It's failure for me lay in its ability to bee both a comic film and a serious take on racial divides. Mr. Nomadreader wisely said the ending reminded him of a Coca-Cola ad when everyone joins hands and inexplicably sings.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Basics: The lead singer of a lounge band (whose dart precision is choreographed into the group's songs) receives a box of love darts as an answer to his prayers.
My thoughts: God of Love is refreshing, hilarious, earnest and utterly delightful. It doesn't take itself too seriously or pride itself on a deeper message. Instead, it entertains and offers a unique perspective on the classic unrequited love triangle. Mark my words: Luke Matheny (the writer, director and star) is a talent, and he's going places. If he were ten years younger, I'd be upset Judd Apatow didn't somehow cast him in Freaks and Geeks.
Rating: 5 stars
The verdict: It's pretty obvious I'm rooting for God of Love to win the Oscar. Mr. Nomadreader liked it best too! Clips of all the films are available on the Oscar shorts site. The shorts are also playing in theaters across the country.