When you’re on a quest to see as many of the Oscar-nominated films as possible, and it’s getting to the last minute and so many are out of the theaters, what do you do? You turn to what you have. In this case it means Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Video on Demand services. None of the films I’m going to mention today were nominated for more than one award, but when you see a bunch (as in the case of the shorts), it brings your numbers up real fast.
First off is “The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared,” a film that was…ok? But for whatever reason, is apparently the highest grossing Swedish movie EVER. But I was not particularly impressed. The movie tells the story of Allan Karlsson, the 100-year old man of the title. It is his birthday, and he is stuck in a nursing home, and not pleased about it. You see, he’s lived an exciting life: met lots of important people, participated in exciting adventures, and has blown up as many things as he possibly can along the way (he’s super into dynamite and explosions). So he climbs out his window, and begins a new adventure by taking the suitcase of a biker gang member. I won’t say what’s in the suitcase, or what happens next, but needless to say…it’s another adventure.
This movie reminded me a lot of Forrest Gump, in that our hero is meeting important people in history, and participating in famous events. And occasionally it is quite funny. But so much of it boils down to poop jokes, and jokes about blowing things up, that I couldn’t really get into it. Maybe the English translation of the narration was not done quite right. Maybe the Swedish sense of humor is just not one that I share. It was a nice movie, and the aging makeup on the Allan is quite impressive (this was it’s nomination after all), but it was not my cup of tea. And even with all the potty humor, it’s not quite appropriate for children, so I don’t know what to say.
If you’re an Oscars 2016 completist, this one is for you. For the rest…you can probably skip.
More Information: “The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”, written by Felix Herngren and Hans Ingemansson (based on the novel by Jonas Jonasson), directed by Felix Herngren. Available on Amazon Prime.
Nominations: Best Makeup and Hairstyling.
Next up is a heartbreaking documentary about Nina Simone, who is someone I’d heard of, and whose music I sort of knew prior to this film. “What Happened, Miss Simone?” takes us through the life of Nina Simone from her time as a piano prodigy, to her early success, her civil rights activism, and her later years spent mostly in Liberia and Europe. We also learn about her difficult relationship with her husband, a strained relationship with her daughter, and the hardest relationship with herself until she was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
This is an amazing film. The music is obviously fantastic, and I never realized how much of Miss Simone’s music I knew, but did not know it was hers. And while I’d heard of her, I did not know about just how involved she was in the Civil Rights movement, to the point that her daughter was close with Malcolm X’s daughters. How during her personal exile, she began performing again in Europe, but only to a hundred people or so at a time, and practically for free. It’s an amazing portrait using photographs, audio and video recordings, letters, and interviews with those who knew her. And it’s supported by the Nina Simone Estate, unlike the biopic that is being released later this year.
If you like music, and are interested in personal histories and stories of American lives…this is a documentary you will enjoy.
More Information: “What Happened, Miss Simone”, directed by Liz Garbus. Available exclusively on Netflix.
Nominations: Best Documentary Feature.
Finally, the Shorts. I love shorts. I used to go to a screening every year at the National Archives, and it was wonderful to see these films in a theater, the way that you rarely get to do. The only short I’d seen prior to using VOD to get this Shorts package was “Sanjay’s Super Team”, but that’s only because The Boy and I took his girls to see “The Good Dinosaur”, and it played before the feature. The animated shorts were all terrific. The winner turned out to be the one pictured above – “Bear Story”, which tells the tale of a father bear who is forcibly separated from his wife and child, and forced to be a circus performer. It’s all done in a CG-style that’s meant to look mechanical/steampunk. Very cool, and I can see why it won. The other animated shorts in the pack included “Prologue”, which didn’t really have a story but was beautifully done in what appeared to be old-school hand-drawn style. Not one for the kids as it was a) gory and b) showed a lot of naked dudes. The last in the pack was “World of Tomorrow” – a super trippy line drawing/computer animated conglomeration that looks the way I imagine it feels to be on psychedelic drugs.
On the live-action side, we had “Ave Maria”, about a group of nuns in Palestine who help a Jewish family when their car breaks down. “Day One” is about a woman who becomes an interpreter for the US Army in Afghanistan, and the struggles on her first day (the worst and maybe best?) first day ever. “Shok” is a piece from Kosovo telling the story of two boys who get too involved with the army during the wars in the 90s, and about guilt. My favorite was “Everything Will Be Ok” from Germany and Austria, about a divorced father and his struggle to be a part of his daughters life. But the winner was from England and Ireland – “Stutterer” – the story of a young man who is friends with a girl online, and when she wants to meet him in person, he has to confront his self-consciousness due to his stuttering. It’s a sweet story, and I can see how it is more polished overall than the others…but I still wanted the German film to win. It was heartbreaking.
More Information: Oscar Nominated Shorts 2016, directed by Various. Find out where to get them at Shorts.tv
Nominations: Best Short Film, Animated. Best Short Film, Live Action.
What’s that? You want trailers? Here you go. 🙂