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Best live-action Oscar shorts diverse in style and content, if not geography

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Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Live Action

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When it comes to variety, this year’s 86th Academy Award nominees for Best Live Action Short Film show considerable diversity – as far as style and content go – but geography? That’s another story. All five films were made by European producers, including two from Scandinavia.

See more of Rick's 2014 Oscar picks HERE or more reviews on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

Here’s a rundown the 86th Academy Award nominations for Best Short Film (Live Action).

“Helium”

Directors Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson, Denmark. A dying boy wants to hear more about a place called Helium. According to a hospital janitor, it’s not just a gas that’s lighter than oxygen and nitrogen; it’s a “magical and fabulous place you wouldn’t believe.”

Walter and Magnusson mostly maintain their balance depicting the heart-rending clash between hospital bureaucracy and child-like whimsy. “Helium” goes where many such tales have gone before, with almost enough magic afoot to counter its unabashed sentimentality.

This is the fifth Live-Action-Short Oscar nomination for a Magnusson; he won for “Valgaften” in 1999.

4 Stars (out of five)

“The Voorman Problem”

U.K. Directors: Mark Gill and Baldwin Li, United Kingdom. Psychiatrist pays a visit to a prison where an inmate named Voorman is convinced he is a god. The problem? The other prisoners agree.

During their interview, Voorman informs the shrink he will make Belgium disappear by teatime.

Gill and Li answer the heart-burning question: What if Hannibal Lector had more of a taste for theology than cannibalism?

4 Stars (out of five)

“Aquel No Era Yo” (That Wasn’t Me)

Director: Esteban Crespo, Spain. Aid workers encounter armed child-soldiers at a checkpoint in an unnamed African country, as in Somalia, Congo or Sudan at their worst. In 25 terrifying minutes of cinema, Crespo brings flesh-and-blood immediacy to the abstract expression, “failed state.”

“Aquel No Era Yo” is the most ambitious, controversial film of the bunch. (Intense violence not suitable for children.)

4½ stars (out of five)

“Avant Que De Tout Perdre” (Just before Losing Everything)

Directors: Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras, France. A woman schemes to get away from her abusive husband. In tone, “Avant Que De Tout Perdre” falls on the opposite end of the scale relative to “Aquel No Era Yo.” Both movies are thrillers, but the Legrand and Garvas’s film unfolds in a “civilized” western context: the supermarket where she works.

4 Stars (out of five)

“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa?” (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?) Directors: Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari, Finland. A couple oversleeps wedding day – presumably not their own – then struggle gallantly to get themselves and their two kids out of the house and into the church on time. Just about everything that could go wrong does.

Delightfully zany.

4 stars (out of five)

See playdates and locations for “Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Live Action,” go HERE. Under “All Film Types,” choose “Live Action.”

Also see: English speaking countries dominate 2014 animated short film Oscar nominees.

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