Pentecost. I feel like we get one of these every year, a mini roman a clef about a grade-school kid in which the central gag doesn't quite merit the attention, and Pentecost is this year's. The pep talk by the priest is cute, in theory, but the whole thing needs to move much faster, not least the climactic scene (it would still fall flat, but less so).
The Shore. It's a sort of O. Henry story about two old friends who haven't spoken in a while, and it's acted extremely well, particularly by Ciaran Hinds; his elegance with the exposition is a pleasure to watch. But the big "humorous" set piece is set up in a way that doesn't make sense and isn't funny, and the payoff in no way justifies the build-up. It's not boring, exactly, or too long, since chopping it down wouldn't solve the problem; there's just not much of a story.
Time Freak. Cute, shaggy-doggish plot about two friends and a time machine that doesn't trust its jokes. The throwaway visuals and sped-up bits were the parts that worked, but the bulk of the short is the actors floundering in exposition quicksand (and the guy who plays Evan is not great). It holds the last beat way too long, like "you will say 'cut' out loud, several times" too long. Fun idea, weak execution.
Tuba Atlantic. A man is given a terminal diagnosis; shortly afterwards, an Angel of Death shows up at his door to "help" him. I was almost sure the aggressive quirk of the concept couldn't be overcome, but it's a beautiful piece to look at, and the script grounds itself in details: Oskar unfolding a photo after three decades; the Angel's complaint about her sister and her braces. The end is a tad corny, but the movie did suck me in in the end.
Should win: None of them is fantastic, but Raju is the best of the lot.
Will win: Based on what won the category last year, we can't rule out Time Freak; it's that or Tuba Atlantic.
Sarah D. Bunting co-founded Television Without Pity.com, and has written for Seventeen, New York Magazine, MSNBC.com, Salon, Yahoo!, and others. She's the chief cook and bottle-washer at TomatoNation.com. For more on how the Oscars Death Race began, click here.
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