Review: 12 Strong

Mini-reviews: The Oscar Nominated Shorts 2018 (Animation & Live Action)

Another year, another batch of short films. This year, there were none I was absolutely in love with. Last year was full of punch you in the guts social issues and deep storytelling. This bunch felt kind of predictable to me. Nonetheless, there were a couple that I’ll remember and that I hope people get to see in a theater, since that’s how movies ought to be viewed. Here are my synopses and trailers. Mark your ballots accordingly.

Dear Basketball
Los Angeles Lakers fans will no doubt LOVE this film. It’s Kobe Bryant’s personal love letter to basketball, a trip down memory lane from his childhood to the end of his amazing career. And it’s told through a poem he wrote. Bryant produced it and hired a well-know animator, so the animation is pretty great. Oh, and he got John Williams to add the heart string tugging music. I think it could sway those Hollywood sports fans who are also Academy voters.


Garden Party
This one is all about a bunch of frogs and toads taking over a gorgeous but neglected mansion. It’s beautifully and very realistically animated, but story wise not a lot happens. It’s just a bunch of well drawn amphibians having a garden party.


This one is from Pixar, and so you know how it will look. It’s a simple story of a bully learning his lesson. This time a sentient lost and found box shows him how it will make him feel better if he gives rather than steals. It’s an okay, though not all that profound story.


Negative Space
This is an odd little film about a kid whose father taught him the essential life skill of packing a suitcase well. The stop-motion animation is a lot of fun, and it’s definitely the most creative of the bunch. If I was a voter, this one, being the artiest of the bunch, would be my pick.


Revolting Rhymes
This is a pretty straight forward retelling of several interconnected childhood tales – Snow White, Cinderella, The Three Pigs, and others, all told by the Wolf from Little Red Riding Hood. It’s based on Roald Dahl’s book, and of all the animated short films it’s the one that might actually appeal to kids. It is entertaining!


DeKalb Elementary
A young man comes into the office of an elementary school carrying a semi-automatic rifle. Then he orders Cassandra, the school receptionist, to have the building evacuated and call 911. And then he tries to decide what he is there for. With the police outside, he’s confused and Cassandra tries her best to keep him from making a horrible decision. It’s tense, but it didn’t really move me as I think it could have.


The Eleven O’Clock
This one is the silly one of the bunch. A man comes into a psychiatrist’s office. There is a temp there, and he asks her about his first patient. But unknown to her he is the patient and only thinks he is the psychiatrist. So when the real psychiatrist arrives, the temp, not knowing who he is, thinks he is the patient. Well, you get the gist. It’s kind of fun and well done.


My Nephew Emmett
This short feels like it’s the first act in a much longer film. It’s a retelling of the night that 14-year-old Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi for allegedly “whistling” at a white woman.  The film takes place at his uncle’s house as two white men show up and insist on taking him away, and his uncle knows what is going to happen and is helpless to stop it. It’s extremely well shot and such a tragic story.


The Silent Child
This is a sad little story of a deaf four-year-old whose mother doesn’t think she needs special help. She’s assigned a social worker to help her prep for school who teaches her sign language and she blossoms, but her parents ultimately decide against continuing with her lessons, believing that she’ll just learn to lip read. This short is an advocacy piece for parents to help their deaf kids. And it’s very effective.


Watu Wote/All of Us
The lesson of this film is that together we can all fight extremism.  In the film a young Christian woman living in Kenya boards a bus to visit her hometown, but is uncomfortable being surrounded by Muslims. But when the bus is stopped by Al-Shabaab terrorists, and they demand to be told who are the Christians, her fellow passengers refuse to tell them. It’s an uplifting message.

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