Butter Lamp (#110 of 1)

Oscar 2015 Winner Predictions Live Action Short

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Oscar 2015 Winner Predictions: Live Action Short
Oscar 2015 Winner Predictions: Live Action Short

“How did a Jia Zhang-ke documentary get into this lineup?” my fellow Oscar blogger Ed Gonzalez marveled after watching the shockingly formal Butter Lamp, which, compared to the strain of self-involved beardo hipster entries that have won this category in recent years, practically carries itself like a miniature, fictionalized version of a Sensory Ethnography Lab film. Composed entirely of frontal shots presumably representing what the aperture of a big-shot city photographer's camera sees as he sets up portraits for rural Tibetans, Butter Lamp blurs the line between documentary, narrative feature, and avant-garde object as brazenly as peak Kiarostami—or, closer to home, the downright abstract 2015 best documentary short nominee The Reaper. And, though its final frames make a statement on industrialization pointed enough for even the Imitation Game-voting base to process, it's probably still going to lose harder than any nominee in the specialized, “Weinsteins needn't apply” races since Dogtooth.