Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont’s Manon on the Asphalt is a whimsical evocation of a woman’s life flashing before her eyes, but On the Line is the real standout here: The story of a department store security guard obsessed with a book clerk, Reto Caffi’s short risks meet-cute contrivance until a horrifying act of violence provokes the main character to examine the implications of his infatuation. From Denmark, The Pig begins as mysteriously as On the Line ends, with an interesting relationship imagined between an older gentleman and the painting of a pig that hangs from his hospital room, only to devolve into a shrill, rather supremacist why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along rant. If On the Line bears a striking resemblance to Revanche over in the foreign language category, so too does New Boy bring to mind The Class. Except this is a noticeably dumbed-down version of Laurent Cantet’s Cannes prizewinner—one in which a young African immigrant boy struggles with bullies during his first day of class, his embarrassment intercut with scenes from his experiences inside his previous place of learning in violent, succulently shot Africa. Director Steph Green’s literally infantilizes the struggle of immigrants trying to cope with their new surroundings, and though there’s no doubt the short will appeal to the Academy (here’s looking at you fans of Crash, Blood Diamond, The Visitor, and Frozen River), it’s probably unwise to vote against Toyland. Throughout this WWII-set story of a woman who convinces her son that her Jewish neighbors are headed to Toyland, director Jochen Alexander Freydank risks the gross insult of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but he makes interesting use of chronology throughout, in the end foregrounding a woman’s frightened courage and conviction to preserving life rather than making a tacky spectacle of death.
Will Win: Toyland
Should Win: On the Line