We’ve been tossing this one around for a few days and we’re all in agreement that Juanita Wilson’s The Door, an elliptically told snapshot of the effects of the Chernobyl disaster on a family and community, is the most confidently (and competently) made short up for the Oscar in this category. We also agree that Luke Doolan’s Miracle Fish, though its gimmicky finale raised our suspicions, is well made and remarkably attuned to the feelings of alienation that plague its young protagonist. Completing the trifecta of child-in-peril entries that dominate the lineup, Kavi, about a boy and his parents trapped in a human slave ring in a remote Indian village, might have stood a chance last year when Slumdog Millionaire’s popularity helped to secure a win for Smile Pinki in the documentary short category, but honestly, what’s most remarkable about Gregg Helvy’s short is its lack of artistic sophistication.
Eric says over email, “Among the not-irritating hipster entries, The Door has a shot of eight little bald kids. Is that not enough?” You would think, but we called a win for the haunting At Night, about a bald-headed woman dying in a hospital’s busy cancer ward, back in 2008, only to see the prize go to The Mozart of Pickpockets. History tells us that frivolity typically reigns in this category, especially in years where there’s no Semitic-themed film in the running—hell, even in years where there is one (see West Bank Story). So, unless mass delusion convinces voters to read a Holocaust allegory into the single worst film nominated for an Oscar this year, The New Tenants, an obnoxious actor’s showcase about a gay couple persecuted by their weird neighbors, there’s no reason to think that Instead of Abracadabra can’t take this.
The quirky-with-a-captial-Q story of a skinny Swedish dude who looks like a child abuser and aspires to be a magician, Patrik Eklund’s short is a gimmicky romantic comedy about trust and familial relations. It also looks as if it could have been directed by Brent Hamer or Jared Hess. In a year where The Hurt Locker is an Oscar frontrunner, it’s tempting to believe that good taste may also persevere here, but given the party-hardy attitude that Oscar’s voting requirements in these shorts category usually invite, for The Door to win over Instead of Abracadabra would be to live in an alternate universe where Andrei Tarkovsky is an Oscar winner.
Will Win: Instead of Abracadabra
Should Win: The Door