Where It’s At ... Oscar shorts at the Harbor Theater

Posted:  Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - 10:00am

The 90th Annual Academy Awards are coming up this Sunday and you can bet I’ll be watching – along with everyone who loves everything movies and the art of acting. We can’t be kept away from our TV screens for those hours (and hours) this event is broadcast. I honestly don’t think I’ve missed but two or three since 1970!

We all have our favorites and watch with “oh I hope so and so wins” running through our heads – whether it’s for best actor, actress, film, director, screenplay, set design, costuming, etc. In 2016, for me, that actor was Leonardo DiCaprio for his stellar performance in “The Revenant.” He doesn’t know it, but like the audience of his peers that evening, I, too, leapt to my feet when his name was announced as best actor.

Winning an Oscar is still a big deal. Like Sally Field said in her Best Actress acceptance speech for “Places in the Heart,” “ … You like me right now, you really like me.” Academy members, like 6,000 of them, cast their votes for nominees in their particular branch – actors nominate actors in all categories, directors nominate directors, etc., and everyone, regardless of branch, has a say on Best Picture. Then all 6,000 members vote, again regardless of branch, for the Oscar winners. You can pick your own winners on the Oscars’ website.

But, if you want the opportunity to vote – and see every film you’re voting on – go to the Harbor Theater where the Live Action Short Films and Documentaries will be screened. Documentaries, split into two sections, will be shown on Thursday, March 1 at 2 p.m. and Friday, March 2 at 2 p.m.; Live Action Short Films will be shown Thursday, March 1, 7 p.m.

But, let’s not kid ourselves; though short, these films can be quite powerful. Here are some, based on the trailers, I want to see. “My Nephew Emmett,” by New York University graduate student Kevin Wilson Jr. is just 20 minutes long, but they look like 20 tension-filled minutes. It’s based on the true story of the 1955 murder of Emmett Louis Till in Mississippi. The 14-year-old boy had just moved to the land of Jim Crow from Chicago to live with his uncle Mose Wright. After a white woman accuses Emmett of flirting with her in a store, the store owner Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam brutally beat and kill the boy. The racist pair force Mose to choose between protecting the boy, in which case they will kill the rest of the family, or giving them the boy and saving the others’ lives.

Wilson wrote and directed the piece. In an interview with CBS News, Wilson said, “I'd been studying it for decades, and it became a part of who I was. By the time I was at NYU, I'd become a father, so I wanted to explore the specific viewpoint of the uncle who was responsible for Emmett's care during the time he was murdered. I hadn't seen much from his perspective ever … I wanted to explore that feeling about having to make the decision between having your nephew abducted and murdered, or having your entire family murdered. That was something worth discovering through cinema."

Lighter fare comes from Australia with “The Eleven O’Clock,” written by Josh Lawson and directed by Derin Seale. A psychiatrist begins seeing a new patient who suffers from delusions; one in particular is that this patient thinks he is the psychiatrist. What’s cool about this comedy is that not until the last minute does the audience know who the actual psychiatrist is.

"Watu Wote/All of Us” by Katja Benrath, of the Hamburg Media School Master Class program, was made in Kenya and is based on the 2015 Mandera Bus attack by the terrorist group Al-Shabaab on Dec. 21, 2015. The passengers had just embarked on a 31-hour bus ride when the terrorists start shooting at the bus and then demand that the men, women and children are separated into two groups – Muslim and Christian. The Muslim women give the Christian women and their children hijabs to disguise them, and tell the terrorists that everyone on the bus is Muslim. This film, though horrifying, sounds inspirational as well.

Check out the trailers accompanying this column on the Boothbay Register and Wiscasset Newspaper websites. But, why stop there? Check out all of the trailers before buying your tickets to the Harbor Theater’s screenings. And … don’t forget to vote! Then be sure to tune into the Oscars on Sunday, March 4 on ABC at 8 p.m. You may be leaping to your feet in your living room because your pick(s) will be accepting that coveted statuette!