116 CAMERAS Directed by Davina Pardo
It’s a lamentable fact of life that Academy voters, due to membership demographics — sigh — lap up stories inspired by the legacy of the Holocaust like catnip, so I’m throwing a bone out there with the full expectation that this work might actually win an Oscar®. Falls into the wheelhouse of recent works like LISTEN TO ME MARLON (2015) that combines technology and the weight of memory for impact.
ALONE Directed by Garrett Bradley
This monochrome meditation of a young woman who pines for a lover stranded in the prison system is filled with powerful and shocking sequences — that middle scene, in which her wedding announcement is met with vehement disapproval, to say the least, is framed in a single shot that is as American as it is a patent falsehood. Out of left-field, sure, but powerful and guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings.
FOREVER, CHINATOWN Directed by James Q. Chan
A film that wasn’t on the Academy shortlist (or any list, for that matter) but still a vital, inventive, and knowing portrait of a community and the remarkable individual with a unique way of preserving and perpetuating it, FOREVER, CHINATOWN hinges on the compelling story of a self-taught retiree and the exacting scale-model miniatures that bring San Francisco Chinatown to life.
KAYAYO, THE LIVING SHOPPING BASKETS Directed by Mari Bakke Riise
In many ways a work of unabashed poverty porn, this slice-of-life documentary is intended to elicit empathy, or at most, to engender a call-to-action. reminiscent of a standard-issue National Geographic docu, I doubt that nothing much of the sort will happen. But in the meantime, this selection might make Academy members feel good that this choice plays on their best “yes, we care” inclinations.
TEN METER TOWER Directed by Axel Danielson and Erik Hemmendorff
A fixture on YouTube for the entirety of this awards season, this trifle of a motion picture — basically a trained camera observing a parade of nobodies chickening out at the prospect of diving off a ten-meter platform — intimates that us normal people are something much less than the Olympians we fantasize being. In an actual Olympic year, that thought is positively sobering.
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