Like animated shorts, the live action short film category is another one that usually leaves me clueless come Oscar night. It's tough to see shorts unless you catch them at a festival or a great theater. (Tune in later to find one near you.) Luckily, at least parts of all five of this year's films have also turned up online — and you can watch two of them in full. Here's a rundown:
West Bank Story
This musical parody of West Side Story is set in the cutthroat world of competing falafel stands in the West Bank. An Israeli soldier falls in love with a Palestinian cashier, but their families' dueling restaurants threaten to keep them apart. I love the movie's tag line: "A little singing, a little dancing, a lot of hummus." There's a clip online at this site, and here's the trailer:
To see two full films and clips from two others,
Binta y La Gran Idea
Set in Senegal, Binta is narrated by a 7-year-old girl whose older cousin longs to go to school and whose father has a dream that he believes could change the world. The film is in French and an African dialect with subtitles in Spanish, but even if you speak none of those languages, it's still gorgeous to watch. There's also one short clip with English subtitles.
In this film, a young Mormon evangelist has an affair with a married woman and then struggles to keep the illicit relationship a secret from his fellow missionaries, his pastor, and the woman's husband. In addition to the clip below, there's another one here.
When a man's wife leaves him, he and his son discover that they're hopeless at keeping house. Desperate for help, he pulls his mother-in-law out of her nursing home so she can cook and clean for them. The film is in Spanish without subtitles, but you can get the gist if you watch the video below; there's also one clip with English subtitles.
Helmer and Son
In this Danish film, a busy son gets called to the rest home where his father has locked himself inside a closet and won't come out. The video below is a clip with English subtitles.