Is it too late to add some films to the Oscar short list for the Live Action Short? Unfortunately, yes, that was announced last week, and anyway the 11 new shorts we have to share today are more like short shorts. Each is only about a minute in length and barely has a narrative. Made exclusively for this year's New York Times Magazine special movies issue, they're all directed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who shot Cool As Ice -- and, sorry, also Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan and most of Spielberg's films since.
The "(very) short films," as the NYT describes them, bring together the year's great talents for various kinds and styles of scenes. Each is based around a single line written by notable writerly filmmakers, including Lake Bell, Sarah Polley, Andrew Bujaski, Spike Jonze, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and the Before Midnight trio of Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater. It's not clear who then came up with the concepts and action that go with the lines, none of which appear to directly instruct or inform the "plot," or even have a thing to do with the visuals at all. It was probably Kaminski, himself.
Executing the ideas are veteran stars of The Butler (Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, separately), All Is Lost (Robert Redford) and Blue Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) and breakouts like Blue Is the Warmest Color's Adele Exarchopoulos, Fruitvale Station's Michael B. Jordan and Inside Llewyn Davis's Oscar Isaac. Greta Gerwig has the distinction of appearing in one short (the Delpy-Hawke-Linklater one, pictured above) and writing a line for another (Whitaker's). And there are a few 2013 films where both filmmaker and performer are represented, yet not always together -- there are lines written by J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost), Danny Strong (The Butler) and Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said), who for some reason got paired up with her own film's star Julie Louis-Dreyfus.
Kaminski may not be well-known as a director -- he helmed the awful 2000 religious horror film Lost Souls -- but he has a new indie called American Dream on the way that he also wrote. Will it be as fun as these little films? If not, I'd love to see him return to the magazine next year for another series of short shorts.
Below is a list of the actor and writer pairings. I recommend them all since they're so brief, but my favorites are the Louis-Dreyfus-Holofcener and the Isaac-Bell ones (is it because I watched those first?), which I've featured further down below followed by a longer behind-the-scenes video about the whole project. The rest can be viewed online here.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, line by Nicole Holofcener
Oscar Isaac, line by Lake Bell
Oprah Winfrey, line by Sarah Polley
Forest Whitaker, line by Greta Gerwig
Greta Gerwig, line by Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater
Robert Redford, line by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Bradley Cooper, line by J.C. Chandor
Adele Exarchopoulos, line by Danny Strong
Chiwetel Ejiofor, line by Jeff Nichols
Michael B. Jordan, line by Spike Jonze
Cate Blanchett, line by Andrew Bujalski
[h/t: The Film Stage]
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