2018 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Documentary Reviews
Best Documentary Short Subject:
"Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405," Frank Stiefel - This is an amazing and intimate portrait of an artist, Mindy Alper, who has suffered from life-long mental illness. I was mesmerized throughout, listening to the interviews, the life history, interactions with family and friends, the serious struggles, the impacts upon her life, and how art, those in the art world, and those in the mental health profession, have helped to give her some modicum of joy in an otherwise depressing life. Interwoven into the film is her art, and it interacts perfectly with her state of mind. Even the way Alper speaks, and her pronunciations of words, was utterly unique. Instead of "when I was 19," she would say, "when I was one-nine." Instead of saying 10 years, she would say "after ten times around the sun." And once you watch the film, you will understand why. If I had a vote, I would choose this to win the Oscar.
"Traffic Stop," Kate Davis, David Heilbroner - Although anyone can enjoy and be impacted by this film, as a defense attorney, it really spoke to me, and I am glad this documentary was produced. It is about a traffic stop for speeding that turned violent. What made it unique was how it humanized the person who was stopped, a 112-pound schoolteacher named Breaion King, showing her life and personality, and hopefully will cause an incident of excessive use of force by an officer, combined with potential racial factors that may have influenced the incident, to be brought home to the viewer in a more meaningful way. I think the film highlights all the more why video recordings - both in-car and body-worn cameras - are extremely important and should be required by law. I would give this film my silver medal.
"Edith+Eddie," Laura Checkoway, Thomas Lee Wright - This film was thought-provoking in that it asks us whether, even though a woman is 95 or 96 years old, and suffers from some mild dementia, and is under a guardianship, she should be able to get married, and have some say over her own life. The film has its clear point of view, painting the legal caretakers as monsters who are out to break up an elderly interracial relationship, and showing Edith and Eddie's need for love, camaraderie, and affection, and Edith's desire to remain in her own home with Eddie despite the will of the powers-that-be, and it certainly does a good job of it. This film will make you afraid to get old, and question whether the American legal system, particularly when it comes to the elderly, is getting it right. I give this one the bronze medal.
"Heroin(e)," Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Kerrin Sheldon - This film addresses the serious heroin epidemic, and how the courts, law enforcement, and fire department in West Virginia all are trying to handle the situation in as humane a manner as possible in a very life-threatening situation of a very powerful addiction. Interesting, important, and informative from a social perspective, though as a film I thought it was a bit too long and not all that entertaining.
"Knife Skills," Thomas Lennon - A simple yet effective idea - create a restaurant staffed entirely by ex-convicts. The film shows the challenges, struggles, and successes of those who are trying to make a new life for themselves, and those who are trying to help them do it. A nice idea and great message, but as a film and a story it could have been edited down just a bit more.