Magnolia Home Entertainment // 2006 // 180 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // May 24th, 2007
Your chance to see the films that nobody gets to see.
Unless you live in a major city and watch the arthouse/festival circuit very closely, it's probable that you've seen none of the films nominated for best live action or animated shorts at the Oscars. You may have seen a few snippets during the ceremony itself, but these truly are the unsung heroes of the international film community. Well, after a successful run last year, Magnolia Home Entertainment is back with another set of little gems for you to enjoy without going to a film festival in Norway. Here's the lineup for this year:
* Binta and the Great Idea
Poverty in the third world and the hopefulness of humanity are blended in this heartwarming tale. Binta is a seven year old girl who counts herself lucky because she gets to go to school. She's sad, though, to see her cousin Soda trapped at home, doing housework because her father won't allow her to go to school. The community wants to give Soda the opportunity to succeed, though, and they have a plan. Meanwhile, Binta's father also has a plan, a big idea that could change the world. He just needs to find the right person to tell it to. Binta and the Great Idea is a cute little story, but there are a few awkward moments and a lack of clarity between the two story lines. Still, it makes an interesting proposition that might not be a bad idea.
* Helmer & Son
Jess, who has recently taken over the family business, is called to his father's nursing home. It seems the old man has locked himself in the closet, and refuses to come out. Jess and his sister Vibeke try to coax their father out, but he seems to be waiting for something. This is a delightful tale, that reminds us that we can be surprised by the elderly, and need to be careful not to forget out relatives. It's a fun, good natured little tale from Denmark.
* One Too Many
Hailing from Spain, One Too Many shows us that lazy guys are the same everywhere. When Joaquin's wife leaves him and his son, they freeze up on the household duties. They have no idea how to cook or clean, and need to sort out the problem before they starve. Desperate, they kidnap Joaquin's mother-in-law, who happily discards the nursing home for her old role as housewife. She cooks and cleans for them, and they once again return to their lives of sloth. This is a gleefully dark fable, and comes highly recommended. It has a pleasant, understated humor that hits the right notes.
* The Saviour
This Aussie drama features Malcolm as a Mormon evangelist who has been secretly having an affair with a married woman. He needs to hide this shame from numerous people, including his pastor and his enthusiastic new partner. When Malcolm is confronted with the woman's husband, though, his sense of morality is in for an even greater blow. The Saviour is a fascinating and challenging film that isn't afraid to really explore issues of faith.
* West Bank Story
The live action winner of 2006 is a gutsy a blast. A parody of West Side Story featuring competing Jewish and Palestinian fast food restaurants on the West Bank, this musical is fat-paced and hilarious, with film references and stereotypes flying by thick and hard. It would probably be offensive if it didn't dole out the jokes so even-handedly. I wish I could say this kind of film could change the world, it can't. Still, it is an absolute blast to watch.
* The Danish Poet
The winner of this year's best animated short is this delicately heartfelt Canadian-Danish co-production. Narrated by Liv Ullman (The Serpent's Egg), it tells the story of a young Danish poet who falls in love with a farm girl who can't marry him. The Danish Poet explores coincidence and the power of literature in our lives, all delivered with a simplistic but spunky animation style. It's an adorable love story, one that rings true despite its ridiculous twists and turns.
A bird gets the aid of a robotic friend in preparation for a performance. This simple, 3D animated tale is less flashy than most of the CGI we see on the disc, but it has some of the most impressive camera angles I've seen in this type of film. That said, it just doesn't have the same depth and creativity shown by the other offerings.
As with last year's collection, several of the animated nominees couldn't be
included for legal reasons. To make up for the gaps, Magnolia Entertainment has
included six additional short films:
* A Gentleman's Duel
* Guide Dog
* One Rat Short
* The Passenger
* Surviving the Rush
* Wraith of Cobble Hill
Most of these are excellent as well, and a few are just as strong as any of the nominees. I laughed hard through The Passenger, Guide Dog and A Gentleman's Duel. One Rat Short is a surprisingly touching love story about a subway rat and a lab rat. It has remarkable animation, as well, by far the best on the disc. The only real disappointments are Surviving the Rush, which is way too long, sloppy, and not funny enough, and Wraith of Cobble Hill, which I don't think I understand.
As with the 2005 disc, the films here have different levels of technical quality. The good news is that each has been given its own title, so all look as good as Magnolia could make them. Most are acceptable, even though many are not anamorphic. There is only stereo sound on all the titles, but it's likely that most of the films (if not all) were mastered in stereo. Really, this disc isn't designed to be a home theater reference disc anyway.
The collection is designed to be a showcase of last year's best short films, and in that regard it knocks the ball out of the park. This is an awesome collection of films, overall a bit stronger than the ones I reviewed last year. If you are a fan of films and follow the awards season, this is one disc that you don't want to pass up. It fills a major hole in the home video industry, and offers up three hours of spectacular entertainment on a single DVD. I'm already looking forward to next year's collection.
Bravo to Magnolia for giving these talented filmmakers some much needed attention and respect. Not Guilty all around.
Review content copyright © 2007 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 180 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Additional Short Films
* Official Site
* IMDb, Binta and the Great Idea
* IMDb, Helmer & Son
* IMDb, One Too Many
* IMDb, The Saviour
* IMDb, West Bank Story
* IMDb, The Danish Poet
* IMDb, Maestro