Surprise Endings

2012 Academy Short Films

Among the five live-action short films nominated for the 2012 Oscars, there is no masterpiece like last year’s Na Wewe from Belgium, and there are two duds. But the three others are of high quality. While the 2011 nominees had in common a concern with the spiritual life, the current ones share only a dramatic device: the surprise ending or (in the case of Raju) a mid-film discovery that changes the course of the story.

First, the duds. One of the two Irish entries, Pentecost, is nothing but a joke with a lame punchline. Because of his overly enthusiastic wielding of a censer during Mass, Damian has lost the honor of being an altar boy, an honor he could well dispense with since his sole passion is for watching soccer on TV. But when an archbishop comes to celebrate Pentecost Sunday at his parish, Damian is called back to service because, as one priest puts it, he’s “the only trained incense burner” around. Filmmakers Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane have a gift for comic monologue: the pre-Mass pep talk the altar boys get on the big day is a hilarious parody of a Knute Rockne locker-room rouser...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.