Official Selection: War, What is it Good For?

BY Robert BellPublished Jun 5, 2012

Unsurprisingly, the shorts comprising the War, What is it Good For collection tend towards glib and sanctimonious, shoving one-sided politics down our throat with an unbecoming and haughty disposition. Fortunately, there are a couple films in the bunch that transcend the solipsistic nature of the political allegory. But for the most part, this is just a wallop of idealism with a low-budget veneer.

Starting things out is the worst offender for making broad, arrogant statements: Goldilocks Nation. Psychotherapist June Lawton makes a hilariously glib comparison between "all" Americans and Goldilocks, suggesting that their spoiled disposition makes them feel entitled to theft and self-serving behaviour just like Goldilocks. She conveniently forgets that occasionally the worst offenders of such behaviour come from other nations, quick to employ the inherent human quality of selfishness when given the opportunity.

Fortunately, once that smug doctor is done rambling, Slovakian short The Last Bus uses an ersatz, live action Fantastic Mr. Fox aesthetic to highlight unflattering human, or animal, characteristics during wartime while a group of animals flee the forest during hunting season. The didactic isn't exactly subtle, but it is preferable to the hippie-dippy crap spewed in We'll Become Oil, wherein Romania hops on the animation soapbox about the environment.

Waking jumps away from the political, telling the story of a young woman that feels out of sorts after a dream leads her to believe that she might be happier without the man she's about to move in with. Poetic and dreamlike, it's only the stilted, dodgy dialogue that holds it back.

More exact in its structure is Danish short Bellum, where a young couple enjoy a night of debauchery and accidental animal slaughter the night before shipping off to fight in the war. The implications may be a little too obvious to inspire much thought, but the actual style and structure of the film are quite impressive.

Nightingales in December is a brief animation about, well, nightingales in December refusing to migrate, which is a nice break before impressively shot dystopian future short Creature, where two cats emerge to explore the ruins of a world left decimated after an unnamed battle. Lovers of cats may not like how this one unfolds, however.

The standout short of this collection appropriately comes at the end, making the title, Last Christmas, disturbingly literal, as a young boy struggles to look after his Alzheimer's-afflicted Grandmother in a war-torn world where even a hint of light or noise will attract wild dogs to swoop in for the kill. Simultaneously heartbreaking and bleak, this eerie look at practical defeatism remains in the mind long after it leaves the screen.

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