When I touched base with Luke Matheny before our interview on the weekend, the writer-director-star of the live-action short, God of Love, asked for a little leniency should his Oscar gown search prove too long. Who am I to rush an Oscar nominee? Fresh out of film school at New York University, I think it is safe to say that Matheny will be among the more humble nominees attending the Academy Awards on February 27, 2011 at the Kodak Theatre. Matheny produced God of Love as his thesis film at NYU with the help of his fellow students, and as far as critics and awards bodies agree, Matheny has passed with flying colours. Check out my thoughts on God of Love and the highlights from my interview with Luke Matheny after the break.
An Oscar nomination can mean many things to an up-and-comer like Matheny. Not the least exciting is the inclusion of God of Love in the Shorts International showcase of all the Oscar-nominated short films, a 150-venue cross-country outing that kicked off on February 11, 2011. I thought the timing was perfect for the film’s release -- the weekend of Valentine’s Day -- but Matheny assured me it was “pure coincidence,” adding that “the real God of Love must have played a hand.”
When I prompted Matheny about his thoughts on the nod, hoping for some controversial comments on the absurdity of Hollywood awards shows, I was disappointed. Okay, not really. Matheny gushed, saying:
“The Oscar nomination means a ton to me. I've been kind of a psycho Oscar fan my whole life and even, at one point, memorized every Best Picture winner -- which is still a pretty good party trick -- so to actually get a nomination is an amazing event in my life.”
God of Love has also received recognition from the National Board of Review, Telluride Film Festival, Angelus Student Film Festival, and won the Gold Medal at the Student Academy Awards, among others. You may wonder just what sets this short -- “the basic unit of film-school currency,” according to Matheny -- apart from the work of his peers. The premise is familiar enough, as my fellow writer Andrew pointed out: Matheny plays Ray Goodfellow, a dart-throwing jazz singer with a heart on for cuter-than-cute drummer, Kelly (Marion Brock), only, she’s all about Ray’s bff, Fozzie (Christopher Hirsh). What’s a Goodfellow to do but pray for a sign that things will turn out in his favour? This is how the film begins, and the magical appearance of love darts addressed to Ray sets the film’s adorable and sincerely funny premise into motion. With great power comes great responsibility, and Ray must decide whether to use his newfound power for good or selfish means.
The film is a dreamy romantic comedy, aided in its atmosphere by the black and white cinematography, which Matheny and cinematographer Bobby Webster used to “to underline the jazz-world setting of some of the scenes and to lend the film an overall nostalgic, romantic quality.” The look and feel is rounded out by Sasha Gordon’s superb jazz soundtrack. I have to disagree with Andrew on his valuation of the film’s cliches, however, since I didn’t find the plot predictable and was impressed at the telling of what will forever be time-worn subjects, but pervasively relevant. Historically speaking, if we humans aren’t fighting, we’re making love. Or at least, hoping to. When I noted that Matheny’s past credits seem to show a affinity for the Romance genre, he said, “It's true. Not exactly sure why, but I do keep coming back to themes of unrequited love and romantic delusion.” You and everybody else, Luke. But, in the case of God of Love, it’s never a bad thing.
This is isn’t an official review. But what the Hades, I give God of Love a score of 8.40 Cupid’s arrows out of 10.
If you’re interested in this little slice of Elysium...still with me?...you can pick it up on iTunes starting February 22. You can also get two Oscar nominees for the price of one, as God of Love is being packaged with the March 1 Blu-Ray DVD release of Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours.