Greetings again from the darkness. Yes, it’s almost Oscar time again! This past weekend, I took my annual trek to the Magnolia Theatre to check out this year’s nominated Short Films – Animated and Live Action. If you have never taken advantage of this opportunity, I would encourage you to do so. It is always an interesting 3-4 hours that keeps your mind (and eyes) spinning, while reminding us that short films are quite a different skill set than feature films. Though I didn’t find this year’s films to be exceptionally memorable, it’s still insightful to view the variance in styles and substance from different countries and filmmakers. I must say the nominations were a bit heavy on drama, with only a couple of exceptions. Even the animation films were mostly adult in nature, which is unusual.
Below is my quick recap of each, with each category in order of my preference (not my Oscar predictions):
Helium (Denmark) – a young, terminally ill boy is bed-ridden and trying to come to terms with waiting to die. A kindly orderly befriends him and weaves a fantastical ongoing story to ease the boy’s acceptance of the afterlife. It’s a combination of fine acting and special effects.
That Wasn’t Me (Aquel No Era Yo, Spain) – aid workers are taken hostage in Sierra Leone and we witness the brutal atrocities of war with an emphasis on child soldiers. It is extremely well made, but torturous to watch.
Do I Have to Take Care of Everything? (Finland) – a light-hearted look at the chaotic morning of a family running late for a wedding, and the added stress brought on by a Supermom. This was a nice dose of levity amongst the darker films.
The Voorman Problem (UK) – Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander (pictured left) star in a an unusual prison-based vignette where, this time, it’s not the doctor who thinks he is God.
Just Before Losing Everything (Avant Que De Tout Perdre, France) – a frustrating situation where a mother tries to extricate herself and her kids from an abusive home place. I say frustrating because no one will pick up the phone and call the freakin’ cops. I understand the fear, but this sets a horrible example for those in this situation.
Room on the Broom (UK) – this is the simplest story of the group, and it’s designed to be a children’s story with a message. An extremely friendly witch and her constantly annoyed cat team up with a dog, a bird and a frog to defeat a fire-breathing dragon. It’s from the people who brought us The Gruffalo, and has celebrity voice acting from Gillian Anderson, Simon Pegg and Sally Hawkins.
Mr Hublot (France) – the most intricate and stunning animation of the group features an obsessive-compulsive recluse whose life changes dramatically after he adopts a robodog.
Get a Horse! (U.S.) – the Disney entry is undoubtedly the most-seen of the group since it was shown prior to Frozen, one of the year’s biggest box office hits. It’s a fabulous combination of old and new, as it starts out in classic Black & White and morphs into full color. Mickey (Walt Disney’s voice) and Minnie Mouse are on a joyride with Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow until Peg-leg Pete starts causing trouble. The only problem with this one is the frenetic pace that makes it impossible to catch all the sight gags.
Feral (U.S.) – speaking of retro, this is Daniel Sousa’s hand-drawn, slightly dark story of the attempt to civilize a young boy raised in the woods. While it looks beautiful, the story seems incomplete.
Possessions (Japan) – in the footsteps of Japan’s fantastic history of anime, a traveler takes refuge from a storm in a most unusual temple. The colors are amazing, but the story lacks a real message … every item has a soul??
**NOTE: since it was presented as “Commended”, I would like to mention Pixar’s The Blue Umbrella, which somehow did not make the final cut. It was shown prior to Monsters University and is a visual delight, and includes the usual Pixar emotions.
here is the teaser trailer for The Blue Umbrella: