One of my favorite aspects of the Academy Awards is the Oscar shorts. Opening in theaters and available on VOD very soon, this shorts packages format has grown in popularity every year. It is appealing to watch artistic and intriguing Oscar nominees for awards junkies who have already seen everything even before the Academy Award nominations have been announced. These are always worthy to watch and a good form of escapist entertainment. Last year’s Live Action winner Shawn Christensen’s Curfew was adapted into a full length movie called Before I Disappear which is slated to have a world premiere debut at the SXSW Film Festival. The following are the nominees with a short synopsis and quick reaction:
Live Action Shorts
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)
(Director: Esteban Crespo, Spain/Spanish). Synopsis: Paula, a Spanish aid worker, has an encounter with an African child soldier named Kaney.
Let’s get the weakest one out of the way. It wasn’t interesting or deep as it thought it was. This short focused on western doctors kidnapped by third world war lords. These are presented as flashbacks as one of the youths in the movement is speaking to an audience about these atrocities. I could see this heavy handed short potentially tapping a nerve with social justice awards members, but it won’t score any points for skill.
The Voorman Problem
(Directors: Mark Gill and Baldwin Li, UK/English). Synopsis: A psychiatrist is called to a prison to examine an inmate named Voorman, who is convinced he is a god. The doctor must decide on the sanity of Mr Voorman: is he a faker or a lunatic?
Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit movies) stars in this slightly amusing short. This is the odd one of the bunch with a shifting tone that I had a difficult time following. Quirky Comedy? Subtle Drama? Light Genre Flick? I couldn’t tell. It didn’t really have a point and meandered.
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)
(Directors: Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras, France/French).
With aspects of an impressive adult dramatic thriller, Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything) contains some serious intense moments. Other times, it is hollow leaving more to be desired especially with the ending. It is an idea better fleshed out in a thriller. Hopefully it wouldn’t end up having plot holes in a weaker script which could likely happen.
(Directors Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson, Denmark/Danish). Synopsis: A dying boy finds comfort in the tales of a magical land called HELIUM, told to him by the hospital janitor.
This was a magical movie going experience. It has potential sleeper written all over it as the short to woo over the Academy for the win. It was a lighthearted approach to a medical tragedy with a whimsical tone. With a creative premise and an excellent heartwarming ending, I would have no issue if this won the Oscar.
Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)
(Directors: Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari, Finland/Finnish).
Short and sweet, Do I Have To Take Care of Everything was my favorite out of all the nominated shorts. At six minutes, it was entertaining and the perfect length for a fine comedic payoff. Since the Academy has gone soft the last few years, my money is on this to win.
(Directors Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden, USA/Non-dialogue). Synopsis: A wild boy who has grown up in the woods is found by a hunter and returned to civilization.
Feral was reminiscent of the abstract and poetic short Adam and Dog which was last years under appreciated animated nominee. One thing Feral has going for it was how interesting execution of a short but not very deep or meaningful. I think something else could win.
Get a Horse!
(Directors: Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim, USA/English). Synopsis: Mickey Mouse and his friends are enjoying a wagon ride until Peg-Leg Pete shows up with plans to ruin their day.
Featured before Frozen, the short utilizes 3D to its fun filled advantage. With an old school cinematic tone embracing 21st century technological innovation, this is the front runner to win the Oscar. Pixar usually has the edge since more people have seen this short than all the other combined. Get a Horse! appealed to the boys who were disappointed that the feminine Frozen wasn’t starring a goofy snowman. “Let it go,” boys.
(Director: Shuhei Morita, Japan/Non-dialogue). Synopsis: A man seeking shelter from a storm in a dilapidated shrine encounters a series of household objects inhabited by goblin spirits.
Attuned foreign audiences will see the spirit of Asian anime legend Hayao Miyazaki alive in this short. It dazzles and intrigues for a short running time. To me, this felt like an extended scene in a large story to tell. I fault nothing with this short except preferring other nominated shorts.
Room on the Broom
(Directors: Max Lang and Jan Lachauer, voices by Simon Pegg, Gillian Anderson, Rob Brydon in UK/English). Synopsis: A genial witch and her cat are joined on their broom by several friends as they set off on an adventure.
Room on the Broom had plenty of room to meander and lose my interest quickly. It was designed with the look of a VeggieTales video without the Christian message. It was too long for the subject matter and not very engaging.
(Directors: Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares, Luxembourg/France/Non-dialogue). Synopsis: The eccentric, isolated Mr. Hublot finds his carefully ordered world disrupted by the arrival of Robot Pet.
This was the strongest animated short out of the selected nominees. A major strength of a short, especially an animated one, is wishing it was a full length feature. Sometimes a movie can drag especially one with a minor concept. Not this one. I easily desired more from Mr. Hublot in the best possible way. I’m rooting for this one to win the Oscar.