Oscar Shorts Are Bigger Deal Than They May Seem
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Movie reviews generally focus on one film at a time, but when it comes to the short films that have been nominated for an Oscar, we do them en masse. Not because each short film doesn’t deserve a separate appraisal (they are as diverse and individual as items at a yard sale), but because that’s the way they tend to get shown -- grouped together.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science sorts these shorts into three categories: documentary, animation, and live action. And each grouping is released to movie theaters as a one-sitting program.
Two of these programs are being shown at the Tropic Cinema this week. Think of them as a preview for those who want to have a better chance of winning the office Oscar pool.
Sitting documentary shorts aside for the moment, we’ll take a peak at the two categories that are playing on the Tropic’s screens -- animation and live action.
First, let’s simply list them for your reference (and scorekeeping if you like):
Animated Short Film nominees; "The Bigger Picture," directed by Daisy Jacobs; "The Dam Keeper," directed by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi; "Feast," directed by Patrick Osborne; "Me and My Moulton," directed by Torill Kove; and "A Single Life," directed by Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins and Job Roggeveen.
Live Action Short Film nominees: "Aya," directed by Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis; "Boogaloo and Graham," directed by Michael Lennox; "Butter Lamp," directed by Hu Wei; "Parvaneh," directed by Talkhon Hamzavi; and "The Phone Call," directed by Mat Kirkby.
Total running time for the five animated shorts is 47 minutes. For the five live action shorts, 1 hour 53 minutes.
Pay attention, for these little-seen films are the ones that usually trip up your otherwise perfect score when betting on the Oscar winners.
Unlike those feature-length animation films that are up for a golden statuette ("Big Hero 6," "How to Train Your Dragon 2," "The Boxtrolls," "Song of the Sea," and "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" -- I’m betting on "Hero 6," which is based on a Marvel comic book), animation shorts are often more serious and not necessarily aimed at kids.
For example, "The Bigger Picture" is a rather somber tale about two brothers who are squabbling over the care for their aging mother.
And "The Dam Keeper" features a pig who is subjected to bullying by the other animals. There’s a message here.
"A Single Life" examines the passage of time, with a woman skipping backwards and forwards in her life. It amounts to an uncomfortable examination of mortality.
In "Me and My Moulton," the mood gets a little lighter as one of the daughters in a Norwegian family recalls her childhood during the ‘60s.
Not unexpectedly, the fifth animation short is cuter than the others, being it’s a cartoon from Walt Disney Animation Studios. Called "Feast," it presents an ever-hungry canine racing through a dozen or so dog years.
The live action shorts are more of a grab bag, some featuring the faces and voices of notable actors.
"The Phone Call" gives us Jim Broadbent and Sally Hawkins in a drama about an agonizing call to a crisis center.
"Boogaloo and Graham" focuses on two brothers in Northern Ireland who love their pet chickens.
"Butter Lamp" is a mysterious film about a Tibetian photographer who gets into the picture with his subjects.
In "Aya" we find two strangers talking in a car.
And "Parvaneh" presents a bewildered young Afghanistan refugee wandering around Zurich.
Which of these ten films will strike gold as Best Animation Short and Best Live Action Short when the 87th Academy Awards is telecast? Your guess is as good as mine. But on the night of February 22nd I’ll be at the annual red-carpet Oscar party at the Tropic Cinema to find out.