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Incredibly, for four years running, I’ve been able to make the live-action and animated short film nominees part of my Oscar blitz. Both sets of five nominated films play at theaters around the country and I highly encourage you to seek them out. This year, a local theater is also showing the documentary short nominees, although that is a much longer program and I haven’t yet decided if I will be taking it on. You can see the complete list of theaters here. The films will also be released through iTunes beginning on February 19th.

While in the past few years I have been more impressed with the live-action shorts, this year they were terribly depressing. And when I say depressing, I mean depressing. Would it spoil too much to say they all somehow involve death? It would? Okay, nevermind. Move along, there’s nothing to see here.

Curfew

Seriously, as a voter, I’d be tempted to pick the final film on the program, Asad, just because I didn’t want to lie in a fetal position at the end. Not that it was a laugh riot; but, really, it says something that a movie about Somali pirates is the most uplifting selection of the five. Henry, in particular, goes right for the gut; so much so that I can see it winning, even though I think it was the weakest technically.

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A bigger problem with most of these films is that they didn’t seem fully realized. Usually I’m impressed with what the shorts manage to convey within the time constraints of the format, but many of these films were good ideas that just didn’t deliver on their potential. I’m thinking specifically of Death of a Shadow (which reminded me somewhat of early Jeunet & Caro), but it’s true about Curfew and Buzkashi Boys as well.

The Buzkashi Boys

When we arrived at the theater, La Maratonista and I weren’t entirely committed to staying for the animated program, but, after experiencing the grim selection, we thought we could use a laugh or two, which the animated shorts certainly delivered. It’s a testament to how bleak the live-action films were that, as the second animated short began, La Maratonista leaned over and said “If the dog buys it, I’m going to lose it.”

Not to worry, while Adam and Dog was my least favorite selection, this was a light-hearted program. However, I have no idea which one of these films will win, or even which one I would vote for. Fresh Guacamole was extremely innovative, but, with a running time of 2 minutes, will voters select it for such a big prize? Would I? I just don’t know. Similarly, Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” was hilarious, but very short. And does the creator of The Simpsons need an Oscar?

The Longest Daycare

Disney has a whimsical entry with Paperman, which I quite liked, but I would probably be tempted to give the prize to Head Over Heels, about a marriage turned (literally) upside down. Although I didn’t always like the way the claymation was rendered, it was the film with the most meat on its bones.

Head Over Heels

As usual, to fill out the animated shorts program, there were three additional films: Abiogenesis was sort of cool, Dripped was just completely out there, and The Gruffalo’s Child felt even slower and more out-of-place than the original Gruffalo did two years ago. I can’t say I recommend seeking any of those out, but the overall program was fun.

Even though these films will eventually be available on iTunes, I highly encourage you to support these films by viewing them in a theater near you if possible.

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