For the fifth year in a row, I’ve been able to make the live-action and animated short film nominees part of my Oscar blitz. This year, I’ve been so busy, they were actually the first categories I filled on my Oscar scorecard.
Both sets of five nominated films, as well as the documentary shorts, play at theaters around the country and I highly encourage you to seek them out. You can see where to find them here.
While in the past, this outing (usually with La Maratonista) has been one of the highlights of my Oscar Blitz, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, the collections were less than impressive this year.
In the live-action program, the two I preferred are Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me), a Spanish film about the kidnapping of two aid workers in Sierra Leone, and Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything), a French film about a woman and her two children on the day they leave her abusive husband. The husband is played by Denis Menochet, best known for playing the farmer in the opening of Quentin Tarentino’s Inglourious Basterds.
The Voorman Problem, starring Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander, is a fascinating concept with great potential, but just didn’t seem complete to me. Finally, as often seems to happen, the two oddest entries are from Nordic countries: Helium (Denmark) and Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have To Take Care Of Everything?) (Finland). The latter, about a wife and mother who tries to get her family to the church on time for a wedding, was hilarious, but extremely short.
I don’t have a particularly good track record on picking winners in this category, and this year I wouldn’t even attempt to guess, although The Voorman Problem may have an edge simply because of the popularity of its two leads. In general, I have a better track record with the animated shorts (my favorite has almost always won this category), but I really didn’t like any of the nominees this year.
Once again, Magic Light Pictures, who brought us The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child, deliver a beautifully animated but fairly long and boring children’s story (Room on the Broom, the story of a witch and her animals, the plot of which is entirely obvious after about five minutes). Walt Disney Studios, who won the Oscar last year with the delightful Paperman, play with old-school and new-school animation to great effect in Get a Horse! Not really a fan of the original Mickey Mouse shorts, I could only appreciate this from a technical standpoint, especially since it called to mind The Purple Rose of Cairo—and do you really want to be reminded of Woody Allen right now? I don’t.
The other three shorts all had interesting elements, but none completely won me over. Feral, about a hunter who finds (and tries to civilize) a wild boy living among wolves, was probably the most avant-garde, both in its look and story. Possessions, a Japanese film about a warrior who takes shelter in a haunted temple during a rainstorm, had some gorgeous bits, but was ultimately too scattered in its storytelling. Finally, Mr. Hublot, which of these three probably has the best shot at the title, was a cute, quirky Delicatessen sort of film.
Even if this wasn’t the best collection, I highly encourage you to support these films by viewing them in a theater near you or purchasing them on iTunes.