Movie review: Oscar-nominated shorts are long on beauty
Most years, Shorts International's presentation of the year's Oscar-nominated short films is a great way for movie buffs to get a leg up on the competition in the office Oscars pool.
This year, it's more than that. The Live-Action compilation has some good stuff while the Animation program is possibly the best thing you'll see on a movie screen all month.
In these five short films are a wide variety of animation styles, ranging from broad comedy to surreal visuals to stirring romance. And each of them does it without uttering a word.
Two of the shorts might be familiar to moviegoers, especially those with kids. "Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare' " in which the youngest member of the Simpsons clan tries to save a butterfly from a bullying baby played in front of "Ice Age: Continental Drift." And John Kahrs' "Paperman," a sweetly rendered black-and-white office romance, was the opening act for Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph."
The other three animated shorts are also delightful. Minkyu Lee, a character designer at Disney, creates a luminous Garden of Eden in the gentle "Adam and Dog." British animator Timothy Reckart's stop-motion tale "Head Over Heels," about a feuding couple in a topsy-turvy house, is winsomely romantic. And "Fresh Guacamole," a two-minute wonder from the video artist Adam Pesapane (who goes by the moniker PES), cleverly reimagines household objects from Monopoly houses to dice into a spicy combination.
The live-action show isn't as consistently brilliant as the animated offerings, but there are some beautiful films here.
The weak sister is the one English-language entry, "Curfew," a thin New York drama about a suicidal screw-up (played by Shawn Christensen, the film's writer-director) called upon to babysit his precocious niece (Fatima Ptacek).
Two quietly observant films also focus on children, both in war-torn nations: Bryan Buckley's "Asad" centers on a Somali lad (Harun Mohammed), who goes fishing as his older friends join the pirates; and Sam French's "Buzkashi Boys" uses the Afghan sport of buzkashi (in which men on horses fight over a goat carcass) as a backdrop for two boys torn between dreams and obligations.
The best two live-action shorts mix surreal touches into the drama. Yan England's French-Canadian tearjerker "Henry" follows an aged pianist (GÃ©rard Poirier) as he walks through fading memories of his life and marriage. And Belgian filmmaker Tom Van Avermaet's science-fiction tale "Death of a Shadow" is the best of the bunch, a trippy tale of a slain soldier (Matthias Schoenaerts, from "Rust and Bone") tasked with collecting the shadows of 10,000 deaths for a mysterious curator so he can regain his life.
The Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2013: Animation
The Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2013: Live-Action
A mixed bag of live-action shorts, but a stellar array of animated gems.
Where • Tower Theatre.
When • Opens today.
Rating • Not rated, but probably PG-13 for each show, for cartoon nudity (in the Animation collection) and some violence and language (in the Live-Action show).
Running time • Animation, 41 minutes; Live-Action, 107 mins.