If you are looking to improve your chances in the office Oscar pool, you now have the chance to see some very clever and creative shorts. (And they don’t belong to Senator Scott Brown!) The Academy Award nominees for Best Short Film, Animated and Best Short Film, Live Action are currently playing in select theatres around the country. I recently saw the five nominees in each and was blown away. Now a category I was never really interested in will become a “must see” each year.
French Roast from France tells the story of a businessman who forgets his wallet at a café and keeps on ordering more coffee, prolonging the inevitable payment of the check. A nun and a compassionate homeless man also figure prominently in the plot and the backgrounds are drawn beautifully.
From Spain comes the humorous La Dama y la Muerte (The Lady and the Reaper), featuring an old woman awaiting death so she can be reunited with her late husband. The Grim Reaper calls for her, but a vain doctor has other plans, frustrating not only the Reaper but the old woman, too. (Actor Antonio Banderas is listed as one of the producers of this).
Wallace and Gromit, Nick Park’s clay animation pair who have won in this category twice before, return as bakers in A Matter of Loaf and Death, a funny mystery about a female serial killer who Wallace falls in love with. Gromit (the dog) knows things are not what they seem and tries to rectify the situation with the help of the killer’s poodle, Fluffles.
In Logorama, a criminal Ronald McDonald channeling Heath Ledger’s Joker wreaks havoc on a Los Angeles where the entire town, its people and its freeways are nothing but corporate logos. This one has strong language and violence and is definitely for adults only. It’s also hilarious, although you won’t look at Mr. Clean in the same way ever again!
Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty from Ireland was my personal favorite. A grandmother tells her demented version of Sleeping Beauty to her increasingly frightened granddaughter, exacting revenge on the fairytale characters who exclude the elderly from their fun. It’s warped and extremely funny.
Three bonus shorts also shown under the headline Highly Commended: the Pixar generated Partly Cloudy, which was shown before Up!; the loopy Runaway, about a runaway train, from Canada; and Poland’s oddly melancholy Kinematograph.
The Door is a solemn film from Ireland dealing with the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear accident on one Russian family. It’s grey, dark and depressing. But if someone is supposed to be dead in a film, we should not see their eyes moving around.
Instead of Abracadabra
An inept but lovable aspiring magician, a stern father, and a hot blonde all figure prominently in this loopy Swedish comedy. A 25-year-old unemployed man still living at home with his parents wants to impress the new babe next door with his bag of tricks. Literally. His Dad just wants him to get a job and not injure anyone else with his “illusions”. This one is very funny and sweet, but as someone just told me, “Oscar doesn’t like to laugh”, so it’s chances seem sparse.
This is my favorite of the five because of the moving performance of it’s young lead, Sagar Salunke. Salunke plays an Indian boy who works with his parents at a brick kiln that is really a slave labor camp. Although he longs to go to school and play cricket like the regular kids he sees, he tries to be the fastest worker there. Hope for him comes when government officials arrive to investigate the workplace.
Miracle Fish also has a little boy as its star. It’s Joe’s (Karl Beattie) eighth birthday, and the Australian youngster just wants to be left alone. Bullied by classmates because his mom is on welfare, he escapes to the nurse’s office, where he falls asleep on a cot and wakes up to an empty school building. Joe enjoys the free reign until the mystery of “where is everybody”? comes to a chilling conclusion.
The New Tenants
This dark comedy starts off with a blistering and extremely funny monologue on the state of the world by one-half of a gay couple who have just moved into a new apartment. A loud woman neighbor from upstairs knocks on their door to borrow some flour and reveals that some murders were committed in their new place. Thrown into this mix are a very portly Vincent D’Onofrio as a jealous husband, Kevin Corrigan as a vengeful drug dealer, and a body count that continues to increase. The conclusion is very sweet.
Smart Oscar handicappers should check them all out.