Oscar Nominees: Live Action and Animated Shorts
February 27. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences New York Events Committee presented “Saturday Afternoon with Oscar” at the Academy’s beautiful screening room at the Lighthouse located at 111 East 59th Street. The three hour plus event showcased this year’s five Oscar nominated live action, and five animated, short films and was produced by Patrick Harrison.
The advantage of seeing a series of short films is that if you do not like the film playing then simply wait a few minutes and it will change, which is something that cannot happen with a feature length film that is less than satisfying. The international short selections covered a wide range of subjects from comedies to social issues and were, for the most part, refreshingly original.
Four of the live action nominees were shrewd in terms of story structure. They intelligently played their cards “close to the vest,” sticking to the point of view of one or two characters and not revealing the whole story until the very end. “Miracle Fish” is an Australian film told from the point of view of an eight-year-old boy who wakes up from a nap in his school’s nurse’s office only to find the school completely deserted. “Kavi,” a film set in Maharashtra India, concerns a poverty stricken young boy and his parents who work making bricks for a tyrannical boss. “The Door” seems to take place in a futuristic setting as a man sneaks into an abandoned apartment complex to steal a door. It is not until the very end that we realize that the story could not be more contemporary. In “The New Tenants,” featuring Vincent D’Onofrio, the titular characters learn very quickly and violently about their new apartment’s strange past. Although the film has an interesting idea and many good moments it is marred by an anti-climactic ending. My favorite was a very funny and charming Swedish entry, “Instead of Abracadabra.” The film concerns an unemployed young man who aspires to be a magician while romantically pursuing an attractive neighbor. Although well intentioned he is aggressively incompetent and socially inappropriate in the way in which he presents his tricks.
In the Animated Shorts category my favorite was “Logorama” which cleverly depicts a world dominated by corporate logos (sound familiar?) which erupts into violence and anarchy when Ronald McDonald runs amock. Nick Park returns with “A Matter of Life and Death,” a new Wallace and Gromit short. While the film displays Park’s wonderful eye for detail and visual humor, story-wise it felt derivative of Park’s earlier Oscar nominated and winning shorts. In a darkly comic French entry, “The Lady and the Reaper,” a heroic doctor keeps frustratingly reviving an old woman who just wants to join her husband in heaven. From Ireland, “Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” depicts an elderly woman who hilariously puts her personal frustrations into a telling of “Sleeping Beauty.” In the smart and socially observant French comedy “French Roast,” a man in a café loses his wallet and then has to keep ordering so as to delay paying his bill.
The Live Action and Animated Shorts are currently being shown at IFC Center as two separate programs.