Yesterday, I saw the AA-nominated short films in the Animation and Live Action categories. Academy rules define a short as any film under an hour, and some were only a few minutes. Overall, they were not the downers this year’s documentaries were (blurbed here). Links take you to the films or at least to trailers, for a taste of the tremendous diversity involved.
I don’t know enough about the animated category to discriminate, and the techniques are vastly different across films. Here are the nominees:
- Sanjay’s Super Team – a young boy’s fantasy reconciles his love of superheroes and his father’s traditional Hindu gods. Beautifully rendered and quite sweet in its message. (7 minutes, from Pixar and Disney, directed by Sanjay Patel)
- World of Tomorrow – the most graphically abstract, with what seemed like a lot of interesting points, but so fast-moving I couldn’t absorb them all. Funny in places, but ultimately disturbing. (17 minutes, United States, by Don Hertzfeldt)
- Bear Story – already the winner of many awards, hyper-detailed graphics portray a bear who has created a complex hurdy-gurdy that shows a story paralleling the creator’s own yearning to regain his family. Richly visual; this one seems the likely winner. (11 minutes, Chile, directed by Gabriel Osorio Vargas)
- We Can’t Live Without Cosmos – cosmonaut training and close friendship prepare two men for outer space. Then things go wrong. Relatively simple graphics and an interesting story. I liked this one best. (16 minutes, Russia, Konstantin Bronzit)
- Prologue – parents were advised to remove their children for this one (nudity and violence) Wisely. Beautiful pencil drawing technique showed a battle among four sword-wielding warriors. My lingering question was “why?” (6 minutes, British, directed by Richard Williams)
A few additional animated films were shown in this program in some not-quite-nominated category, my favorite of which was from France: The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse.
The Live Action shorts covered a wide range, and each had its fans.
- Ave Maria – what happens when an Israeli family’s car crashes at the door of a nunnery in the rural West Bank, knocking over and decapitating a statue of the VM. The man wants to use the nuns’ phone to call for a ride, but between the nuns’ vow of silence and the Sabbath prohibition against using anything mechanical, everyone is at odds. The man’s mother has lots to say about the whole situation. The only comedy, this was my favorite. (15 minutes, Palestine, France, Germany, directed by Basil Khalil)
- Shok (“Friend”) – When war breaks out and their town is occupied by Serbian soldiers, two Albanian schoolboys come to understand how fragile society’s veneer of trust really is. This seems the most likely winner, providing the most complete story. (21 minutes, Kosovo, Jamie Donoughue)
- Everything Will Be Okay – from the title, as you can guess, everything is definitely not OK. A divorced father picks up his daughter for her regular overnight visit with him, but he has something entirely out of the norm planned. The actor playing the daughter steals the show, as she gradually realizes what’s happening. (30 minutes, Germany, Austria, Patrick Vollrath)
- Stutterer – a young London man with a severe stutter has a six-month online relationship with a woman that goes amazingly well, until she comes to town and proposes they meet in person. Will he go through with it? Very sweet and a sentimental favorite. (12 minutes, UK, Benjamin Cleary)
- Day One – A new-on-the-job Afghan-American interpreter for the U.S. military is confronted with a series of horrifying events. I thought the story had a whiff of the predictable about it, though all the acting was top-notch. (25 minutes, United States, Henry Hughes)
If you need to kill some time waiting for results in the short features categories, you might play a little Oscars 2016 Bingo, courtesy of Wired and Brian Raftery. I’ll be on the lookout for B3: “Louis Gossett Jr. pretends to understand whatever it is Lady Gaga is doing up there.”