Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animation and Live Action

There are several worthy choices among this year's animated short nominees.

The program opens with "Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare,'" which plays like the best five minutes from a good "Simpsons" episode.

Also meritorious - and likely to win - is the beautiful and romantic "Paperman," about a man and woman who meet-cute on a train platform and get separated, only to be brought together by some rather magical paper airplanes. (It screened with "Wreck-It Ralph" earlier this year.)

Perhaps best of the lot - the one that generated the loudest and most genuine applause - is PES' 2-minute "Fresh Guacamole," a single clever idea ingeniously realized.

There are some exquisite images in Minkyu Lee's "Adam and Dog," about the bond between man and animal.

I least liked "Head Over Heels," a Claymation vision of a played-out marriage separated by forces gravitational and otherwise.

This year's crop of live action shorts is more middling. I'd give my vote to director Yan England's "Henry," which posits that the worst aspect of growing old is the knowledge of losing one's memory, and effectively depicts the helpless and terrifying disorientation of an elderly pianist trapped between cherished remembrances of youth and the grim reality of hospitalization.

I also liked the Horn of Africa story "Asad," about a young boy in a Somali fishing village who dreams of making a great catch but is threatened - and tempted - by older boys pursuing the quick riches of piracy. 

"Death of a Shadow" has an interesting concept - a mysterious black-clad figure who offers a dead soldier his life back in exchange for 10,000 photographs of people's shadows at the moment of their deaths - but the love story that guides it doesn't have time to become specific and meaningful.

"Curfew" has a great visual that I'm sure they'll use on Oscar night - a 9-year-old girl dancing down a bowling lane - but its script - and that of the worst entry, the Afghan "Buzkashi Boys" - is overwritten, with too many coincidental events in too brief a time frame (always a peril of the format).

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