Sunday, February 03, 2013

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2013

oscarshortsIf there’s a category at the Oscars that is difficult to predict, it is often the short film categories.  The reasons they are so hard to predict is that, more often than not, people have not (or could not) see the shorts before the Oscars.  For every short cartoon that plays before a Disney film, there are countless other shorts that never receive a commercial release. 

As such, The Shorts Movie Channel has been making a point to release the Oscar Nominated short films theatrically every Oscar season.  This is the second year in a row I went out to see the Oscar Nominated Short Films, both times at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

This year, I figured that I should write capsule reviews of all the short films that I saw.  It should be noted though that I only saw the shorts in the Live Action and Animation categories.  The Documentary shorts were scheduled, but cancelled at the last minute (which is a shame).

As part of the presentation this year, the shorts were “hosted” by previous award winners.  The Live Action shorts were hosted by Luke Matheny, who won in 2011 for God of Love, and the Animation shorts were hosted by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, who won last year for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.  Instead of being true hosting segments (i.e. actually introducing the films), these segments are pretty much just filler, in which the hosts talk about being a maker of shorts and the anxiety they felt during the Oscars.

Anyhow, lets move on to the shorts.

Live Action

Death of a Shadow
I love it when somewhat dark shorts are nominated.  In this short from France/Belgium, a deceased soldier is tasked with taking photos of the shadows of death.  It would be a bit spoilerish to say exactly why he is collecting shadows, but I will say that that the short has a sweet and tender side to it.  I enjoyed it.

This is a Canadian short about a man, who one day finds his wife missing and that he is in a strange place.  Even though it comes off as a bit of a thriller, it wouldn’t take too much to guess the true nature of this short, especially when it starts featuring flashbacks of the man’s memories of his wife.  It was a touching film by the end.

Any short that begins with a man’s suicide attempt being interrupted by an emergency call by his sister, asking him to babysit his niece, gets high marks in my book.  This short (the only American nominee of the bunch) was hands down my favourite of the nominees and I would be quite happy if it ended up winning.  With a running time of just 19 minutes, the films makes you laugh, cry, and everything in between.  The film even finds time for a great musical dance sequence.  Definitely a film I recommend checking out.

Buzkashi Boys
This Afghanistan/USA co-production seems like the most likely to win (even though I’m rooting for Curfew).  The film focuses on two boys: One is a reluctant apprentice to his blacksmith father and the other is a street kid, who dreams of being a Buzkashi rider.  This is definitely a film that tries to pull on your heartstrings and definitely seems like something that Oscar voters would just eat up.

This is hands down the most political nominee, since every actor in this South Africa/USA production is a refugee from Somalia.  The film focuses on a young Somali boy named Asad and his struggles to survive in his war torn land.  A major plot point involves Asad going fishing and its highly symbolic and somewhat humorous what his “catch” turns out to be.  Based on the subject matter, I would say that this film’s Oscar chances are good, even though it wasn’t my personal favourite.


The Longest Daycare
This is a short based on The Simpsons and deals with Maggie Simpson’s adventures in a daycare, especially when it comes to thwarting the evil, butterfly smashing, unibrowed baby.  The short was made (but not presented) in 3D, though I was able to make out some of the pop-out effects that the short had.  I thought that this was a very cute and funny short and liked the nice touch of parodying the classic Disney shorts by having Maggie’s face pop up at the beginning.

Adam and Dog
This short shows the story of Adam and Eve from the point of view of a stray dog, who befriends Adam.  This is definitely a short that is meant to tug at your heartstrings.  Being a story about Adam and Eve, the short does feature quite a bit of nudity, even though it’s done very basically (i.e. nothing but a doodle), hence I would say that it’s still OK for kids to see.

Fresh Guacamole
This stop-motion short is only two minute long, however you will be left amazed at how creative those two minutes are.  Using a bunch of everyday objects, ranging from Play-Doh to dice to Monopoly houses, we get to see one of the craziest batches of guacamole ever created. Very well done and funny.

Head Over Heels
Using a very classic-looking British stop-motion, this film tells the story of an old couple, who are separately by gravity (one lives on the roof, the other the floor).  This is a nice little romantic short about how the couple finds a way to come back together.  I’m sure that if you liked the film Up, you should like this short.

If you haven’t seen Disney Animation Studio’s big comeback short before Wreck-It Ralph, you do not know what you are missing.  Using a combination of traditional animation and CGI, this is probably one of the most touching wordless romances you will ever see and if this short does not win the Oscar, there is definitely something wrong with the world.
10 | LOVED IT  

Highly Commended Animation

As a way to fill the running time, some of the runners up were also screened.

In this science fiction short, a bunch of Dragonfly robots sets out to improve a desolate planet.  This is definitely a very visually spectacular short.  Shame it wasn’t nominated.

A somewhat weird French short about an art thief, who takes the forms of the paintings he eats.  It was interesting to say the least and there is an interesting twist at the end about who the thief actually is.

The Gruffalo’s Child
This short, which is based on the children’s book of the same name, was originally made for British TV.  The film was the longest of the shorts screened (nearly half an hour) and was also the only animated short to feature dialogue, featuring the voices of Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, John Hurt, and Tom Wilkinson.  It was quite an enjoyable short and, even though it was not nominated, it was a pleasant way to finish off the showcase.

And that wraps up my rundown of the Oscar Nominated Shorts 2013.

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).