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The 2010 Academy Award Nominated Short Films

The Lost Thing

Short Attention Span Theater

The 2010 Academy Award nominated short films

Once upon a time, when you went to the movies you got more for your buck than just a single movie. You got a newsreel, a cartoon, a short subject, and a second feature. Now we get the news and the cartoons at home, and double features are unlikely to make a comeback at a time when theaters are desperate to cram as many shows as possible into a day. But I just don’t see why some smart theater chain doesn’t bring back the practice of showing short films before features. There are thousands of short films made every year, generally by young filmmakers trying to break into the business, and I’m sure they’d be thrilled to have the chance for people to see their work.

Once again this year, the Market Arcade Film and Arts Center will be screening two programs of the short films nominated by the Academy Awards—five live action shorts, five animated—for viewers who used to get frustrated at being unable to handicap a category in which almost no on had seen the nominees. And even if you don’t care about the Oscars, each program makes for a fine dose of short attention span theater.

Assuming that they are shown in the same order as the screening DVD that was provided, the live action films open a bit weekly with “The Confession,” in which a pair of innocent British schoolboys about to make their first confessions are unable to think of anything to tell to their priest. So they decide to stage a sin, with tragic (and, per the filmmaker, cruel) consequences. “The Crush” centers on another schoolboy, this one an Irish lad out to frighten off his adult rival for the hand of the schoolteacher he loves.

The best of this bunch is right in the middle. Shot in black and white with a urban sensibility that will remind you of early Jim Jarmusch, “God of Love” is a funny parable about why love often seems to make no sense. With a great score of jazz standards, it’s perfect for the weekend of Valentine’s Day.

The only foreign language entry in this category, “Na Wewe” is an ironic look at nationalism set during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. (Don’t let that frighten you—nothing in either of these programs ventures far into PG territory.) Another British entry, “Wish 143,”is a well acted piece about a boy dying of cancer whose one wish is not to die a virgin.

The animated nominees are rewarding, though surprisingly conventional—usually this is a place for the Oscars to recognize originality and world culture, both of which are lacking. The exception is the French entry “Madagascar, Carnet De Voyage,” which mixes a variety of traditional styles with computer animation to present a diaristic portrait of the island nation. It’s easily the most inventive film of the bunch.

If you saw Toy Story 3 (gee, what are the odds?), you’ve already seen “Day & Night,” a ho-hum cartoon most notable for being a Pixar product that is not computer animated.

One can imagine some people getting entirely the wrong message from “Let’s Pollute,” a parody of 1950s-era educational cartoons that encourages patriotic Americans to waste resources and foul the earth as much as possible. Imagine Otto Soglow characters in a lively “Ren and Stimpy”ish setting and you’ll get the idea—funny stuff.

The quietly touching “The Lost Thing” details the efforts of a boy who finds an odd, half-seen animal on an Australian beach to return it to where it belongs, wherever that may be. Nothing against “The Gruffalo,” based on the hugely popular bedtime book about a mouse who frightens away his predators by inventing a monster that turns out to be real (you’d be hard-pressed not to like it), but watching it I could help but wish the Academy had given its slot to an more ambitious animator more in need of exposure. Well, there’s always next year.

Watch the trailer for The 2010 Academy Award nominated short films

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