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Oscar-Nominated Short Films

Wild Life

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 otherwise 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.

As usual, the animated selections provide the most immediate pleasures, even if that means that the nominating committee shows little appreciation of new techniques in animation: the inevitable Pixar nominee, “La Luna,” is as cutesy as anything Disney has ever concocted. “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” the likely winner, is about the magical power of reading, though brought to life with the same CGI techniques as Pixar.

I’m always more delighted to see the (equally inevitable) contribution from the National Film Board of Canada, and this year there are two, one English and French. “Dimanche (Sunday),” is about a typical small-town Sunday seen through the eyes of a young boy. “Wild Life” is a faux newsreel about upper-class Brits emigrating to Calgary in 1909, where they find themselves ill-suited to the cowboy life. Both shorts use a range of tradition styles and display a quirky wit: If that’s a Canuck stereotype, well, there are worse ways to be thought of by your world neighbors. The fifth short, “A Morning Stroll,” retells the same story in three time frames—1959, 2009, and 2059. It made me laugh enough to overlook that all the entries are from North America.

Not so the live-action shorts, which hail from England, Ireland, Norway, and Germany. “Pentecost” finds an unwilling altar boy imagining his church duties to be the exploits he wishes he was having on the soccer field. “Time Freak” upends the premise of Groundhog Day to show that the invention of a time machine would probably be an incredibly bad idea. “The Shore,” a rarity in that it’s a short film by a director you’ve already heard of (Hotel Rwanda’s Terry George), stars Ciaran Hinds as an Irishman who returns from exile to the US after 25 years to show his American daughter Patty (Kerry Condon) his roots. From Norway, “Tuba Atlantic” displays dry Nordic wit as its main character tries to stave off death (in the person of a comely blonde) while he gets a message to his estranged brother in the US. Using a tuba. If it were up to me that would be the winner, but expect it to go to “Raju,” the most serious of all the films in either program, about a German couple’s difficulties in adopting a child from Calcutta.

Watch the trailer for the 2012 Oscar Nominated Shorts

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