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Academy Award-Nominated Shorts

"The Longest Daycare"

For a movie buff, there are few things as gratifying as watching the Academy Awards with friends and being able to predict a category where you have actually seen all of the nominees—even better if you’re the only one who has seen any of them. You have a shot at being that person by seeing two programs of the Oscar nominated short films, showing this week at the Eastern Hills Mall and Market Arcade theaters.

Of course you’ll have to spring for two tickets, one for the animated shorts and one for live action. For those only able to see one I used to recommend the animated program because you were more likely to see original and unusual work. That factor is down a bit this year with the nomination of two films that have already been widely seen, “The Longest Daycare,” a Simpsons short that played theaters with Ice Age: Continental Drift, and the unmistakably Disney “Paperman,” which opened Wreck-It Ralph. More satisfying are the other three nominees: “Fresh Guacamole,” a clever stop-motion trifle, “Adam and Dog,” about the first canine in the Garden of Eden, and “Head Over Heels,” the sole non-American entry (where are all the Eastern Europeans this year?) about an aging couple who have grown so isolated that they live on different parts of their house—he on the floor, she on the ceiling. Because the quintet of nominees are all short, the program is bulked out with the British favorite “The Gruffalo’s Child” and two unpreviewed shorts, “Abiogenesis,” from New Zealand. and France’s “Dripped.”

The live action category in recent years has moved away from experimentation to a buffet of aspiring big-time directors strutting their wares in mini-features running between 20 and 30 minutes. By that standard you have to admire the way “Curfew” condenses an audience-friendly story about a Brooklyn guy who is getting ready to kill himself when his estranged sister asks him to babysit her daughter into a fifth of what it might otherwise run. You also have to feel sorry for the British director of “Henry,” whose sensitive film about an elderly concert pianist is likely to make many viewers feel they’ve already see it in Michael Haenke’s much-nominated Amour (opening here next week.)

Interested in where the next big-budget fantasy films are coming from? Maybe from the creators of “Death of a Shadow” in which a soldier attempts to ransom his soul from Death and return to the girl he loves. More traditional to this category are feel-good movies about children in other countries: “Buzkashi Boys” is about two boys in Afghanistan who want to win a popular and fierce polo match, while “Asad” features a boy from a poor Somali village offered two life hopes by the sea, as a fisherman or a pirate.

Watch the trailer for Academy Award Nominated Shorts

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