Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014
by M. Faust
Having learned over the years that audiences are more likely to watch the Academy Awards telecast when they have been exposed to as many of the nominated films as possible, the nominees for the short films awards are once again being made available to theaters. Beginning this Friday, two separate programs of the live-action and animated shorts will be playing at the Market Arcade and Eastern Hills Mall theaters.
In the years that I’ve been watching these compilations, the nominees seem to have gone pointedly both international and audience-friendly. There’s very little experimental animation on display anymore (nothing from former perennial the National Film Board of Canada), and the live-action films are more like mini-movies, traditional if well crafted works that differ from features only by virtue of length, most of them running close to a half hour.
Were I an eligible voter, I might almost cast my ballot for the charming comedy Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?, if only because it does what it wants to do in seven minutes. An ingratiatingly ordinary looking Finnish family struggles to get ready at the last minute for a wedding, as everything they touch falls apart. We’ve all had those days, but it’s much funnier when it happens to someone else.
But I’ll be surprised if the winner doesn’t turn out to be That Wasn’t Me, from Spain, about the horrifying issue of children conscripted as soldiers by renegade militias in Africa. Intensely moving, the film is far less horrifying than documentaries I’ve seen on the subject, though it is in sharp moments painful enough to view.
Of the other nominees, Just Before Losing Everything, from France, is an exercise in suspense about a woman and her children trying to escape from an abusive spouse that is eventually surprising for being exactly what it seems to be, despite a reticence that had me expecting an O. Henry-ish turnaround. Helium (Denmark) tells the charming story of a hospital janitor who spins an alternate vision of the afterlife for a dying boy who doesn’t like the description of the “Heaven” that everyone say’s he’s going to. The Voorman Problem (England), starring Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander is a slight but likeable query (from an idea by “Peep Show”’s David Mitchell) into the question, how does God amuse himself with humanity?
Of the animated shorts, my vote would be for Feral, an adaptation of the oft-told 19th-century story of a boy raised by wolves who is brought into civilization. I was charmed primarily by its simplicity, both in storytelling and design; nearly as monochromatic as a watercolor, it works in broad washes rather than ostentatious details, showing a kind of individualistic animation that is rare in these days of computer generated overkill.
But I expect the award to go either to Get a Horse, like Saving Mr. Banks a Disney entry celebrating the history of Disney, or Room on the Broom, from the makers of the audience favorite “The Gruffalo” and very much in the same spirit. Fans of anime can root for Possessions, from Japan; if you prefer steampunk, there’s the humorous Mr. Hublot, a co-production of France and Luxembourg.
Watch the trailer for Oscar Nominated Shorts
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