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Oscar Shorts 2009

I suppose it’s logistically impossible, but I’ve always wished that some distributor could find a way to supply short films to independent theaters to be shown along with feature films. There’s no lack of them being made, often by talented filmmakers who need a calling card to break into features (for which reason they probably wouldn’t demand a lot of money for the distribution rights).

The next best thing is Magnolia Pictures’ yearly packages of short films nominated for the Academy Awards, this year playing locally (at the Market Arcade) in time for audiences to see them to make their own predictions before the Oscar broadcast on March 7.

Traditionally the animated shorts has tended to be the more rewarding of the two packages, and while I didn’t have time to watch all of those, I can recommend it based simply on the fact that it includes “A Matter of Loaf and Death,” the new Wallace and Gromit short.

I did see all of the live action shorts, and while none of them break any new territory in filmmaking, all five are top-notch efforts: I would be surprised not to learn that all of the directors are already at work on features. An online poll to predict the Oscar is currently being led by “The New Tenants,” a very funny tale about a couple who has just moved into a Manhattan apartment and is meeting their neighbors. Too bad they’ve already signed the lease. The humor is in the Tarantino vein, which is to say you might not want to bring Grandma.

I’m guessing the Oscar will go to “Kavi,” a dramatic story about a boy in India who is held as a virtual slave in a brick kiln. Aside from its strengths in every technical department, it has the virtue of social consciousness. So does the touching, gorgeously photographed “The Door,” but it plays more like an extended anecdote. “Miracle Fish” would make a perfect episode of an anthology show like The Twilight Zone, and if the Swedish comedy “Instead of Abracadabra,” about a fledgling magician, is the slightest of the bunch, it’s still a perfectly amusing way to spend 20 minutes (the average running time of the bunch).

m. faust

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