Review: Oscar Nominated Animated and Live Action Shorts (2012)

papermanThis past weekend, Carlton’s beloved Cinema Nova held some special screenings of this year’s Academy Award nominated Animated and Live Action Shorts. Having been an avid watcher of the Oscars for years, the hardest categories have always been the Shorts. One large reason is not having access to all of the nominated pieces before the statues are handed out.

When the category is announced next Monday afternoon (Australian EST), those who went to the Nova’s sessions will at least have a personal view on who should win, if not a sneaking advantage as to which may actually win. On top of this, 10 short films (with 3 more extra shorts included) programmed back-to-back is a mini-festival experience!

Thankfully, the shorts will be screened again next weekend. Session times and general event info can be found here.

My personal favourites were: Paperman, The Longest Daycare and Asad.

 

ANIMATED SHORTS

 

Adam and Dog

Stumbling across a human that seems to be Adam (yes, of Adam and Eve fame) Dog forms a close connection, reminding us of the idiom “man’s best friend”. Beautiful pastel colours and nice sound effects mark Minkyu Lee’s debut short as interestingly ethereal.

Fresh Guacamole

The simple act of making guacamole is rendered in a clever and witty form through PES (Adam Pesapane)’s stock motion two-minute short. Sadly for us, two-minutes is not nearly long enough to enjoy the fun look at preparing food, and we are left wanting more!

Head Over Heels

A husband and wife live in the same house but exist under different gravitational pulls, thus making the title quite literal. A unique idea that could serve well as a companion piece to Juan Solanas’ Upside Down, Timothy Reckart’s Head Over Heels has a romantic Up-like vibe, with a Thomas Newman-esque score alongside it.

Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare

Sent to the Ayn Rand Daycare Centre, Maggie is placed into a harsh reality, where “probing” ensures freedom and the occupants are vicious. David Silverman directs the hysterical five-minute short with a great score from Hans Zimmer. True to The Simpsons form, The Longest Daycare is intelligently satirical and wonderfully funny.

Paperman

Once again, Disney has produced another perfect and heart-warming short. I will not synopsise this one, instead leaving the magic to unfold upon first viewing. Funny and very romantic, Paperman feels like the black-and-white animated equivalent of 500 Days of Summer.

 

LIVE ACTION SHORTS

 

Asad

Set in what we presume is Somalia; a young boy reconciles his childhood alongside the ravages of war in his town. A fishing plot opens the film, and shows Asad’s desire to be taken seriously as an independent. Once soldiers come and attack, Asad is finally allowed to go on a fishing expedition, whereupon he finds interesting results. Bryan Buckley’s short is an unpredictably funny, strange and warm piece, dedicated to the hope evidenced in its cast, thrown from their war-torn countries.

Buzkashi Boys

A powerful opening score (by Jim Dooley) sets an interesting scene. We know we are looking upon a Middle Eastern setting, and yet the score sounds very Western, free from the usual exotic and authentic sounds that we are familiar with of this region. Two young boys – one who lives on the street and the other who works with his blacksmith father – dream of joining the Buzkashi, an Afghan polo-type sport. Their circumstances separate dreams from reality, and Sam French’s second short allows the excellent acting from the two young boys to shine through as the most impressive element of Buzkashi Boys.

Curfew

An ominous bloody hand picks up a red ringing telephone next to a bathtub. Suddenly, we have realised that we are intruding on a suicide. So too is Richie’s sister who needs to use Richie as an emergency sitter for her daughter. Actor/writer/director Shawn Christensen’s short is the darkest of black dramedies with a hopeful sense of reconciliation between its main characters. A special highlight is Fatima Ptacek hilariously dancing in a bowling lane.

Death of a Shadow

A foreboding beginning hints at the unique story of a working shadow collector of souls that have passed. The story sounds like it could come from the mind of Charlie Kauffman, but instead comes from Tom Van Avermaet. Science-fiction elements of a porthole to time travel are present while a dark and rather gothic aesthetic reigns over the visuals. This is material that could easily be made into an engaging full-length feature.

Henry

If Michael Haneke’s Amour and Sarah Polley’s Away With Her had a love child, it would undoubtedly resemble actor-turned-writer-director Yan England’s Henry. Suffering from Alzheimer’s Henry is at first disguised as a mystery. Like Henry, the audience does not know what is reality and what is fantasy. This technique works especially well under the now more frequent stories of old age and the indignities that follow.

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