2012 Oscar Nominated Shorts

11 Feb

2013-academy-award-nominated-animated-shortsZack and I have joined our friends Lisa and Eric in their yearly tradition of heading to the Alamo Drafthouse for the Oscar-nominated short films. In the past, we only joined for the animated shorts, but this year, we decided to go all out with a double feature of the live action shorts, and then the animated ones at the Slaughter Lane Drafthouse location. Normally I’m very squeamish when it comes to blood, so I partly avoided the shorts in the past because I never knew what I’d be getting myself into. Even though 4 out of 5 live action shorts were bloody* this year, I ended up enjoying** my favorites of the live action films more than the animated ones.

*Without trying to give too much away, our main characters in the shorts take a razor blade to the wrist, photograph thousands of murders, find themselves in the middle of a war and witness a death of a friend. Pretty bloody for the faint of heart.

**Agreed. We both enjoyed both “Curfew” and “Henry” more than any of the animated shorts. 

We’ll do a quick break down of all 10 shorts, with video, ranked from our favorite to least favorite in each category. We’ve got four we’re really pulling for.

Live Action Shorts

The two best:

“Henry” is a devastatingly brilliant French Canadian short about a man who thinks he’s being abducted and slowly comes to realize what is happening to him. You realize what’s going on in layers, much as the main character does. This was head and shoulders above everything else nominated. I had tears streaming down my face by the end. Although I didn’t have as visceral a reaction as Zack to this one, I felt the deep ache in my heart for what was being lost in this short. It was absolutely brilliant. 5/5

“Curfew” was pretty much pre-determined to be my favorite live action short. In high school, one of my favorite bands and one of the first true “indie” bands I ever fell in love with was stellastarr*. I cut my hair like their bassist and plastered their band stickers all over my laptop. I even got to meet them when I was a freshman in college. So when I heard that their lead singer, Shawn Christensen, had written, directed and starred in an Oscar-nominated live short, I was immediately sold. This short managed to make some really grim subjects laugh-out-loud funny. It was a little angsty but with heart and kindness, which is what I expected from Shawn. You could audibly hear the audience reactions — belly laughs here, gasps of horror there. It’s a moving and unique short that had me totally wrapped up in it. Plus, the little girl (actress Fatima Ptacek) was absolutely excellent. Loved this one too. Tough to watch at first, but just lovely and gets you fully invested for a short. 5/5

The Rest:

Death of a Shadow” is Dutch short about a WW1 soldier who dies and has to take pictures of 10,000 deaths in exchange for his life back. Good, not great. Don’t go out of your way to see it. 3/5 This had the most unique storyline, but unfortunately, as is the risk with a short film, I never was particularly drawn to any of the individual characters so I agree with Zack’s rating.

Asad” and “Buzkashi Boys” are wildly forgettable. The end of “Asad” has a funny twist, but neither is worth your time. I disagree only with Zack’s take on “Asad.” I think it is definitely worth one viewing, because it manages to bring hope to what feels like a fairly hopeless situation. I love that about it. I liked it better than “Death of a Shadow” and would give it 3.5/5.

Animated Shorts

The Two Best:

“Head Over Heels” was my favorite animated short, because I loved that even though it was a love story, it was a very different take on a love story. I loved the literal interpretation of a couple at odds with each other, having a falling out but ultimately compromising so that they could come back together. It is a hopeful story, and very sweet and unexpected. 5/5

“Paperman” is super whimsical and charming and lovely for Valentines Day. In fact, I tried to re-create the ending for Caitlin for Valentines Day, but think about the logistics of a guy getting lipstick on a legal looking piece of paper and you’ll realize why I didn’t. See this one. It’s streaming in full above. 4.5/5 

The rest:

Fresh Guacamole” is just fun. Great animation and wildly inventive. I wish it was longer or I knew what it meant, but you can stream the whole thing and you should. I’m not sure if “Fresh Guacamole” necessarily means anything but I love the concept and execution. I cannot imagine how many billions of hours went into pulling this one off, but it got the entire audience we were with laughing.

Maggie Simpson in the Longest Daycare” It’s cute and like an average scene of “The Simpsons” when the show was still good. Worth a quick view. This was OK. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.

Adam and Dog” sucks. While I couldn’t relate to the very overtly religious storyline, I appreciated the viewpoint of the dog in this story and I thought the animation was frequently gorgeous and unique.

They also made us sit through another half hour “Gruffalo” short, which was unbearable*, and a half-decent short dedicated to Jackson Pollack. Don’t bother with either**. Good luck to “Henry” and “Curfew” in best short and “Head Over Heels” and “Paperman” in animated!

*Honestly. The damn Gruffalo stories need to DIE.

**Zack totally forgot about “Abiogenesis,” which was OK but we both admitted to being distracted by our milkshakes after the fact so that we didn’t really know what was going on.

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