Spare a thought for the short film—and maybe give this year’s Oscar-nominated shorts a look. Every so often someone tries booking the Oscar shorts into a local theater—and usually, the turnout for them is discouraging. That’s too bad for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the short film is often where filmmakers hone their craft. Unlike a lot of viewers, I wasn’t surprised by the quality of Martin McDonagh’s In Bruge (2007). Why? Because I’d seen his Oscar-winning short film Six Shooter in a collection much like the one opening at Carolina Asheville Cinema this Friday. There’s a lot that’s worth seeing in the realm of short movies—and look at it this way, you get 10 movies (five live-action and five animated) for one admission price.
The live-action nominees in this year’s collection are The Door, Instead of Abracadabra, Kavi, Miracle Fish and The New Tenants. The animated ones are French Roast, Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty, The Lady and the Reaper, Logorama and Wallace and Gromit in “A Matter of Loaf and Death”.
I’m not going to even make an attempt at trying to cover all 10 titles in this space. But for purposes of an overview, I will say that the live-action entries are not the strongest I’ve ever seen. Some strive too hard to be relevant, while others think they’re a lot more clever than they are—and in those cases, the films frankly seem longer than they are. That’s not good news when you’re talking about movies that are no more than 20 minutes long. However, the Swedish comedy Instead of Abracadabra has a decidedly cockeyed charm and is frequently very funny. The American-made The New Tenants is also a pleasant surprise, though it perhaps goes on a little longer than it should. Still, this little film about an endlessly bickering gay couple and the strange—and dangerous—characters who keep showing up at the door of their new apartment is engaging. It also offers a recipe for cinnamon buns, which is not something many films think to include.
The animated films are on much more solid ground. All five of these are worthwhile. The longest is the Wallace and Gromit short, and it’s everything you expect in a Wallace and Gromit film, which is saying a good bit right there. It would probably be worth attending the showing for it alone, but I actually think my personal favorite is the very strange Logorama. The film is a not-very-subtle jab at commercialism and product placement. It takes place in a world made entirely of logos and characters from commercials. If you’ve ever wanted to see Mr. Peanut get his head blown off or a psychotic Ronald McDonald—complete with the Ink Spots singing “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire”—this is the film for you. Almost as good is The Lady and the Reaper, which depicts a team of medical technicians in a literal battle with the Grim Reaper over a little old lady in the emergency room. The remaining films are engaging, but comparatively slight affairs.
All in all, it’s a better-than-average set of movies and the good ones are very good indeed. Definitely worth a look—and this year you’ll actually know what films you want to see win in this too-often-slighted category.