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Movie Blog: Ranking Oscar’s Shorts

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A scene from "The Gruffalo." (credit: Magnolia Pictures)

A scene from “The Gruffalo.” (credit: Magnolia Pictures)

Eric Henderson Eric Henderson
Eric Henderson joined the WCCO.COM web team in June 2006 and currently...
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By Eric Henderson, CBS Minnesota

Every Oscar year, I’m usually most excited to see the movies that are nominated in the three short film categories. That’s in part because I’ll have usually seen most of the movies that got nominated in the main categories, and also because there’s just more sense of discovery going through those films.

The other benefit to watching them is that it helps you to get a leg up in your Oscar pools, since most people just choose blindly.

All nominees from the three categories — best documentary short subject, best live action short film and best animated short — can currently be seen in Twin Cities theaters. The first category can be found at Riverview Theater, whereas the latter two are playing at Lagoon.

Here is my rundown of all 15 movies and thoughts on their Oscar chances.

Best Documentary Short

killing in the name Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts Killing In The Name (Jed Rothstein)
This short tackles jihad from the point of view of a Jordanian Muslim whose wedding party was hit by a suicide bomber, killing 27 members of the wedding party. It utilizes some unbearably grim footage, but ultimately asks more questions than it answers.
poster girl Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts Poster Girl (Sara Nesson)
An unflinching portrait of a soldier who, though once a literal cover girl on Army Magazine, now battles the ravaging effects of PTSD after she returns from doing battle in Iraq. Director Nesson gets up close and uncomfortably personal.
strangers no more Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts Strangers No More (Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon)
Both Waiting for Superman and The Lottery were snubbed in the documentary feature category, so it’s up to this short to represent this year’s hot doc topic. This look at a multi-national school in Tel Aviv is the one true heart warmer in this bunch.
sun come up Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts Sun Come Up (Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger)
The politically friendly topic of global climate change is examined microcosmically, vis-à-vis a small island nation along the Pacific rim whose inhabitants are trying to find a new piece of turf inland as the land they have long called home slowly sinks into the sea.
the warriors of qiugang Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts The Warriors of Qiugang (Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon)
The David vs. Goliath entry, Qiugang‘s makers spent no less than three years following the inhabitants of one Chinese village as they do battle with a plant poisoning their homes with toxic chemicals.

Will Win: Poster Girl is the most overtly emotional entry.
Deserves To Win: Both Killing in the Name or Poster Girl make strong impressions.

Best Animated Short

day and night Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts Day & Night (Teddy Newton)
This metaphorical delight ran before Toy Story 3, so it’s got the name recognition. “Day” and “Night” spend much of the movie at odds before realizing, to their rainbow-y delight, they work better together. Insider tip: Pixar rarely wins this category.
the gruffalo Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts The Gruffalo (Max Lang and Jakob Schuh)
This is the longest, most expensive-looking, most star-studded short in the whole line-up. Helena Bonham Carter, among others, lended her voice to telling this not-so-grim fairy tale. It’s big, but a tad thin.
lets pollute Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts Let’s Pollute (Geefwee Boedoe)
After last year’s surprise win for Logorama, this one sure feels like more of a contender than its sophomoric satire would otherwise suggest. Cribbing the same cracked 1950s educational film vibe Ren & Stimpy used to revel in, Pollute hits you over the head with its message.
the lost thing Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts The Lost Thing (Andrew Ruhemann and Shaun Tan)
A reasonably subtle fable in a lightly suggestive Orwellian urban landscape, The Lost Thing never really asserts itself, but it boasts quite a few imaginative whatsits in its overall design.
madagascar Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts Madagascar, A Journey Diary (Bastien Dubois)
Though it sometimes suggests the sort of work that was done for a grade after a May sem, the constantly shifting template for Madagascar is consistently eye-popping. This is the most 3-D movie I saw all year, and it didn’t even require glasses.

Will Win: Madagascar may stand alone, but The Gruffalo‘s cast list will not likely be ignored.
Deserves To Win: Madagascar, A Journey Diary is the most truly impressive effort.

Best Live Action Short

the confession Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts The Confession (Tanel Toom)
The Bad Seed gets ready for his first confession, along with The Good Son, who worries he has nothing to confess. The former’s scheme spirals out of control, and the latter ends up with a mark on his soul. Nice images, lurid drama.
the crush Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts The Crush (Michael Creagh)
The second of two “kids with homicidal impulses” flicks in this category, and by far the lesser, in part because the director insisted on casting his unconvincing son in the central role. Ana’s Playground got passed over for this?
god of love Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts God Of Love (Luke Matheny)
Too cool for the room, this modern-day hipster Cupid parable is borrowed equally from Stranger Than Paradise-era Jim Jarmusch and from Woody Allen circa Manhattan. Film students will eat it up, but will the Academy?
na wewe Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts Na Wewe (Ivan Goldschmidt)
A van is stopped by armed militants and the socio-political wreckage of Rwanda is played out in miniature form as everyone inside is questioned about the specificity of their ethnic heritage. Ends on a pretty amusing Bono-ribbing gag.
wish 143 Movie Blog: Ranking Oscars Shorts Wish 143 (Ian Barnes)
“Kids with cancer” are perhaps the only three words I need to say here, but of note is the movie’s surprising tone. A terminal adolescent keeps trying to get a Make-A-Wish type organization to supply him with a naked woman. The heartrending finale, though, reveals what he really wants.

Will Win: Wish 143‘s pathos should push it past Na Wewe‘s political edge.
Deserves To Win: God Of Love is mostly borrowed goods, but those goods are still pretty good.

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