Reporting Eric Henderson
Pssst! Want to win your Oscar pool? Well, it often seems to come down to picking the right candidates in the short film categories.
Most people pick those winners blindly, typically picking the title that sounds the most like your average Oscar winner — metaphors and gerunds score highly on this scale.
Luckily for you, the Lagoon Theater and Shorts International will be presenting the ten movies nominated in the short animated film and short live action film categories this Friday, for one week only. So there’s no excuse to enter your pool uninformed.
Here’s my preview of all nominees and a few educated guesses as to which ones will win. But seriously, don’t take my word for it. See them for yourself.
(Note: The animated shorts program also features four extra “highly commended,” but not nominated, titles — Nullarbor, Amazonia, Skylight & Hybrid Union.)
● Dimanche (Sunday) — One of two shorts produced by the National Film Board of Canada in this year’s competition, Dimanche is a wry, slightly cracked look at a boy trying to fight the tedium of Sunday trips to church and grandparents’ countryside homes. He takes to placing coins on train tracks. Nostalgic without being cloying.
● The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore — At 15 minutes, this is the blockbuster epic of this year’s grouping. With nods to Hurricane Katrina, The Wizard of Oz and Reading Rainbow, Lessmore is as arch and dandy as its Wes Anderson-ish title suggests. I thought it wore out its welcome by the time it reached its epilogue, but maybe the forthcoming iPad app will make it snap for me.
● La Luna (The Moon) — Pixar’s only nomination of the year, thanks to the utter critical failure of Cars 2, La Luna is a lovely storybook tale of a boy who joins his seafaring father and grandfather to see the family line of work in action. Stressing magical realism, La Luna stands alongside WALL-E and Up in Pixar’s warm, irony-free legacy.
● A Morning Stroll — But if irony is what you seek (and the voters who gave Logorama the trophy two years ago might be), than A Morning Stroll is your best bet this year. A simple chicken joke gets three versions — one set in the 1920s, one set in the current day, and one set in the future. The second and third sections are borderline strident, but the silent movie-ish beginning might resonate in this, the year of The Artist.
● Wild Life — The other movie from the National Film Board of Canada, Wild Life shows the consequences of a British lad’s ill-prepared relocation to the hinterlands of Alberta. With delicate brushstroke-style images and a poetic, disjointed story approach, Wild Life feels the most fully-rounded of these five.
WILL WIN: La Luna, not just because it’s one of the best in this group, but also because some (read: not me) might say Pixar got “snubbed” in the animated feature category.
DESERVES TO WIN: Wild Life has the most evocative animation of the five, and also has the storyline most likely to appeal to adults regardless of their overall feelings about cartoons.
● Pentacost – As one of my fellow movie buffs suggested, this has the feel of a British Advertisement Award winner, but not so much an Oscar winner. An altar boy named Damian (o rly?) screws up a service and his father punishes him by forbidding him to watch soccer for pretty much ever. But then he gets a second chance thanks to a very important visitor. Basically one long lead-up to its punchline.
● Raju — It’s to Oscar voters’ credit that the live-action short category has often managed to avoid simply voting for the most socially conscious candidate, regardless of its formal level of quality. This year, though, the most obviously socially-minded nominee — about a German couple who try to adopt an Indian orphan only to find themselves trying not to invoke the phrase “First World Problems” — is also one of the most well-produced.
● The Shore — The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore of this category, in that it’s the most obviously expansive and well-funded. However, its excessive length (31 minutes) almost ends up working against it in that its story — about a childhood misunderstanding and a long-deferred reunion — feels somehow shortchanged and preemptive. Still, it’s got Ciaran Hinds, which in this category is some serious star wattage.
● Time Freak — A snarky, one-joke entry about an awkward young man who invents a time machine. It couldn’t be more obviously a student film, but you know what? The last few movies that have won in this category have also been snarky, one-joke shorts that feel like student films. It still feels a little out of its league in this company, but you stand warned that it could be a sleeper cell.
● Tuba Atlantic — This Norwegian short has already won the Student Academy Award (for whatever that might be worth), and that’s not the only thing going for it. A black humored tale of a craggy, sea-weathered man trying, in his last few days of life, to get in touch with his estranged brother on the other side of the pond is canny, with a perfect balance of slapstick and sentiment.
WILL WIN: Tuba Atlantic, which also stands to benefit from its placement at the tail end of the program. The punchline will send voters out on an undeniable high note.
DESERVES TO WIN: Tuba Atlantic. As a Norwegian, I’m admittedly biased, but see if the protagonist’s increasingly vicious ways to pick off those pesky seagulls don’t win you over.