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 V.15 No.18 | May 4 - 10, 2006 

Film Review

Academy Award Nominated Shorts 2005

Two programs present the best live shorts and the best animated shorts of 2005

Shane Acker’s “9”
Shane Acker’s “9”

Academy Award Nominated Shorts 2005 Live-Action/Animated

Directed by Various

Cast: Various

It was speculated that this year’s Academy Awards telecast foundered in low ratings because the nominated films generated the least amount of box office in years. A preponderance of indie films meant that almost as many people saw 2004’s Best Picture winner Million Dollar Baby as saw all five of 2005’s nominees (Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich) combined. It’s OK, I understand. You had errands to run. You had cars to wash. You were planning on renting Capote as soon as it came out on video, anyway.

Now, you’ve got a chance to make up for it. This week, you can sit down and watch 10 Oscar-nominated films in one marathon screening. And it won’t even take up much of your time.

Magnolia Pictures, distributors of The World’s Fastest Indian and Bubble, have snapped up all of 2005’s Oscar-nominated shorts and packaged them together in two stellar film programs, one featuring animated films and one featuring live-action films. How can you go wrong here, people? Every one of these films was nominated for an Academy Award!

The Live-Action Shorts program features five memorable micro-movies, beginning with the American selection, “Our Time is Up.” Kevin Pollak (The Usual Suspects) stars as a burned-out psychiatrist who receives word that he is dying. With nothing left to lose, he tries a new approach on his self-centered clients: brutal honesty. The film doesn’t present many unique ideas (in movies, dying people always have a change of heart), but the film is quite funny and the cast (including Jorge Garcia from “Lost”) is impressive.

From Germany, there’s “Ausreisser (The Runaway),” a surprising drama about an architect who meets a mysterious runaway kid. The film has a neat twist and is quite thought-provoking. From Iceland comes the lonely drama “The Last Farm,” about an old farmer in an isolated valley dealing with the death of his wife. Dark and poetic, the film feels like a mini Bergman epic. England contributes the comic “Cashback.” Set among the late shift employees at an all-night supermarket, the film has a similar tone to Office Space--at least until some timeless flights of fancy from our main wage slave, an art student working his way through school, give the film a randy and memorable wrap-up. The final film is a selection from Ireland, the off-kilter Oscar winner “Six Shooter.” Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) stars as man whose wife has just passed away. While traveling home on the train, he encounters three strangers, all of whom are dealing with some sort of loss. The film grows more blackly comic as it develops, thanks to a great perf by Rúaidhrí Conroy as a motor-mouthed traveler.

As good as the live-action pieces are, 2005’s animated shorts are even better. The program kicks off in high style with Australia’s “The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello.” This magnificently rendered sci-fi short is done largely in silhouette, a style that fits perfectly with the Victorian “steam punk” narrative of the film. The titular Jasper is a disgraced navigator leading a fantastical flying ship on a mission to find the source of a plague attacking his hometown. Despite the film’s familiar turn-of-the-century stylings, strange monsters and elaborate mechanical creations make this a unique fantasy worthy of repeated viewings.

Other shorts on the program include a wonderful and unexpected love poem from the normally rude Bill Plympton (“25 Ways to Quite Smoking,” “Your Face”) called “The Fan and the Flower.” A second U.S. offering, “9,” is an innovative, unforgettable computer-generated fantasy about rag doll creatures battling a scrapyard monster. From the U.K., we get “Badgered,” a cute and stylish tale of a grumpy badger who just wants to catch 40 winks. “The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation” is the most ambitious of the bunch (and the ultimate winner of the Academy Award). New York animator John Canemaker posits a conversation between himself (voiced by John Turturro) and his dead father (voiced by Eli Wallach). Over the course of this autobiographical mix of animation and home movies, the hidden history of Canemaker’s contentious father is slowly revealed.

Academy Award Nominated Live-Action Shorts 2005 runs Friday, May 5, through Tuesday, May 9, at the Guild Cinema. Academy Award Nominated Animated Shorts 2005 runs Wednesday, May 10, through Sunday, May 14, at the Guild.

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