May 24, 2004

Movie Review: Oscar Shorts

It took a couple of tries, but I finally made it out to see Oscar Shorts. You see, it is only showing at Upstate Films, an arthouse theater approximately 30 miles north from where I live. My first attempt was Saturday evening, I got about halfway there but then hit stand still traffic, which I was stuck in for a good half hour or so rendering it impossible to make it to the final evening showing in time. I decided to attempt it once again Sunday. This time I made it, and am I glad I did, it is a fantastic collection of shorts, including both the live-action and animated winners at this past year's ceremonies.

Oscar Shorts (d. various, s. various)
When it comes to the subject of Oscar nominated short films, I always wondered who saw these, and if they ever got screened for the public. Now, my question has partially been answered. Oscar Shorts is a collection of 6 shorts, 3 live action and 3 animated, that were nominated and/or won Oscars for the 2003 movie year. I now know that these films do get some sort of distribution. I also urge any of you even slightly interested in short films to check your local arthouses for the possibility of these showing. On to the shorts.

First was the winner for live action, The Red Jacket. This was an amazing short from Germany, it was a story of sadness and hope. It follows a jacket as it starts with a man who has apparently lost his son and makes it's way to a boy in Sarajevo during the conflict, I believe this is set in the early 1990's. It is a powerfully moving story which is hard to keep your emotions in check.

Second was the animated winner, Harvie Krumpet, from Australia. This is a wonderful piece about a man whose life is filled with bad luck, but has moments o pure happiness. It is a hard film to describe, but we follow Harvie over his whole life from 1920's Poland to his life as a migrant in Australia. It is narrated by Geoffrey Rush in a droll matter of fact manner that is deadly serious and oddly humorous at the same time. The film was animated in a claymation style which works perfectly well for the bizarre subject matter. Very funny.

Next is a live action film called “(A) Torzija ” ([A] Torsion), from Slovenia. This was OK, didn't strike me as terribly special, but is interesting none the less. In Sarajevo a group of choir singers are awaiting a way out through a tunnel when a local pleads with them to help his dying cow. It is a tale of hope and how the help of strangers can bring happiness to someone's life. It was an interesting film, but not one I would have gone out of my way for.

Fourth is another animated film called Nibbles from Canada. This did absolutely nothing for me. It did not seem terribly interesting, the animation was crude, and the story was nothing special. It is billed as documation, a documentary told with animation, this seems to be the only hook going for it. It follows a man who takes his two sons on a fishing trip and seem to stop at every diner, gas station, and food stand on the way and then again on the way home. Fortunately it is only 4.5 minutes long, so that helpedTheHe film also put extreme focus on one of the sounds that just irritates me, people chewing, it such a repulsive sound, it really turned me off.

Next is Squash from France. This started off as a snoozer, but turned it one of my favorites of the show. It is about a man playing squash with one his employees it starts of as just a game and becomes something much much more. It becomes a psychological battle between the two as a man's job hangs in the balance as well as some personal secrets that could mean the undoing of one or the other. The film takes place entirely on the squash court and rests on thstrengthgh of the dialogue and performances of the two actors. Not quite as good as The Red Jacket, but still amazing.

Lastly is the winner of the Animation Short Student category, Perpetual Motion. This was the absolute funniest piece of the night. Clocking in at just 1.5 minutes, it is short to the point and hilarious. I really can't say much about it other than it involves math and the combination of cats and toast with jam. Great piece tendnd the show with, after starting out so sad anemotionalal, send them home with a big grin.

In closing this was a great collection of films. It was nice being able to view them. I can only assume that this will getet an eventual DVD release, the company, Apollo Cinema, distributing this collection has made a DVD available of last years shorts, so I think the same will happen with this one.
Highly Recommended.


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