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Films: Oscar nominated shorts

I have spent the past two Sunday lunchtimes at the Curzon cinema in Soho, which is rapidly becoming one of my favourite places. They have been screening the Oscar nominated short films – live action last week, animated this week.

Considering each lasted no more than half an hour, and most came in under 15 minutes, I have a surprising amount to say about some of them… more than many “full length” films.

Click the titles for IMDB entries.

Live Action

Pentecost – a funny and well acted story of an Irish altar boy in the 70s, obsessed by Liverpool FC and tasked with putting in the performance of his life at a high profile mass. Enjoyable, but very WYSIWYG.

Raju – a German couple travel to India to adopt an orphan. In a highly predictable scene the boy disappears in a busy market, plunging his adoptive parents into turmoil. What happens next does however surprise, and leads to an impossible dilemma. The director successfully captures the chaos of the situation, both physically and emotionally. This was my choice for winner on every count – story, significance and film-making.

The Shore – a tale of a broken friendship through the Northern Ireland troubles. One of them is back in town and looking to reunite…. I wonder what might happen? Highly predictable, though in an engaging and at times amusing way. For me this was the weakest of a strong field. What’s that? It won the Oscar? Shows what I know.

Time Freak – the only American entry and (I’m sure coincidentally) the most accessible, the “Freak” of the title has invented a time machine but becomes obsessed with perfecting his role in minor day-to-day encounters. A simple idea that certainly spoke to this obsessive compulsive perfectionist… I definitely wouldn’t cope with time travel!

Tuba Atlantic – Oskar is told he has days to live and wants to send a message to his disowned brother on the other side of the Atlantic. Helped along by his personal angel of death. Who is still in training. And he’s got a thing about seagulls. Utterly bonkers, but kind of sweet.

Animated

Dimanche / Sunday – I loved the “flat” style of the animation, but that’s all I did love. To be honest I didn’t understand what was happening, and neither did my two friends. Could all three of us have just been a bit thick?

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore – a hurricane sweeps Morris to a mysterious house inhabited by flying books, for which he becomes custodian. I spent the first half thinking “this doesn’t really make sense”, but then was utterly charmed by the second half. The animation of the books was spot on and couldn’t fail to make me smile. It reminded me a lot of Up, but there are many other influences that those more cine-literate than me would spot. Hardly complex, but my favourite… and this time the Oscar judges agreed with me.

La Luna – Pixar have done some amazing shorts over the years, most notably the hilarious For The Birds. Oh, and the one with the clouds…. I might need to get the Pixar DVDs out. But La Luna… sorry, didn’t do it for me. Young boy taken to work with his father for the first time, and it turns out his dad does something clever with the sky. Technically excellent, and probably works well for kids, but not much more.

A Morning Stroll – the only British nominee, and as the screening was introduced by its director/producer who seemed like a nice chap I was probably pre-disposed to liking it. A chicken and a New Yorker go for the Morning Stroll of the title – actually they go three times, with each stroll altering our view of what is really happening. The use of animation is the best of the nominees, and if I weren’t a sucker for the charm of The Flying Books it would, and perhaps should, have been my winner.

Wild Life – something to do with an Englishman moving to Canada and his struggle to settle in, plus some kind of metaphor involving a comet. I didn’t get this one at all… answers on a postcard.

This has really opened my eyes to shorts… Given I come out of almost every cinema trip thinking “that could have been 20 minutes shorter”, it’s probably fair to say I have a short attention span. But not every story or idea needs two hours, as these nominees demonstrate perfectly.

Ten films, almost all worth the short amount of my life they consumed (just under 4 hours total), for two £7 tickets. A pretty good return on investment in my book.

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