Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Oscar-Nominated Shorts Program

It's a little late, but I, for the first time, got to see the collection of shorts that got nominated for an Academy Award in the categories of Best Short Film, Animated and Best Short Film, Live Action thanks to them being shown in Wells Hall at MSU. Now that I've seen these small gems, I don't think I'll be able to go another Oscar season without attempting to see the nominated shorts. Unfortunately, it'll never happen before the actual ceremony airs. They truly are something to be seen even after the fact, and each deserve a 4-star rating in my book. I'm not going to necessarily review each one, but rather, attempt to provide the essence of each one and what they're about.


La Maison en Petits Cubes:

A poignant tale about a somber old man living in a dystopia literally drowning in its own past. It's a subtle reflection of our own world's current state, but thankfully, this isn't the film's only focus. We follow the old man on a journey as he dives into his past and literally dives into the remains of his now underwater homes. The film is accompanied by hauntingly beautiful music that fits the film's nostalgic mood.

Lavatory - Lovestory:

Simply illustrated in black and white, it's the story of a lonely woman with a good heart who only longs to be loved. And amidst her what would seem disgusting job of manning the outside of a lavatory where men flow in and out to take care of business, a quirky love story unfolds. It comes in the form of flowers being left for the woman at her booth, the flowers providing the only burst of color in the film. It's charming and adorable to behold.


A two-minute romp about the streets of Italy that is dazzling in its animation and color. It, too, involves a love story but between two very brave and committed octopuses.


This is the Pixar animated short that was shown before "WALL-E," and it contains the wonder, humor, and excitement we've all come to expect from Pixar. It's curious to note that this is what I believe to be the first entry in short films that has a United States origin.

This Way Up:

This macabre little nugget from the UK tells the story of two funeral home workers who need to transport a body in a coffin. Let's just say the journey is not an easy feat. It's full of dark humor and has an animated style that reminded me of Tim Burton.

Live Action:

Auf der Strecke (On the Line):

A 30-minute drama that really hits the core. A surveillance and security worker from a department store falls for a co-worker and constantly watches her on the security camera. It's more innocent than it sounds, however, and what unfolds is shocking in its realism and revelations. It packs a quick, heart-wrenching punch and ends on a perfectly ambiguous note.

Manon on the Asphault:

This beautiful entry from France is entirely a monologue of a woman who is about to die after getting into an accident while riding her back. Her personal reflection on her mother, friends, and boyfriend are humorous and deeply moving. It's a fascinating concept piece that works brilliantly.

New Boy:

This film shares the story of an exchange student new to a classroom and presents the sometimes unrealized hostility in modern day classrooms. The parallels and contrasts the film draws from the exchange student's experience from a small school back home in Africa and his newly introduced environment in Ireland are sometimes shocking, sometimes funny, and endlessly fascinating.

The Pig:

An elderly man checks into a hospital to get surgery on his rectum. As unpleasant as that sounds, he manages by finding refuge in admiring a painting of a pig on the wall. He turns this content-looking pig into his personal guardian angel and gets upset when the painting is removed. He recruits his daughter, not because he felt the need to tell her about his surgery, but rather, because she's a lawyer, and he figured she could help his case for getting the pig back. The result is something witty, smart, and socially aware.

Spielzeugland (Toyland):

A heart-breaking tale of a mother who's son has suddenly disappeared. It's Nazi Germany, and Jews are starting to be taken away to concentration camps, and as a result of such, two childhood friends are ripped away from each other. The film takes the global issue of the Holocaust and spins it into a stunningly personal tale of loss. It's also told through the perspective of childhood innocence, which deepens the effect. The concentration camps are given the title "Toyland" from the mothers who don't want to reveal the truth to uncorrupted minds.

Going in, I purposely didn't look at which films had won Oscars in order for me to predict and to view each film without bias. For Animated, I chose "La Maison en Petits Cubes" for the winner because it was the most meaningful of the bunch, and for Live Action, I thought the winner was "Spielzeugland (Toyland)" simply due to the popularity of the Holocaust theme this year. Turns out I was right on both accounts. My personal favorite for Animated lined up with what I picked to win, but for Live Action, my heart really stuck with "Manon on the Asphalt."

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