Long Story Short
Sun-Ray Cinema hosts Oscar-nominated short films that mix real-world issues with lighter fare
Feb. 7-20, Sun-Ray Cinema, 5 Points, 359-0049, sunraycinema.com
‘Just like a young man coming in for a quickie. I feel so unsatisfied."
Teddy KGB of "Rounders" probably wasn't a huge fan of short films, but neither was he a great role model.
For the third year in a row, Sun-Ray Cinema is screening the shorts nominated for Academy Awards. And there's little doubt you'll be quite satisfied. (If the shorts don't do it for you, a Black Lagoon Supreme pizza pie from the theater's oven might hit
If you're in an Oscar pool that doesn't include shorts, don't worry, we won't judge. If you're here looking for picks, however, consider Mr Hublot for animated short, though pro-Disney sentiment could help the creative Get A Horse! nab the studio a repeat victory after last year's The Paperman. In the live action category, the smart money's on Just Before Losing Everything or Helium, depending on the Academy's mood.
Here's the lineup:
Live Action Shorts
Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?
Chaos reigns in this zippy Finnish comedy, and that's the point. An overwhelmed wife and mother of two young daughters has the titular question written all over her face in a short that clocks in at less than 7 minutes. The family's difficulties are a bit cliché, and you'll probably see the payoff coming about halfway in, but actress Joanna Haartti carries the film with a very physical performance.
On his first day at a new job, a quirky hospital custodian meets a terminally ill child. They bond over their shared love for toy airships. The insightful boy, called Alfred, knows he's going to die. "Heaven looks like a boring place to me," he tells the janitor. So, custodian Enzo tells him that after a long sleep, he'll go to a wonderful, fantastical place called "Helium." The story gives Alfred hope, and Enzo goes to great lengths to tell him more. Of the live-action entries, this Danish short aggressively seeks to tear at the heart the most, though it doesn't compare to Oscar winner The Shore, which had people in the audience tearing up during the screening I attended at Sun-Ray Cinema in 2012.
Just Before Losing Everything
The tense French film begins with a boy going to hide under a bridge. Seemingly rebellious, Julien is merely waiting for his mother — they're planning an escape. The absorbing 29-minute short examines a struggle that many women know too well — spousal abuse. The ordinary meets the intense, as most of the film is set at the supermarket where the mother works. Léa Drucker's performance as the abused wife is a high-wire act upon which the entire film rests. She never falters.
That Wasn't Me
Spanish aid workers are taken prisoner by a guerilla commander leading child soldiers in Africa. The drama, told from the killers' perspective, gets heavy when the general tries to intimidate his young soldiers into executing the doctors. It's choppy in its flash-forwards; it will remind audiences of a sobering real-world problem.
The Voorman Problem
What happens when an inmate believes he's a god, and a psychiatrist begins to believe it, too? Dr. Williams (Martin Freeman) must try to prove Voorman's insanity. But the warden has no record of the prisoner's crimes, and Voorman (Tom Hallander) is convincing, particularly at the expense of a small European country. The interplay between Freeman and Hallander is superb, and at just under 13 minutes, the short ends far earlier than you want. Under psychoanalysis, Voorman explains, "I equipped humans with imaginations merely so they could dream up new ways to entertain me."
The opening of Feral reminds us that this program isn't for small children — ferocious wolves chase an animal, then confront a small boy who has grown up in the wild. (Distributors noted the animated program should be considered PG.) A hunter saves the boy in this black-and-white film, which features a limited story but fantastic imagery. You can take the boy out of the wild, but not the wild out of the boy.
Get a Horse!
Disney's musical comedy short ran right before the feature Frozen, giving it the most eyeballs possible on which to score votes. Featuring recordings of Walt Disney as Mickey Mouse, the short blasts the black-and-white characters through the screen into color. Mickey must save Minnie from mean Peg-Leg Pete. Caught in the "real world," Mickey manipulates both gravity and time on the B&W screen, punishing Pete much more violently than one would expect. Hard to imagine Tom Hanks getting an Oscar for playing the real Disney in Saving Mr. Banks, but Walt's voice here could help score a statuette.
Obsessive-compulsive Hublot lives in a vivid steampunk world, but mostly stays home, happily flipping switches. The shut-in is drawn into the world by Robot Pet, living in a box in a plot that should get No More Homeless Pets' seal of approval. Then, we see that even a French animated steampunk short needs a montage. (Thanks, Team America!) The mechanical dog turns out to be just a puppy, as he quickly grows too big for Hublot's place. That puts the twitchy and tidy tinkerer to the test.
"According to an ancient record, after a span of 100 years, tools and instruments attain souls and trick people," Shuhei Morita's anime short tells us. A weary samurai lost in a storm seeks shelter in an abandoned shrine. He feels he's being haunted by something not scary, but strange — broken umbrellas and cloth. Spirits bring the worn objects to life, led by a small, frog-like umbrella. The warrior wants to go but first must prove his mastery at fixing and sewing. The whimsical film short has drawn comparisons to Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away. And Miyazaki's The Wind Rises is nominated as an animated feature, marking a rare double nod for Japan.
Room on the Broom
The computer-animated short is the most love-it-or-loathe-it of the group. Those not reeled in by rhyming characters and straightforward story may find it tiresome at 25 minutes, even with a stellar British voice cast (Simon Pegg, Timothy Spall, Sally Hawkins). Kids little and big will love the ginger witch (Gillian Anderson) who can't say no to animal friends hitching a ride. In the fable, based on a picture book of the same name, the wayward witch learns the value of having friends as a chubby dragon gives hot pursuit.
That Wasn't Me
Spanish aid workers are taken prisoner by a guerilla commander leading child soldiers in Africa. The drama, told from the killers' perspective, gets heavy when the general tries to intimidate his young soldiers into executing the doctors. It's choppy in its flash-forwards, but will remind audiences of a sobering real-world problem.