Saturday, August 2, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Long story short: Chance to catch Oscar nominees

Animated short "Room on the Broom," directed by Max Lang and Jan Lachauer.
Animated short "Room on the Broom," directed by Max Lang and Jan Lachauer.

HOW TO beat this horrendous arctic cold spell? Just slip into your shorts - the live-action and animated ones nominated for the upcoming Academy Awards. It's a particularly good crop in both categories.

What I love most is the unpredictable international smorgasbord, and these 2014 short subjects - between 6 and 26 minutes long - are tastier than usual.

In the animation department, they range from fairy-tale fantasy to flights of futuristic fancy:

"Room on the Broom" (directed by Max Lang and Jan Lachauer; UK; 25 minutes): The Least Wicked Witch of the East or West has a sweet disposition and joie de vivre unusual for her profession. She's a happy, user-friendly kind of witch, but she keeps losing things in mid-air and having to retrieve them, aided by her faithful feline companion and various critters on the ground, who all ask the same question: Is there room for them on the broom, too?

"Mr. Hublot" (Laurent Witz; Luxembourg/France; 11 minutes): The hero is described as "a withdrawn, idiosyncratic character with OCD." This agoraphobic man-of-the-future, made of (spare) mechanical parts, wears quadrifocal corrective lenses and an odometer on his forehead with constantly running numbers, like an electric meter. The invasive arrival of a stray mechanized dog disturbs his terrifically drawn dystopia.

"Get a Horse!" (Lauren MacMullen; USA; 6 minutes): Walt Disney checks in from the beyond in this state-of-the-CGI-art homage to early Mickey Mouse. Mick, Minnie, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow are having a jolly hay wagon ride when interrupted and menaced by Peg-Leg Pete. Suddenly, the violent Punch & Judy action (not so politically correct these days) spills over from its 1928 vintage black-and-white 2-D screen into 3-D color - and the movie theater itself! - as the characters struggle to get back into their old frame.

"Possessions" (Shuhei Morita; Japan; 14 minutes): In 18th-century Japan, a lost traveler takes refuge in an abandoned shrine full of discarded objects which suddenly come to life, threatening him with their ancient resentments.

"Feral" (Daniel Sousa; USA; 13 minutes): A wild boy in the woods is discovered and "rescued" by a hunter, who takes him back to civilization. Alienated in the new environment, he tries to adapt with his animal skills in this morality tale.

In the live-action department:

"The Voorman Problem" (Mark Gill; UK; 13 minutes): Supercilious Dr. Williams has been summoned by the authorities to determine the sanity or insanity of a dangerous prisoner who claims to be God.

"Just Before Losing Everything" (Xavier Legrand; France; 30 minutes): Miriam is desperate to get herself and her two kids out of town in a hurry. We don't know why. An intensely realistic, edge-of-your-seat rendering of an all-too-common international crime.

"That Wasn't Me" (Esteban Crespo; Spain; 24 minutes): An even worse international crime is chronicled in the grim, devastating story of a Spanish doctor and African boy whose paths cross at the violent intersection of a civil war employing child soldiers.

"Helium" (Anders Walter; Denmark; 23 minutes): A much sweeter path-crossing takes the form of a dying boy and a feckless hospital janitor meeting late on the road from here to eternity.


"The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2013: Animation and Live Action" is playing at the Ritz Bourse. B+

BARRY PARIS Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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