Long story short: Chance to catch Oscar nominees
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 Hublot" (Laurent Witz; Luxembourg/France; 11 minutes): The hero is described as "a withdrawn, idiosyncratic character with OCD."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+