The website: http://shortshd.com/theoscarshorts/

There is a short trailer as you load the main page, but when you click on films, you can see individual trailers for each of the nominated shorts.  The shorts are playing at select times down in the Ritz Theaters in Philadelphia and at Ambler Theater in Ambler.  Starting March 2nd, the shorts will be available on iTunes.

Also, these will be done a little differently.  All of these shorts range from good to terrific (both features overall would receive an A from me), so while I describe each of them in short detail, I’ll also mark which one will probably win and which one I believe should win (all of it is a matter of opinion, of course).

Oscar Shorts, Animated:

1) French Roast (France) – (the one I believe should win): a well-to-do gentleman is in a cafe enjoying coffee when he finds he can’t pay his bill.  Both this one and the next short both use absolutely no dialogue (this film, a French one, has a few simple questions and answers we can easily interpret).  What makes this one special is the way it was shot: there are three separate sequences covering the three parts of the day, with each shot done in a single take.  The camera itself is on a rail track of sorts (this is computer animated), strafing side to side capturing everything going on.  The cast of characters is brilliant and well chosen: the gentleman, the cafe owner, the homeless bum on the street, and the nun with a dirty little secret.  Well done.

2) The Lady and the Reaper (Spain) – an old woman dies and prepares to be taken to her long deceased husband by Death when an award winning doctor revives her, thus beginning the madcap duel to see who would, erm, win the old lady.  Hilarious throughout, including an ending that left me crying in laughter.

One thing about both of these films: both of them run roughly eight minutes in length, and both are unbelievably packed with so much plot, character and symbolism.  It’s amazing how well written both of these shorts were.

3) A Matter of Loaf and Death (England) – (this one I believe will win): a Wallace and Gromit short, where Wallace falls in love with a former bread model who holds a devious secret.  One could tell where this was going the moment the model showed up, but the story and plot is well executed.  The best moments come at the end in the final showdown of sorts.  Easily the longest of all the shorts (both animated and live action).  This also is the only non-CGI film that was nominated.  The stop motion animation is top notch.

4) Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty (Ireland) – a granny comes into her granddaughter’s bedroom and tells her a truly terrifying version of Sleeping Beauty.  The CGI for the grandmother and granddaughter are serviceable (though the granddaughter’s corkscrew curly hair and huge worried eyes are a hoot), but it’s the sequences that illustrate granny’s Sleeping Beauty that make this short well worth it.

5) Logorama (Argentina) – a strange little film, in which cops chase down a serial killer/robber/bad guy, zoo animals run loose through the streets, and the world falls apart Ala 2012.  Except the cops are Michelin tire characters, the serial bad guy is Ronald McDonald, and the zoo keeper is the Green Giant.  Yes, the world is logos everywhere (which, in reality, it really is, right?).  A huge bite at commercialism (maybe?) but well told, with a huge variety of CGI use and some well timed jokes.

Also presented as highly commended shorts: Partly Cloudy (USA), Runaway (Canada), The Kinematograph (Poland)

Oscar Shorts, Live Action:

1) Kavi (India/USA) – (this one I believe will win): a young Indian boy wishes to go to school and play cricket with other young boys, but is forced to work as a slave with his family to pay off his father’s debts.  This was a nicely made short that highlights the continued misery of modern day slavery and what happens when it goes unnoticed, but this is also a tale of enlightenment for the young boy who wishes to do something with his life instead of continuing to listen to the bosses of the brick kiln.  Excellent.

2) The New Tenants (USA/Denmark) – two men move into a new apartment, which turns out to be the worst moving day in the history of the world.  Deeply hilarious dark comedy with some spot on performances from a variety of recognizable character actors (including Vincent D’Onofrio, Kevin Corrigan, and Jamie Harrold), with an ending that is incredibly tough to beat.  Somehow my personal favorite from the day.

3) Miracle Fish (Australia) – (this one I believe should win): a young boy turns eight, and wishes to get away from everyone for the day.  He wakes up from the sick bay in his school to find everyone gone, and completely free to roam the halls of the school.  To me, probably the best out of every short shown: excellently structured, plainly told with great character, and with a set up no one will see coming at all.  Will also be deeply personal to some people who’ve experienced what happens in this tale.  Perfect.

4) The Door (Ireland) – a father steals a door from his old apartment, found in the desolate ruins of Chernobyl.  A cautionary tale of the continued fallout from the 1986 nuclear meltdown that turned the city into a ghost town and ruined families.  Based on a true story.

5) Instead of Abracadabra (Sweden) – in which a grown man, living at home and with no job save for his magic tricks, attempts to woo the new neighbor through a cleverly crafted stage show.  Mainly a comedy piece, but also one which questions the ideas of what people do with their lives.  Nicely done.

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