Oscar Nominated Live Action/Animated Shorts On Display
Of the myriad short live action and animated films submitted around the world for the Academy Awards, the ten that made the grade will be digitally presented in 50 cities around the country, beginning Friday, February 15. Magnolia Pictures has scheduled the Landmark in West Los Angeles and Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena for this release, as well as an eventual DVD compilation.
The animation has two absolutely startlingly beautiful works. As seen at the Palm Springs Short Film Festival last summer, Madame Tutli-Putli (Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada) features a timid woman having a serious of intimidating but ultimately transcendent experiences on a train. It is an awe-inspiring work beyond categorization and while more traditional, My Love (Alexander Petrov, Russia) is no less impressive. Like Impressionist paintings come to life, it is the tale of an 18th century Russian boy, a mere 16, falling in love with both a regal young woman and his household’s servant, with dazzling, poetic images and music and effects that are crisp and perfectly complimentary.
Also most worthy of note is I Met the Walrus (Josh Raskin, Canada). In 1969, 14-year-old Jerry Levitan snuck into John Lennon’s hotel room and persuaded him to do an off-the-cuff interview. The former Beatle and cultural icon’s commentaries on war, money, politics and personal responsibility are cleverly illustrated through a series of morphing images, reminding us of Lennon’s compassion and great wisdom. Peter and the Wolf (Suzie Templeton, Hugh Welchman, UK/Poland), set to Prokofiev’s selfsame title, uses stop-motion figures and animals to charming effect, with wonderful detail in the terrain. Even Pigeoons Go to Heaven (Samuel Tourneaux, Simon Vanesse, France) is a short stop-motion piece about an elderly man who is being deceived by a priest about going to heaven. It has a smoothness to its animation, if not its logic.
As for the live action work, it is not nearly as successful. The standout here is At Night (Christian Christiansen, Louise Vesth, Denmark), a gutsy, beautifully acted story of three young women who are all facing their mortality in a cancer wing of a hospital. With some truly elegant montage work and unflinching portrayals of these women and their pain, the film earns its tears and reminds the viewer of the importance of personal relationships in helping others cope with their impending demise. Tanghi Argentini (Guido Thys, Anja Daelemans, Belgium) is a sweet but simple story about a nerdy, little man who enlists the aid of a co-worker to teach him to dance the tango and win the heart of a woman he has lied to online. Its physical humor works much better than its feel-good premise. The supposedly cheery but rather uncomfortable misfire The Substitute (Andrea Jublin, Italy) features a cruel, out-of-control substitute teacher who clearly is not one. His motivations are murky and an abrupt ending is no substitute for supposed world-class filmmaking.
The Mozart of Pickpockets (Philippe Pollet-Villard, France) features two bumbling thieves who take in a deaf, homeless boy and incorporate him in their criminal capers. It is a little too cute, though there are some nicely absurd exchanges of dialogue. Finally, we have The Tonto Woman (Daniel Barber, Matthew Brown, UK) a filmed adaptation of an Elmore Leonard Western tale. A woman who was kidnapped by Mojave Indians and scarred is rescued by her husband who lives separately from her, only to have a cattle rustler fall in love and try and rescue her from her lone existence. While it is well shot, the laconic pace of the work holds it back from achieving its greatest impact.