The Cinema Arts Theatre near us started showing the Oscar Nominated short movies yesterday, so we decided to check them out instead of trekking downtown for more of the DC Independent Film Festival.
The animated shorts were varied, running from silly to powerful to just plain weird.
- “Gopher Broke” was cute, in the spirit of shorts you might see before a Pixar flick.
- “Birthday Boy” was a wartime story following a little boy for an afternoon out playing, then waiting for Mom at home. It doesn’t sound like much, but it packed a great punch in the few minutes it had. This was perhaps my favorite of the animated shorts.
- “Ryan”, the Oscar winner, was just plain weird. It was about Ryan Larkin, a once prominent animator, now homeless due to addiction (though I knew none of this before or during my viewing of the film). The animation was so densely metaphorical that one would need hip-boots to really wade through it all. I’m sure the Academy loved it because it seemed so avant-garde, but frankly I was bored.
The theme for three of the four live-action shorts seemed to be kids in bad situations.
- “Two Cars, One Night” was set in a bar’s parking lot. Two cars hold children of the bar’s patrons, and the kids connect. I felt a bit like the dialog was what adults picture kids saying to one another, rather than what kids would actually say to one another. This was also one of those English-language films where subtitles would have been helpful, because the children where Maori, with very heavy accents.
- “Little Terrorist” is about a little boy who accidentally crosses the heavily guarded (and mined) border between India and Pakistan. He finds his way back with the help of a schoolmaster. The filmmakers from last weekend’s shorts that we saw at the DCIFF could take a lesson from this film. It had a “point”, but moreover, it had a good story and interesting characters. There was no need to hammer the point into the viewer’s heads — we got it all on our own.
- “Wasp”, the Oscar winner, was about a single mother trying to get back a bit of freedom with four children ranging from a year old to about 8 (?). This was a depressing “slice of life” kind of piece with the children waiting in a pub’s parking lot while Mom has a date inside.
- The best live-action short was “7:35 in the Morning”. It had no children, just a very weary crowd at a coffee shop. (I can’t say much more without giving away the twist — very good, though.)