On February 27, I had the opportunity to attend the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 8th Annual “Shorts Day” in NYC. During this exciting pre-Oscars event, the Academy screened all of the live action and animated short films nominated for this year’s Oscars. This was the first time I had ever screened the Academy's nominated short films, and I had a blast! I have included a brief synopsis and rating of each film below (4 stars = Fantastic, 0 stars = Terrible)—check out my thoughts and try to catch these fantastic films!
The Door (Juanita Wilson and James Flynn)
This dramatic film explores one Ukrainian family’s struggles in the wake of the horrific 1986 Chernobyl accident. Though the family’s tragedy makes a powerful impact, the film’s sterile approach to storytelling makes the film uninteresting and forgettable. Carly’s Critique: 2 stars
Instead of Abracadabra (Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström)
A nice break from the dramatic selections, this film features a kooky Scandinavian man aspiring to become a master magician. As he pursues his goal, he faces adversity from failed tricks and distraction from a sexy nurse, but never gives up. Though not my favorite of the flicks, this one stood out as a fun, inspiring piece. Carly’s Critique: 3 stars
Kavi (Gregg Helvey)
Upon reading through the credits for this film, I instantly felt inadequate: the film is a master’s thesis project made by a USC grad student. I just earned a master’s degree in Cinema Studies, and all I got was a lousy “pass” on my comprehensive exam. Where’s my Oscar nomination?!?
Kavi examines modern-day slavery in India through the eyes of the young title character. Kavi, forced into brick-making under harsh conditions, sees potential for a better life, and faces a difficult choice about his future. Though the film is well-made and the story is compelling, the message is cliché and political. Carly’s Critique: 2.5 stars.
Miracle Fish (Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey)
This was, by far, my favorite of the selections. The story features a young Australian boy dealing with the annoyances of elementary school on his 8th birthday. When he unwraps his only gift—a fortunetelling paper fish—he faces a birthday surprise he never expected. The suspenseful film features a haunting story and fantastic acting by the young male actor. I hope to see more from these talented filmmakers. Carly’s Critique: 4 stars.
The New Tenants (Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson)
The only American film of the bunch, The New Tenants follows a day in the life of a couple in their new apartment. Instead of enjoying the new space and unpacking their belongings, the two men learn some scary details about the life of the apartment’s former tenant. This film stands out for its darkly comic tone, unpredictability, and cameo appearances. I appreciated the original story, and enjoyed the over-the-top acting. Carly’s Critique: 3.5 stars.
French Roast (Fabrice O. Joubert)
This lighthearted French film follows the misadventures of a wealthy businessman who discovers his wallet is missing just as he is about to pay his bill at a local café. As he panics and tries to troubleshoot his problem, he encounters a motley crew of unpredictable characters. I loved this film’s visuals and enjoyed the quirky story. Carly’s Critique: 3 stars
Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty (Nicky Phelan and Darragh O'Connell)
The dynamics between a bitter Grandmother and a terrified child make for big time laughs in this clever film. When “Granny” decides to reinterpret Sleeping Beauty for her granddaughter before bedtime, the little girl learns more about her grandmother’s inner-thoughts than she ever wanted to know. I laughed my patootie off during this film! I highly recommend it! Carly’s Critique: 3.5 stars
The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte) (Javier Recio Gracia)
This takes the cake as the weirdest (and least successful) animated film of the bunch. “The Lady” is an old woman on the verge of death. “The Reaper” is ready to welcome “The Lady” with open arms. The only roadblock: a cocky doctor determined to shock our heroine back to life. I did not enjoy the concept, sound, or visuals in this film; it was more “cartoony weird” than “artsy macabre.” Carly’s Critique: 1.5 stars
Logorama (Nicolas Schmerkin)
Logorama is the most visually stunning of all the animated shorts. The filmmakers use hundreds of American company logos to create a chaotic Los Angeles environment. The action-packed plot features an armed, psychopathic Ronald McDonald on the run from two Michelin cops. The result? A shoot-em-up, Tarantinoesqe story which moralizes on the perils of American capitalism. Carly’s Critique: 3.5 stars
A Matter of Loaf and Death (Nick Park)
The latest contribution to the Wallace and Gromit animated series, A Matter of Loaf and Death features the duo at work in a new bread baking business called “Top Bun.” The two enjoy a lucrative, happy life until they meet former model and longtime Wallace crush Piella Bakewell (and her dog Fluffles). The chance meeting of the four characters results in a frightening turn of events…and another opportunity for Gromit to save the day! This is W&G at their best. Carly’s Critique: 3.5 stars
Good luck to all of the nominees!