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OSCAR-NOMINATED SHORTS 2013



The shorts up for Academy Awards this year are thoughtfully and cleverly conceived and produced.  It is amazing how much depth and substance can be conveyed in such short dramas.  The live action films are varied, covering the experiences of the old and the young in France, Somalia, Afghanistan, the U.S., and a purgatory-like place.  The animations are likewise diverse, ranging from subjects of young (and old) love, cooking, animals, and small children.  The documentaries cover social issues about how the homeless cope, physical illness and treatment, and retirement communities.  Below is a list of the titles, along with my brief impressions.  They are listed in the order of my personal preferences, beginning with the best.  I recommend all of them as being very fine, however.  


LIVE ACTION


Buzkashi Boys (U.S. Afghanistan, Sam French) – The friendship between a street kid and the son of a blacksmith exemplifies their radically different philosophies of life, showing freedom of choice vs. destiny, adventure vs. conformance, and hope vs. acceptance.  Bittersweet, and beautifully filmed in a way that gives the viewer a colorful visit to Kabul.


Curfew (U.S., Shawn Christensen) – An inspiring story about a young man at the end of his rope when he is asked for a favor by his sister, to whom he feels indebted.  He gives in, and in the course of honoring the favor comes to a life-saving realization.


Asad (U.S./South Africa, Bryan Buckley) – Young, uncertain Asad lives in Somalia and loves an old fisherman who is rejected and ignored by the townspeople.  But the old man is encouraging to Asad, and after he is injured by pirates, urges Asad to take his boat out and prove to himself that he is a master fisherman.  Asad exultantly comes back with a fish all right, although it will be considered unusual.  A heartwarming story of compassionate mentoring.


Henry ( Canada, Yan England) – Strange and frightening things happen to an aging classical pianist.  Suddenly, people he doesn’t know are invading his home as he desperately searches for his wife, Maria.  Sensitively depicted and portrayed, with beautiful music in the background.  


Death of a Shadow (Belgium, Tom Van Avermaet) – A fantasy thriller in which a photographer (played by the talented Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone) is given very odd assignments by his employer, an art connoisseur who wants pictures of the shadows of the dying at the moment of death.  The photographer expects to receive a reward after 10,000 photos, but there is a Mephistopheles twist to the end of the story.  



ANIMATION


Paperman – (U.S.) – An engaging story about a young man and woman who meet initially while waiting for a subway train.  A wind gust blows a sheet of paper from his hands that lands smack into the face of the woman, leaving a lipstick impression on the paper.  Although attracted to the woman, he is shy, and lets her get away before talking to her.  There is a way, though to track her down, using the page that hit her lips.


Maggie Simpson:  “The Longest Day Care” – (U.S.) – The Simpson girl gets dropped off at the Ayn Rand School for Tots, where she is passed over for the richly furnished “Gifted Baby” room and placed with the “Nothing Special” group with no toys.  She cleverly entertains herself, and although she has to contend with a destructive baby, she outsmarts him and ends up with something special.


Head over Heel – (U.K.) – An older couple has grown so far apart their world is literally upside down—she walks on the ceiling and he walks on the floor.  A good deed on his part gets them on the way to a rapprochement where their worlds are more in sync.


Adam and Dog – (U.S.) – Adam is in the Garden of Eden alone until he acquires his best friend, the dog, where they spend their days playing together.  However, Adam loses interest when Eve comes on the scene, and the dog loses them and must weather a severe rainstorm on his own.  After it’s over and with much searching, he spots his old friend, but must figure out a way to get his attention.


Fresh Guacamole – U.S.) – Creative chopping and unlikely combinations produce a delicious-looking treat.



DOCUMENTARY


Inocente (U.S., Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine) – An amazing story about a teenager who is in the U.S. and is homeless because her father was arrested and deported after he was arrested for physical abuse.  The young girl has managed to thrive through her art and people in the art community who have mentored her.


Redemption (U.S., Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill).  To survive after losing jobs, a huge number of people in New York City—some homeless—support themselves by redeeming cans and plastic bottles for recycling, for which they receive 5 cents per container.  As the economy has worsened and more and more people are laid off, the field is getting crowded.


Open Heart (U.S., Kief Davidson).  Although rheumatic fever has been eradicated in this country, it still affects millions of children in Africa because of no access to penicillin.  In this film, we travel from Rwanda to Sudan with a small group of children who are able to get heart surgeries for free at a hospital founded by an Italian doctor through private donations and only partially supported by the Sudanese government.


Mondays at Racine (U.S., Cynthia Wade).  After witnessing their mother’s battle with cancer, two sisters open their beauty salon to female cancer patients on Mondays for free services.  An informal support group has formed to give the women a chance to talk about their illness and receive support from one another and the shop’s owners.


King’s Point (U.S., Sari Gilman).  Interviews with retirees (mostly from NYC) who have moved to a Florida retirement community.  Alternately touching, sad, and funny, these people have no trouble expressing just how they feel.