2007 Academy Award-Nominated Shorts
The Shorts Are Riding High

Judging from the view from my armchair, the Academy of Film Arts and Sciences has a tough task ahead in choosing the best short live action and animated films for 2007. Although extremely varied in content and style, every one that I viewed deserves an award on at least one level—most on several. I am glad that I don’t have to debate for a winner with a panel of judges.

It must take a lot of talent to excel in the genre of short film. After all, the story is told very quickly and every component—characterization, background, music, sound, style—must be used to full advantage to make the most impact in a short time. The creators of the entries for 2007 display a superb grasp of their craft and whoever walks away with the Oscar will have deserved it.

Andrea Jublin, director of The SubstituteThere are five nominees for live action short film: At Night, Il Supplente (The Substitute), Le Mozart Des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets), Tanghi Argentini, and The Tonto Woman. I must issue a caveat here that there was a defect in the DVD screener that I was sent and the end of Le Mozart and all of The Tonto Woman would not play. I still feel confident that I can give an adequate review of the genre, however, due to the company in which these two are placed. What I will not be able to do is predict a winner because I have not seen them all.

Except for The Tonto Woman, all of the nominated shorts have already received many prizes and awards. At Night tells the tale of three young women sharing life in a cancer ward during the Christmas holidays. The camera captures the stark, medicinal, institutional feeling of a place where people are not expected to live very much longer. The director uses interesting angles to capture the faces of the three young women as individuals, duos, and trios as their relationships ebb and flow.

The Substitute is a very interesting take on a newcomer that arrives in a high school classroom and turns the heads of the students upside down. At the end of the credits is this sentence: “Dedicated to those who have difficulty with conduct.” There is quite an interesting twist to the end of this film that I cannot share without spoiling. The main character uses facial expression to great advantage.

Le Mozart Des Pickpockets is genius in screenwriting. The characters have every contingency covered including how to handle things if the police get called. I wish I could have viewed the end because the other two thirds of the film foreshadowed an unexpected twist!

My favorite of the three I was able to see in their entirety is Tanghi Argentini. A man in a business office meets a woman online who is an expert tango dancer. He enlists an office colleague, who also loves the tango, to help him learn the dance in a scant two weeks. In thirteen short minutes the makers of this film share pathos, humor, failure, compassion, love, and joy—and their ending is an absolute delight that just brings a grin to your face.

Now for animation, the nominees are: I Met the Walrus (a 5-minute replay in 2D of teenager Jerry Levitan’s interview with John Lennon when he snuck into his hotel room in 1969), Madame Tutli-Putli (a 17-minute silent of a timid woman on a mysterious and frightening train ride), Meme Les Pigeons Vont Au Paradis (9 minutes of CGI where an old man’s soul draws competition between a dishonest priest and the grim reaper), My Love (a 27-minute masterpiece of hand-painted cells telling the story of a teenage boy in love with two women), and Peter & The Wolf (another silent CGI piece of 27 minutes that is a new twist on the classic, set to Prokofiev’s delightful music).

There is something for every taste in these animated shorts, from jiggling line drawings to complex dimensions and details, to washes of eye-achingly beautiful color. Whether silent or speaking and subtitled, the characters are phenomenal and deft in relaying the plot. The story line in My Love is a bit jaded and over-stated, but the masterful painting and the moving life of the film overcome any disappointment in the screenplay. Madame Tutli-Putli is one of the strangest things I have ever seen, but the attention to detail—down to pilled threads on her support hose—is delicious. Peter & The Wolf is not only beautifully animated, but the intricate pairing of the action to Prokofiev’s music is absolutely sublime.

Although people will find much to discuss after seeing these shorts, these discussions will tend more toward appreciating art for the sake of the art rather than matters of deep moral or spiritual content. One thing that I hope will happen in the theaters is that the subtitles will be easier to read than on the screener I viewed. I’m sure that the film quality will be better on the theater versions of the finished products. Magnolia Pictures and Shorts Interntaional are opening an exclusive engagement of the nominated shorts just prior to the Academy Awards. Indulge your mind and your senses and go enjoy them on the big screen.

These short films are not rated but I feel confident in advising that viewing these is an adult experience. First of all, I don’t know anyone under 18 who enjoys reading subtitles; and second, animation does not mean childlike. There is some content that is just not suitable for children to see. So make this a date night for mom and dad.

Courtesy of a regional publicist, Kathy viewed a promotional screener of 2007 Academy Award-Nominated Shorts.