Ken Cinema serves up this year’s excellent Oscar shorts

by David Dixon

 

Typically when you go to a film festival, chances are the quality varies from movie to movie. However, when all of the silver screen productions are nominated for Academy Awards, the experience will likely be more consistently entertaining. This is the case for “The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2013: Animation” and “The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2013: Live Action” which are now playing at the Landmark Theatres Ken Cinema.

 

Animation:

“Adam and Dog”

“Adam and Dog” beautifully retells the story of Adam and Eve from the perspective of a loveable dog. Instead of feeling sacrilegious or too gimmicky, the virtually scoreless interpretation is told with sensitivity and unforgettable images. Producer-director Minkyu Lee creates a detailed world that is similar to watching a painting come to life.

“Head Over Heels”

The clay-animated “Head Over Heels” has a quirky premise. It’s about an old couple living in different parts of a house that is flying through the air. The husband, Walter, spends his time on the ground, but his wife, Madge, lives on the ceiling. Their situation is a metaphor for a passionless marriage. What follows is a bighearted adventure with a final twist that is both humorous and touching.

“The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare”

“The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare” captures the energy as well as the spirit of the classic cartoon series. Maggie Simpson’s journey to help a caterpillar in danger probably contains more laughs per second than any of the nominees.

“Paperman”

“Paperman” had the good fortune of being attached to the box office hit, “Wreck-it Ralph.” Not only is it the most famous of the five, but the romantic comedy is also the best. The mixture of traditional and computer animation instantly sets an enchanting tone that can only be described as magical. Don’t be surprised if it ends up winning an Oscar.

“Fresh Guacamole”

I couldn’t stop laughing throughout the bizarrely funny “Fresh Guacamole.” The very brief film can simply be described as a visual joke involving the avocado sauce.

Live Action:

The live-action nominees were mostly strong choices, but there was one that ended up making it a mixed bag.

“Death of a Shadow”

“Death of a Shadow” is a gloomy fantasy involving a ghost (Matthias Schoenaerts) who takes pictures of the shadows of people who have died.

The concept is original enough and there is a wickedly juicy supporting role from Peter van den Eede as the Collector of Shadows, but the protagonist ultimately becomes unsympathetic when he commits a selfish deed.

“Asad”

“Asad” deals with a young Somalian boy (Harun Mohammed) who is trying to figure out whether he wants to be a pirate or a fisherman. Most of the actors are Somalian refugees and asylum seekers, which gives the drama an authentic feel. This short film doesn’t sugarcoat how dangerous Somalia is, yet there is plenty of banter as well as hope.

“Buzkashi Boys”

Based on the title, I thought “Buzkashi Boys” was going to be a spoof of boy bands such as ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys. Instead, the name is a reference to a sport involving horse polo that is played with a dead goat.

Rafi (Fawad Mohammadi) and Ahmad (Jawanmard Paiz) are two young Afghani kids who dream of becoming Buzkashi players. What makes the coming-of-age story work is that the plot is universal, dealing with themes of growing up, bravery and family tradition.

“Curfew”

Of all the five shorts, “Curfew” comes closest to being a genuine crowd-pleaser. The dramedy takes place mostly throughout the course of an evening as a sad sack uncle, Richie (Shawn Christensen), babysits his niece, Sophia (Fatima Ptacek). Christensen not only stars as Richie, but is also the writer and director of this highly satisfying family adventure. I can’t wait to see what he will do for his next project.

“Henry”

“Henry” features a heartbreaking performance from Gérard Poirier as a French concert pianist whose life spirals out of control when his wife mysteriously disappears.

Some might find this short to be too schmaltzy, but I found it to be a memorable tearjerker that has no shortage of emotional power.

You can’t go wrong watching either the whimsical animated Oscar-nominated short film nominees or the thought-provoking live-action nominees. Either way, you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck.

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