This Year’s Oscar-Nominated Shorts Could Be More Animated

With feature films directed by the 2005 and 2006 Oscar winners for Best Live Action Short — Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) and Ari Sandel (Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show), respectively — in theaters now, Hollywood execs may pay closer-than-usual attention to this year’s shorts, which are compiled in The 2007 Academy Award Nominated Shorts. If they do, they’ll see two films that hew perfectly to the clever, O. Henry-style shorts favored by festival juries and award voters: Guido Thys and Anja Daelemans’ sweet Belgian Tango pic, Tanghi Argentini, and Philippe Pollet-Villard’s aw-shucks French comedy, The Mozart of Pickpockets, about two bumbling thieves who adopt a cute kid as their partner in crime.

This year’s other Oscar-nominated live-action shorts are a mixed bag. Andrea Jublin’s The Substitute is a lively but ham-fisted comedy that suggests a Roberto Benigni-directed episode of My So Called Life. The Tonto Woman, like last year’s Cashback, is a long, expensive-looking short with excellent production values and zero soul. And co-directors Christian E. Christiansen and Louise Vesth’s At Night depicts a you-go-girl sleepover in a Danish cancer ward, with women as beautiful (of course) as they are ill (of course). It’s a well-meaning, terminal bore.

More impressive is this year’s batch of animated shorts. Four of them feature truly poetic visuals, and the fifth, a prosaic riff on Prokofiev’s musical tutorial, Peter & the Wolf, is hard to dislike. Josh Raskin’s I Met the Walrus is a virtuoso illustration (using morphing, stream-of-consciousness images) of a 1969 interview with John Lennon. Both Madame Tutli-Putli (co-directed by Canadians Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski) and Even Pigeons Go to Heaven (co-directed by Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse of France) tell quirky, haunting stories. Most notable, though, is four-time Best Animated Short nominee (and 1999 Oscar winner) Alexander Petrov’s Moya Lyubov (My Love), a romantic coming-of-age story based on a 1927 Russian book that comes to life as a shimmering impressionist painting. Not just a slide show of pretty pictures, Petrov’s imagery is both dramatic and fluid, propelling a 26-minute short that possesses the emotional impact and depth of a novel or feature film.

Categories: Movies