ShortsHD™ is once again bringing the wildly popular OSCAR® nominated short film programs (Live Action, Animation, and Documentary) to theaters in the US, Canada, and Europe beginning February 1st.
The theatrical release of the Academy Award Nominated Short Films has been met by enthusiastic audiences ever since the first release in 2006, giving people around the world an opportunity to see the nominated films prior to the Academy Awards ceremony on February 24th.
The three OSCAR® Nominated Short Film releases will open in over 200 theaters throughout the US, Canada and Europe starting February 1st, and will continue to expand in the following weeks. A list of participating cinemas is available by clicking on the DATES & LOCATIONS tab above.
Together with the theatrical run, the nominated short films will be available On Demand via US cable and satellite distributors and in iTunes Stores in 54 countries across the globe beginning February 19th.
Written and directed by Pes as a follow-up to his stop-motion hit Western Spaghetti, Fresh Guacamole is a beautifully animated yet somewhat surprise of a contender for Best Animated Short Film. Coming in at just under two minutes in length, the film has an unknown character constructing fresh guacamole from a variety of ingredients both thought-provoking and absurd. The film is mesmerizing to look at, while its subject matter will have you wondering about Pes's intentions long after you've watched the film. However, the film is a tad lightweight compared to some other films seen this year and it would be a tremendous surprise to see this one take home the golden statuette.
Written and Directed by: Minkyu Lee; Running Time: 15 Mins; OFFICIAL TUMBLR
Easily my least favorite of the 2013 nominees for Best Animated Short, writer/director Minkyu Lee's Adam and Dog takes an intriguing idea and mostly fumbles around with it in producing a film feels as muted as its design. Adam and Dog isn't a bad film. In fact, it's quite good and the story itself is so incredibly intriguing that it's a little baffling that no one has done it before. In it, a dog is exploring the biblical Eden and happens upon a naked Adam. The two spend some time getting to know one another, before they both stumble across Eve and everything changes.
The mere concept seems ripe for a film treatment, but Adam and Dog mostly introduces the idea then goes nowhere with it. The film's muted color palette feels appropriate given the nature of the film and the time period it would be covering, but the film itself never really draws you into its story.
Featuring: Nigel Anthony and Rayyah McCaul; Written and Directed by: Timothy Reckart OFFICIAL WEBSITE
Easily one of the highlights from the 2012 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, Head Over Heels also picked up the $10,000 grand prize for short film along with a Jimmy Stewart Memorial Crystal Heart Award.
This beautifully animated film is also a wonderfully unique story perfectly suited for an animated short. Walter and Madge, voiced to perfection by Nigel Anthony and Rayyah McCaul, have grown apart to such a point that he lives on the floor while she lives on the ceiling. When Walter tries to reignite the flame, their equilibrium comes crashing down and the two must work together to see if their marriage can be put back together.
D.P. Chloe Thomson's camera work is simply extraordinary, while production designer Eleonore Cremonese gives the film a look that is both whimsical and deeply felt. Jered Sorkin's original music rounds out a terrific production team with music that is nearly as captivating as the film itself.
There are many years when I struggle with Heartland's winners, but this year's selections have across the board been exceptional films that also capture the true spirit of the Heartland Film Festival.
Directed by: David Silverman; Written by: Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Al Jean, David Mirkin, Joel H. Cohen and Michael Price based upon Matt Groening's characters; Running Time: 7 Mins.
As one should expect from a short based upon characters from "The Simpsons," Maggie Simpson's The Longest Daycare is intelligent, funny and quite charming. While it's a rather lightweight entry as Best Animated Short, the film certainly entertains and I can't imagine anyone would begrudge spending a bit over seven minutes with the always delightful baby Maggie.
In this case, Maggie is dropped off at the Ayn Rand Daycare Center where she's abruptly determined to be of average intelligence and relegated to a room with those determined to have little potential. In this room, she finds herself while trying to save a cocoon from monster child Gerald, whose sociopathic tendencies are on full display.
At a mere seven minutes, The Longest Daycare features everything we've come to expect from The Simpsons - thought-provoking, entertaining and market-friendly edge wrapped by delightful colors and an overall warmth that makes even the most pointed Simpsons material much more palatable.
This is certainly an enjoyable short and will be appreciated in theaters, but it's difficult to imagine that there weren't more deserving nominees amongst this year's entries.
Directed by: John Kahrs; Written by: Clio Chiang and Kendelle Hoyer; Starring: John Kahrs and Kari Wahlgren; OFFICIAL WEBSITE; OFFICIAL FACEBOOK; RUNNING TIME; 7 Mins.
It may come as a surprise to some that a Disney studio animated short finds itself amongst the Oscar nominees. While Disney may very well be known as a studio focusing on full-length features, the studio has always been sort of a proving ground for up-and-coming filmmakers and other film industry professionals. Sadly, it's unlikely that a film as beautiful and touching as Paperman would ever have a shot at branching out into a full-length feature.
The story is relatively simple, as a seven-minute short should be, with a young man trying to win the heart of a girl with a stack of paper, a vivid imagination and quite a bit of luck. The film is short and sweet with hints of classic Hollywood all throughout it. The original score from Christophe Beck is utterly enchanting, while the story from Clio Chiang and Kendelle Hoyer hits all the right marks.
It's always difficult to predict how much of a studio influence there can be in short films, an area of the Oscar awards where Hollywood gets the chance to acknowledge folks outside the studio machine. That said, Paperman is certainly one of the most enchanting and well constructed animated shorts of the year and probably joins Head Over Heels as one of the favorites.
Starring: Najah Abdi Abdullahi, Hussein Abdi Mohamed, Maymum Abdi Mohamed; Written and Directed by: Bryan Buckley; Running Time: 18 Mins; Official Website
Similar in tone to Buzkashi Boys, yet Asad feels like a more authentic and deeply felt film. The film is set in Somalia and cast entirely with Somalian refugees. The story tells of a young boy who must decide if he is to go the path of other youth by becoming a pirate or if he will become a fisherman. The film is both intelligent and touching, with the entire cast playing beautifully and the relationship between the young boy and his mentor feeling natural and authentic.
Written and directed by Bryan Buckley, Asad is a definite contender for the Best Live-Action Short Film Oscar this year and its themes will no doubt resonate with Oscar voters.
Starring: Fawad Mohammadi, Wali Talash, Jawanmard Paiz; Directed by: Sam French; Written by: Sam French, Martin Desmond Roe
Far and away one of my favorite cinematic experiences among this year's short films at the 2012 Heartland Film Festival, Buzkashi Boys was shot on location in Afghanistan by an alliance of Afghan and international filmmakers. The film follows two boys, a charismatic street urchin and a defiant blacksmith's son, who struggle to grow up and realize their dreams in one of the most challenging lands. "Buzkashi," in case you don't know, is a national sport in Afghanistan - a brutal game of horse polo played with a dead goat.
Buzkashi Boys often reminded me, at least in its vibe, of the film Mongol, though this film tugged at my heart considerably more and its words and images have stayed with me long after I found myself sitting down to watch the film. The ensemble cast that includes Fawad Mohammadi, Wali Talash and Jawanmard Paiz is uniformly strong, while D.P. Duraid Munajim captures both the hearts and hopes of these young boys and the electricity and excitement of Buzkashi. The film does occasionally slow down just a tad too much, but when I find myself pondering the 2012 short films from Heartland Film Festival this film is nearly constantly one of the first to come to mind.
Jim Dooley's original music adds to the film's emotional impact and urgency, while Matthew Thompson's art direction manages to infuse the film with humanity that never caters to American stereotypes. Buzkashi Boys picked up a Crystal Heart Award during the 2012 Heartland Film Festival.
Starring: Shawn Christensen, Fatima Ptacek, Kim Allen; Written and Directed by: Shawn Christensen; Running Time: 19 Mins; Official Facebook
Okay, Okay. So maybe Shawn Christensen's Oscar-nominated short film Curfew is a little obvious. It's also a beautifully acted, marvelously designed and honestly written short film about a young suicidal man (Christensen) who gets a call from his estranged sister (Kim Allen) asking if he'll babysit her nine-year-old (Fatima Ptacek), a girl he's been forbidden to see since an accident several years earlier.
Curfew is the only American entry among this year's live action short Oscar nominees, and while some will fault it's obvious plot threads and occasionally dense structure it's hard not to admire Christensen's willingness to build what truly feels like a short feature film. Christensen is mesmerizing in the lead role, embodying a character who borders on pathetic yet is also remarkably sympathetic. His subtle bonding with young Sophia is believable because Christensen doesn't overwhelm us with it, instead making his character show thin little cracks in his emotional facade. As mesmerizing as is Christensen, young Fatima Ptacek may very well steal the film as young Sophia. Ptacek's Sophia is simultaneously an intelligent and wise girl while, especially in one scene, almost stunning in her vulnerability. In the span of a mere 19 minutes, Ptacek shows Sophia as intelligent, wise, guarded, vulnerable, innocent, playful and longing. If there were acting awards for short films at the Oscars, she'd be right up there alongside Quvenzhane Wallis.
There are films that make you forget about the laws of filmmaking. There are films that make you forget about any semblance of being emotionally manipulated. Curfew is such a film and, without a doubt, one of my absolute favorites from 2013.
Starring: Matthias Schoenaerts, Laura Verlinden, Peter van Den Eede; Written and Directed by: Tom Van Avermaet; Running Time: 20:25
Nathan (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a soldier who died during World War I, but a collector of sorts captures his shadow and makes him a deal - Another chance at life for him in exchange for 10,000 shadows. Driven by his love for Sarah (Laura Verlinden), Nathan agrees to the deal only to discover that Sarah is in love with another man. Then...
With hints of steampunk and an undeniable romanticism, Death of a Shadow is the most mesmerizing and inventive of this year's Oscar nominated shorts. Writer/director Tom Van Avermaet has crafted this Dutch language short with a tremendous emotional resonance yet it is also the most beautifully designed and photographed film among the live action shorts. Raf Keunen's original music is haunting and unforgettable, while D.P. Stijn Van der Veken's lensing appropriately leaves a lasting image from a film where the camera and vision is so incredibly central to its themes.
Schoenaerts and Verlinden are wonderful together, their believable chemistry driving a film you will be unlikely to forget for some time after you've seen it.
Starring: Gerard Poirier, Louise Laprade, Hubert Lemire; Written and Directed by: Yan England; Running Time; 21:12
One of the weaker entries among this year's short film Oscar nominees, writer/director Yan England's Henry tells the story of a concert pianist named Henry (Gerard Poirier) whose true love (Louise Laprade) goes missing. While the film's acting is strong enough, especially by Poirier, the film suffers from a strong air of familiarity and a gravitas it seems to be going for but never quite achieves during its running time just over 21 minutes. England tries to bring a stark contrast between the beauty of Henry's music and the darkness of war, but it all feels just a touch off. Even amongst the somewhat limited frame of reference from my own shorts reviews this past year, I can easily name off 2-3 other films that I found vastly superior to Henry.
It seems like every year, the Heartland Film Festival has at least one film about a hardcore, downtrodden young female. This year's entry in that tradition is the latest film from Heartland faves Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine, Inocente.
Inocente is about a 15-year-old girl who has lived homeless as an undocumented immigrant for the last 9-years. Yet, she dreams of being an artist and the Fine's do an absolutely incredible, to the point of jarring, of capturing Inocente's dual and seemingly conflicting realities. One of this year's Crystal Heart Award winners, Inocente is powerfully successful because it captures both the heart-wrenching challenges that Inocente faces and absolutely, relentlessly holds on to hope in the process. In the matter of a mere 40 minutes, the Fines manage to build a well rounded story that is both coming-of-age and coming-of-hope. The film also paints a portrait of America's new homeless - our children. While it tells their story truthfully, it refuses to ever exploit this marvelous young woman.
Having viewed multiple efforts by Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine, I've become accustomed to what may be the greatest gift they have - capturing every aspect of life and portraying it through the lens of beauty.
The 50/50 x 2020 Pledge
The Independent Critic is proud to support Indy-based Heartland Film by committing to the 50/50 x 2020 Pledge - By the end of the year 2020, The Independent Critic will achieve gender parity in its reviews of both shorts and feature films. Furthermore, The Independent Critic also pledges support for the Ruderman Family Foundation's call for authentic representation of people with disabilities in film and actively commits to leverage its journalistic influence to effect genuine change in the film industry by calling for and actively promoting authentic and inclusive casting and hiring of people with disabilities.