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Home » Film

Oscar nommed shorts at MFA

Submitted by Commandrea on February 10, 2011 – 11:26 pmNo Comment
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The annual program of Oscar nominated shorts rolls into the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for the next couple of weeks. The screenings are divided into three sections: live action, animation, and documentary. In a sense this is a boon for Space City because in the past (when the program ran at the Landmark or Angelika chains) the screenings always had animation and live action but never included documentary shorts.

The doc shorts are among the most important category this year and in fact one of the doc shorts, Poster Girl, caused a stir when one of the producers, Mitchell Block, was involved in a dispute of which credits the Academy would accept for this particular film. Block (look up his credits) has distributed tons of documentaries over the years including over two dozen that have subsequently won Academy Awards.

Every year there is a clear entry that stands above the rest. Last year it was the animated shorts winner Logorama. This year offers some real keepers in every division.

Documentary

The previously mentioned Poster Girl shows the grim reality of a female soldier adjusting to post war life after serving a term of employment in Iraq. Notably the doc entries all run 30 to 40 minutes, the latter figure being the time limit maximum for shorts. The Warriors of Qiugang chronicles a lengthy legal battle between citizens in a Chinese province against state supported factories that pollute the land. Strangers No More takes place in an elementary international school. Sun Come Up deals with the inhabitants of an island system in the Pacific. The Carteret islanders (between Australia and Papua New Guinea) must move when it becomes apparent that climate change has caused their island to slowly sink. Killing in the Name is my choice for the best short you will see in this entire event. This doc short deals frankly and graphically with suicide bombers and goes into a kind of in-depth study of the psychology of leaders of Jihad. Interviewees include bombers involved in the Bali explosions who’ve already served their prison time.

Animated

Pixar always dominates this group and rightly so with the remarkable Day and Night (this short played before Toy Story 3 in theaters). Even more astounding is the adaptation of the children’s book The Gruffalo with a tony British cast of voice talent. Other entries include Let’s Pollute, a throwback to 50s style industrial films only with tongue planted firmly in cheek; The Lost Thing a delightful fantasy with a whimsical touch; and Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) a full-on animated lyrical tour of the island country.

Live Action

All of the live action shorts are strong entries, hard to pick a winner here. Each one of these films present profound moments aplenty.

The Confession closely follows two English school kids who pull a prank that turns deadly; The Crush, from Ireland, traces a wonderful and at times intense relation between a young lad and his lovely teacher; God of Love unspools in a funky metropolitan black-and-white style and posits that Cupid is just some hip dude with a bunch of darts; Na Wewe gives you pause to grip the armrest of your seats as a suspenseful showdown takes place between Rwandan rebels and a busloads of people. The tension levels in Na Wewe are taunt, raw and reeking of revolutionary vengeance. Wish 143 refers to a program for dying teens to make a wish. Don’t be afraid to go crazy. If you had one last request would you rather meet some bland pop idol or have incredible sex?

These unique programs will unwind at the MFA’s Brown Auditorium starting Feb, 11 and running through Feb. 12, 18, 19 and 20. A full schedule can be found on the museum website.

The AA shorts program also unwinds in Houston at the Alamo Draft House, West Oaks and Mason Park locales.

- Michael Bergeron

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