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Oscar nommed shorts

Submitted by MBergeron on February 8, 2012 – 12:22 amNo Comment
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Three separate programs of shorts unwind in Houston this weekend. As usual with the Oscar nominated shorts programs there’s always one or two highlights and the rest of the films fall by the wayside.

When the award goes out in the categories of Best Live Action Short, or Best Animated Short, or Best Documentary Short they’re among the handful of categories that have to be seen at screenings in order for Academy members to vote for them. While I was wowed by the overall presentations there was never a heart stopping moment like in the year 2010 when the animated nominees had back to back grand slams with Logorama and a Wallace and Gromit short titled A Matter of Loaf and Death.

The Animated and Live Action Shorts unreel at the downtown Sundance Cinemas Houston and the Documentary shorts unwind at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The Animated Shorts run approximately 80 minutes, with the Live Action down for 100 minutes and Documentary solid at 130 minutes. While Sundance will be screenings the shorts all week long the Documentary program only runs at the MFAH February 10 and 11.

Because of licensing issues God Is The Bigger Elvis will not screen as part of the Documentary Shorts engagement. It makes you wonder how much uncleared Big E they have on the soundtrack. It’s like when that bar on Richmond called Velvet Elvis had to change its name to Velvet Melvin. Lawyers on retainers are a strange thing, but in the long run it just makes me want to see that film most of all.

Of the documentaries showing, they all seem to use found footage of historical events and expand the story from that point. To wit The Barber of Birmingham has footage of civil rights riots and in the film we hear present day interviews with the very people we see being beaten by police generations ago; The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom begins with camcorder footage of deadly floods created by the March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan and you literally see the wave of death roll in, and the aftermath has testimonials from those that survived; Incident in New Baghdad contains military video of a friendly fire occurrence that was covered up for a couple of years but now so much time has passed that the closeness to death has been distanced and the soldiers on camera can finally speak freely.

Of the live action and animated shorts I would go directly to the Norwegian live action Tuba Atlantic. The animated entries move with grace and for the most part avoid modern modes of animation. The live action cover the waterfront of diverse viewpoints but Tuba Atlantic is the kind of featurette that makes you want to want the elongated version. A do-gooder teenager visits a dying man. Her thoughts go south as she veers from religious converging to emphatic conversion to what the old dude is going through. Also, he has a devise not unlike a gigantic Alp horn that can create a soundwave as loud as Krakatoa.

- Michael Bergeron

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