Academy Awards completists aren’t the only potential audience for “The Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2011,” two vivid collections of live-action and animated films from around the world. (They screen in separate packages, requiring separate admission.)
Of the 10 nominated films, five in each category, only three are American-made; other countries represented are Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, France and Belgium.
They range from a kid-friendly tale of a brave mouse to a harrowing glimpse of violence in Burundi; a cancer-stricken teen in England to a hipster Cupid in Brooklyn. There’s no unifying theme, except that there’s surely a short here for every taste.
Among the live-action shorts, three feature youngsters from the British Isles, dealing with a crisis. (OK, maybe that’s a theme.)
“The Confession,” an elegant mini-tragedy, shows how 9-year-old Sam’s innocent attempt to create a bit of material for his first confession goes horribly wrong.
“The Crush” has at its center an Irish 8-year-old in love with his teacher, and ready to challenge his rival – her gruff fiance – to a duel.
And the poignant “Wish 143,” in which a terminally ill 15-year-old wants “an hour with a naked woman” before he dies, deftly avoids sentimentality while reminding us that this cancer patient is still, first and foremost, a boy.
“Na Wewe” takes us to “Hotel Rwanda” territory, as we see a group of Africans being “sorted” by rebels who demand to know who is Hutu and who is Tutsi – a question not easily answered.
A world away is my favorite film of this group, “God of Love,” written by, directed by and starring Luke Matheny. A young old-school crooner (and champion darts-thrower) finds a second career as Cupid in this witty charmer, shot in cool black-and-white and crammed full of snappy dialogue, including the best reference to the movie “Witness” I’ve heard in a long time. Maybe ever.
On the animated front, “Day & Night” will be familiar – it’s the irresistible Pixar short that played in theaters with “Toy Story 3,” in which a pair of opposites learn to celebrate their differences.
“The Gruffalo,” a mouse-that-roared story told in Dr. Seuss-ish rhyme, is likewise adorable, with vivid voice performances by a distinguished British cast that includes “King’s Speech” Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter.
“Let’s Pollute,” though cleverly drawn, uses a heavy hand in its satire of ’60s education films. “Madagascar: A Journey Diary,” subtitled in French, is a lovely, impressionistic travelogue, with hand-painted art that often seems uncannily to have three dimensions.
And “The Lost Thing,” from Australia, is wonderfully imaginative in its images, and its wistful message of how things that don’t fit in – “something with a weird, sad, lost sort of look” – seem to be disappearing, or maybe just aren’t being noticed anymore.
Also included on the animation program, but not screened for reviewers, are previous Oscar nominee Bill Plympton’s “The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger” (which, I hear, may not be suitable for small children) and, from Germany, “Urs,” the story of a boy and his aging mother.