Every year the Academy Awards devotes a chunk of time to films no one's heard of. Usually winners for live action, documentary and animated shorts are handed their statuettes to the applause of clueless audience members and uninterested viewers.
This year was a little different; short films are finally coming into their own, thanks mostly to Internet distribution. The five Oscar nominees for live action short film were made available on i-Tunes in January, catapulting one of the shorts, Cashback, into their top five downloads.
For those who prefer to view films on something bigger than a three-inch screen, the Maple Art is showing this year's nominees for both live action and animated shorts. Though it would have been nice to see these films before the Oscars, this is a rare opportunity for fans to see promising new filmmakers.
The selection is a mixed bag of impressive cinematic experiments and well-made banality. The great thing about this format: If you don't like what you're watching, it'll be over mercifully soon, followed by something completely different. Here's what's showing:
by Shane Acker
This UCLA student's five-year thesis project has impressive computer-generated visuals reminiscent of the Quay brothers. In a postapocalyptic landscape, numbered individuals struggle to survive against a ferocious mechanized beast. The action is fast and furious, but the story is overly familiar.
The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello
by Andrew Lucas
Blending H.G. Wells' sensibility with elements of Alien, this 30-minute short reveals a breathtaking world of silhouetted characters and steam-punk stylization. The storyline is predictable, but the haunting imagery and gothic affectations will stick with you.
The Moon and the Son
by John Canemaker
This Oscar-winning short by the esteemed animator uses child-like drawings and collages to create a conversation between the part of the filmmaker (spoken by John Turturro) and his dead father (spoken by Eli Wallach). It's a highly personal and occasionally indulgent autobiography that will win you over with its vulnerability and poignancy.
The Fan and the Flower
by Bill Plympton
A kinder, gentler bit of pencil animation from the man who likes to joke about severing body parts and turning people inside out.
One Man Band
by Pixar Animation Studios
Predictably manic and highly polished, this four-minute piffle about dueling buskers is pretty much what you'd expect: amusing, slick and soulless.
Live Action Shorts
by Martin McDonagh
A well-deserved Oscar win for the infamously black-hearted playwright. Brendan Gleeson is terrific as a man whose day begins with the death of his sick wife and just gets worse on the train ride home. Macabre, tense and oddly humorous, McDonagh displays a sure directorial hand for his first venture.
Our Time is Up
by Rob Pearlstein
A well-made but thoroughly derivative tale about an impassive psychiatrist (Kevin Pollack) who's inspired to confront his patients with the ugly truths behind their behavior. Why it was nominated is a mystery.
The Last Farm
by Rúnar Rúnarsson
A haunting and lyrical look at the last days of an elderly Icelandic farmer. The film's bleak visuals create the perfect tone for this starkly beautiful short.
by Sean Ellis
A flashy meditation on the trials and travails of working at a 24-hour supermarket. Hip, irreverent and featuring plenty of naked beautiful women, this journey into the thoughts of a dreamy art student is as shallow as it is watchable.
by Ulrike Grote
This German import is engrossing but ultimately disappoints. An architect is confronted by a small boy who calls him "Papa." Unable to get rid of the strange kid, he discovers that his mother might be an ex-girlfriend. From there things get stranger and stranger.
Showing at the Maple Art Theatre (4135 W. Maple Rd., Bloomfield Hills; 248-263-2111).
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].