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DaveHoward Written by DaveHoward
Feb. 12, 2011 | 8:31 AM
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Handicap Your Oscar Pool- The Shorts

Handicapping Your Oscar Pool: The Shorts

image With this year’s Oscars already looking like the most predictable in years, the make or break categories of Animated and Live Action short could sink your pool. A smart host will weigh these categories carefully in the points division while we can pretty much guess the Natalie Portman, David Fincher and Colin Firth categories will probably be draws for those of us playing the home game. So the gambling communities from K-town to the Pallisaides should heed my guruness for the better—this year you need an extra O in the hole. If you want to check them out yourself, they are playing at Laemelle theaters in Pasadena, Orange County, Encino and WeHo.

They will also be on VOD and I-Tunes starting February 22nd. View the trailer.

As usual, I need to put my betting mind before heart and separate personal favorites from the “winners” the Academy will pick. If I picked the one I liked the most, I would never be right. I will also go brief on synopisis to avoid spoilers.

As always these films are each excellent in their own ways. High quality, rousing variety and brilliantly lean, you will hard pressed to find a better $10 movie experience in town. But even the best of the best needed to be ranked.

The Live Action category is the strongest it has been in years. This year the Academy has rewarded us for sitting through years heart-wrenching, button-pushing tragedy. This year we get a nice round up of dark comedies and a hip-indie one.

5 to 1 The Crush (Ireland, 15 min) A 2nd grader falls for his teacher. When she gets engaged he challenges her suitor to a duel to prove the more worthy man. A well-directed piece by Michael Creagh with some pretty decent performances including a captivating young Charlie Bonner dealing with his first heartbreak that could become psychotic. However, when this eight year old pulls out a gun, I think you will lose the Academy. There has been too much gun violence as of late in real life to make this a contender.

4 to 1 Wish 143
(UK 24 minutes) A terminally ill teen gets a visit from the Dreamscape Foundation who asks him for a final wish. The teen is not so hot on going to the traditional Disneyland, he wants to get laid. Enlisting the help of a reluctant priest, he sets out to meet his goal. This film is touching, has a strong emotional heart and some very honest conclusions. Even the priest sees a picture bigger than himself. However, for some reason it just seemed to peter out for me in what seemed to be an predictable conclusion.

3 to 1 Na Wewe (Belgium/ 19 minutes)
A group of strangers are traveling in a bus during the 1994 Central Africa civil war. They are pulled over by guards who try and figure out the birthplace of each to see if they need to be executed. One by one an itchy trigger fingered guard attempts to find the answer. It’s a harrowing situation but again, the conclusion seems rushed and even, dare I say, a little cutesy. Now of the five films this one I would really like to see an expanded full-length feature. I don’t 19 minutes was enough to tell the full story.

image2 to 1 God of Love  (USA/18 minutes) Now kiddies gather around the fire and Granddady will tell you a story. Before Pulp Fiction, indie films used to fun and cool. This was a time when genuine exciting talent seemed to burst out of each one and Sundance wasn’t just a bunch of low-budget flicks starring A-listers and Mark Ruffalo.  Spike Lee, Stephen Soderbergh, Kevin Smith and Michael Moore all put out features that induced marathon conversations. They launched a generation of actors, cinematographers and editors. Well, give a warm welcome to Luke Matheny, the love child of Jim Jarmusch and Woody Allen.

God of Love, written, directed and starring Matheny is a romantic comedy (yes, in the funny and romantic way!) packed with delicious hipness of an era long gone by. A crooning musician with a talent for hitting bullseyes with darts is frustrated because the woman he is into has fallen for his best friend. He receives a mysterious package of darts that will make people fall in love with the first person they see. After a few misteps he finds a cause greater than himself.

Original, quirky and stylish—this is my favorite of the five but as we know.. my opinion means shit. The good news is I expect to see a lot out of the

imageThe Winner is The Confession. (UK 26 minutes) Two young boys face having their first confession. They are eight, still innocent and are looking for something to confess. Researching the matter thoroughly they decide the most harmless sin is playing a trick on someone. The prank goes awry to overwhelming and terrifying consequences. The must then decide if they should confess to anyone. This piece is very well acted, directed and hits all of the Academy’s weak spots, religious conflict, trust amongst friends, obvious symbolism and a dark little ending. This is my pick to bring home the prize.

Animated Shorts
For the first time in many years, the Animated category is weaker than Live Action. It is also getting more predictable. We have the usual outing by Pixar, a sarcastic message film, something I didn’t “get” from France, an adaption of a children’s book and one very deep masterpiece.

5 to 1 Day & Night, (USA/ 6 minutes)

Two friendly ghost-like images, one representing Day and the other Night, fight each other to see which has more to offer. Is it Day’s sunbathing beauties and dawn or is it Night’s Vegas lifetstyle and twilight.  They soon see that they both have something the other can’t offer and become friends. While the story is okay enough, and the visuals are great this short just doesn’t seem to have the pizzazz that is usually associated with Pixar storytelling. It seems like that extra dimension of depth that we associate with their animated process. I find it hard to believe this is the best that Emmeryville boys could come up with.

4 to 1 Madagascar, Carnet De Voyage (France/11 minutes)
A European traveler gets swept away in a fast forward journey through the culture of Madagascar. This is a beautiful, hand drawn piece that moves almost too fast and furiously for its own good. On it’s own, the flick is an artistic eye popping achievement but against the others it needed a bit more substance to stand out from the crowd.

image3 to 1 The Lost Thing (Australia, UK/16 minutes
Another short that needs a feature vision. A likable nerd stumbles across “The Lost Thing” a cross between a spaceship, a chiminea and an octopus. It definitely has a life of its own and deserves to fit in somewhere but where that home is will take some hunting. A deeply touching, funny, soul searching piece that is my favorite of the pack. This would be a wonderful film to show kids who haven’t found their place in the world yet. So this is my vote… but…

2 to 1 Let’s Pollute (USA / 6 minutes)
The second Cal-Arts Pixar alumni driven short.  This sarcastic 50’s style industrial film shows everyone how to pollute the planet to extinction. While the message may seem a bit hammered home for those of us who already know how to use the blue bins in the driveway, this is Academy catnip. Last year’s winner was also a message film and it made way less sense than this one.  This could easily upset the favorite:

The Winner is The Gruffalo (UK/Germany 27 minutes) Yes, this is best of the animated films and it really doesn’t seem fair. Adapted from the children’s story about a timid mouse there seems be a lot more financing behind this film than any of the others. It has a beloved source story, a world renown cast (John Hurt, Helena Bonham Carter and Tom Wilkinson) and what seems like a lavish several million dollars worth of animation. Yes, it is 100% delightful and every bit deserving of this year’s statuette and I look forward to sharing it with my kid. But at 27 minutes it feels like is should be competing in a T.V. special category. 

So good luck, put on your most formal jammies, warm up the cocktail weinies and open a bottle of Processco—you can now dominate this year’s Oscar party!

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