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Oscar-nominated shorts open at The Carousel Cinemas for a limited run

By Clayton Dillard


Published: Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Throughout the duration of an often three plus hour Oscar telecast, there are always two categories that viewers likely have little clue about: the short films. Fortunately, this year will prove an exception for UNCG students and Greensboro residents alike, as The Carousel Luxury Cinemas is one of only 70 theaters nationwide to exhibit the films prior to the ceremony. Ten shorts: five animated, five live action are set to open Friday, February 19 and will run through the end of this week. Below is a brief synopsis and review of each film.


Granny O’ Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty — Using now standard computer animation and running only six minutes, there’s nothing too distinctive about this revisionist take on the classic character from Ireland. Actually, there’s not much too it at all, except for the use of a crazy grandmother, ranting and raving about being treated unfairly in the past. Kids won’t get it and adults will be scratching their heads. Grade: C.

The Lady and the Reaper — Anything that opens with an homage to Dr. Strangelove can’t be too bad – or so it seemed. Longing to join her beloved husband in the afterlife, an elderly woman is resuscitated by her doctor, to her chagrin. The grim reaper and the doc duke it out for her possession. It’s the piece’s frivolity that’s most disheartening; even at only eight minutes, the slapstick wears thin and the payoff doesn’t work. Grade: C.

Logorama — The only one of the nominees definitely not for kids, it quickly establishes a world befitting our consumerist culture. The joke, though, is “Grand Theft Auto” with Ronald McDonald, the Michelin Man and Mr. Pringles, among others. If it tickles your funny bone to see these characters spew R-rated words, you’ll be amused. Ultimately though, the proceedings yield little social critique and plays fairly juvenile. Grade: C+.

A Matter of Loaf and Death — Possessing true charm and wit, Nick Park’s film chronicles another episode in the adventure of Wallace and Gromit. The only drawback is a thorough implementation of the monstrous-feminine, the use of which proves somewhat troublesome. However, with cute nods to diverse films like Ghost and Citizen Kane, spot-on screwball gags and stellar animation, it’s certainly the favorite to win. Grade: B.

French Roast: The best of the animated shorts, it recalls the classic Warner Brothers cartoons of Chuck Jones in its use of space and pacing to create comedy, rather than rambunctious slapstick. Taking place in a French coffeehouse, there’s hardly a word of dialogue spoken, but the recurring images create the humor needed. Gentle, warm and not needlessly oddball, it embodies what an animated short should strive to achieve. Grade: B+.

The Live-Action Shorts

Kavi: Set in present-day India, young Kavi struggles with his poverty, moral concerns and a life of potential enslavement to local hustlers. This type of pandering to white liberal guilt always finds its way into Oscar favor. From City of God to Slumdog Millionaire, violence against children can easily be used to manipulate audience sentiments – so are the practices of Kavi, hardly subtle or artful, torture porn with a political veil. Grade: C-.

The Door: Taking place in mid-80’s Russia amidst the Chernobyl disaster, this quietly effective, meditative piece has more by way of aesthetic value than emotional resonance. Lacking the pathos of the great mediators like Bergman, Tarkovsky or Ozu (which it clearly aspires to be), it also utilizes the “child in danger” trick to tug at a viewer’s empathetic response. Nevertheless, the Academy really digs stuff like this. Expect it to win. Grade: B-.

Miracle Fish: Australian director Luke Doolan continues the trend, putting a child in harm’s way. This time it’s Joe, a bullied eight year old who wishes the world would disappear. After wishing upon a plastic fish, his dream comes true…or so it seems. The twist here makes little sense, crassly juxtapositioning boyhood innocence with homicidal male angst. Any sincerity turns to ugly pretention, especially through its late acts of sensationalism. Grade: D+.

The New Tenants: Announcing its Indie banality through an atrocious opening monologue about the ills of the world, not much gets better in this tale, interconnecting three sets of characters in an apartment complex. The dialogue so desperately wants to sound naturalistic, but inspires only cringes in its calculation. A couple of hammy cameos (by whom I will not say) is the only saving grace here, but even it wears thin with such a weak script. Grade: D+.

Instead of Abracadabra: Best described as a Swedish Napoleon Dynamite, this tale of a twenty’s-something magician who lives with his parents is the most interesting of the live-action lot. Unfortunately, there are the requisite masturbation and dancing gags that must now accompany all tales of “loserdom,” but at least it has modesty enough not to take itself too seriously. In a group sullen or silly works, this flawed comedy is serviceable. Grade: B-.

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