The Oscar Shorts Nominees are on deck at the M.V. Film Center beginning on Friday, Feb. 17. Each of the three shorts categories includes five entries. This reviewer plans to choose one from each category, and viewers are welcome to agree or disagree with these choices. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that each one of these shorts has been chosen as an Oscar nominee and, as such, could be picked.
First comes Animation with its five films. The animation shorts’ skills belong in how it uses visuals in unusual and unconventional ways. Included are: “An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It.” It concerns the conventionally animated narrative of an office worker who meets an ostrich. Next comes “Ice Merchants,” another conventionally animated narrative, this time about a group of men working in an arctic environment.
Yet another nominee is called “My Year of Dicks,” a story in chapters where a live woman is contrasted with an animated girl seeking to lose her virginity. “The Flying Sailor” describes what happens to a sailor after two ships collide, and, finally, comes “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse,” where these four characters develop an unusual friendship while hunting for home.
“The Flying Sailor” is this reviewer’s pick because of how it begins with a brief, conventionally animated plot, then explodes into magically different directions without losing any visual coherence.
Next up are Live Action Shorts, which like short stories compress their plots in unusual ways and with unusual settings, leading to new views on reality. “An Irish Goodbye” narrates how two brothers, one of whom is developmentally challenged, handle their mother’s death now that her ashes are carried in an urn. “Ivalu,” from Denmark, tells the story of a girl looking for her missing sister, Ivalu, with a raven following her as she searches for the sister.
“Le Pupille” is the tale of a school of orphans run by nuns in striking habits. It observes their lives and describes what happens to the cake they are offered. In “Night Ride,” a woman who is a little person takes over the running of a trolley, then it narrates what happens to the passengers riding with her on it. Finally comes “The Red Suitcase,” a tale of what happens to a frightened young immigrant arriving at an airport with her red suitcase, which she refuses to let go of.
“Night Ride,” the story of the little person, her role taking over a trolley, and the passengers on it, this reviewer believes is best because it combines a delightfully compressed and interesting story in a set that is simple yet revealing.
Finally, there are five documentary shorts that discuss their points with compelling and striking visual realism. “Haulout” is a minimalist commentary set with very little color that displays the dilemma of walruses in contrast to the marine biologist who studies them. It is a study in the effect of global warming on a vulnerable species. “How Do You Measure a Year?” examines the yearly changes that occur in closeups to a girl as she is interviewed by her mother while growing up.
“Stranger at the Gate” narrates the evolution of a man from a putative mass murderer to affection for and commitment to members of the Islamic faith. South India is the setting for “The Elephant Whisperers,” as the film follows the lives of two caretakers who care for an orphaned elephant. Last but hardly least is “The Martha Mitchell Effect,” in which John Mitchell’s wife during the era of the Nixon years is interviewed. This film re-examines the impact this one woman had on the political scene.
A case could be made for all the shorts nominees, but the haunting story of “Haulout” (defined as the site of animals on land once they leave the water), wins by reason of its minimalist setting in a description of the walruses’ plight. Have fun watching these Oscar-nominated shorts and deciding which one will win.
Information and tickets to “The Oscar-Nominated Shorts” are available at mvfilmsociety.com.