[EDITOR’S NOTE] There was a time when the Academy Awards would hand out prizes for “short films,” and those of us at home watching would not have a CLUE why any one of those five announced films - in three different categories - ultimately took the prize over another. That, of course, was because only Academy Award voters got to SEE those films. Times have changed, and if you are willing to hunt a bit, and drive a little, it is now possible to see the Best Short Documentary, Best Animated Short, and Best Live Action short nominees before you sit down to watch the Oscars on March 4.
Here are movie reviewer Gil Mansergh’s descriptions of this year’s nominees, with a bit of personal commentary on one high-profile nominee.
OSCAR NOMINATED DOCUMENTARY SHORTS (NR)
All five nominations this year are from the USA, including “Edith and Eddie,” about 96-year-old and 95-year-old newlyweds who are kept apart by Edith’s daughter because they are from different races; “Heaven Is a Traffic Jam On the 405,” about artist and sculptor Mindy Alper; ‘Heroin(e)’, exploring the small town in West Virginia that fights against being the overdose capital of America; “Knife Skills,” about recently released prisoners learning culinary artistry; and “Traffic Stop,” focused on a powerful conversation about race in America taking place between a police officer and a black woman.
OSCAR NOMINATED ANIMATED SHORTS (NR)
Two nominees from the USA include Kobe Bryant’s voiceover (plus Glen Keane’s hand-drawn aninmation and John Williams’ score) in “Dear Basketball,” and how to change a bully’s attitude, with help from a Lost and Found box, in ‘Lou.’ The two nominees from France include a “Garden Party” invaded by frogs and toads, and a father and son who connect through packing a suitcase in “Negative Space.” The entry from the UK features the wolf’s point of view of what really happened to Little Red Riding Hood in “Revolting Rhymes.” I feel it is important to elaborate on an ethical question raised by Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in their selection of Kobe Bryant’s ‘Dear Basketball’ as one of the five nominees. On the surface, this short is about the NBA star’s love of basketball, but underneath, especially with the recent focus on sexual assault, it is much more. For Kobe Bryant is not only the focus of the film but also the screenwriter, narrator and executive producer of the presentation which is made and released through his own Kobe Studios. In short, I see a Kobe Bryant propaganda film, designed - with complicit help from the Oscar Shorts Committee - as part of the cover up of Kobe Bryant’s violent history with women.
OSCAR NOMINATED LIVE ACTION SHORTS (NR)
The two from the USA include: “DeKalb Elementary” about a school secretary taken hostage by a gunman, and “My Nephew Emmett” tells the backstory of the notorious death of Emmett Till. An Australian psychiatrist’s patient believes he is the therapist “The Eleven O’Clock.” The UK entry features a deaf girl learning sign language against her hearing parent’s wishes in “The Silent Child.” A Christian living in Kenya boards a bus that’s hijacked by Muslim terrorists in the German/Kenyan entry “Wutu Wote (All of Us).”
Where to see Oscar Shorts Programs
Petaluma cineastes will have to travel a bit to see all three of the Academy Award-nominated short films, but it’s doable, if your need for Oscar completion is high enough. Currently, the Documentary Shorts can be caught at Sebastopol’s Rialto Cinemas (6868 McKinley St.), most recently announced as running at 12 p.m., 3:45 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. RialtoCinemas.com. The Animated and Live Action Shorts can be seen in Sonoma County at Summerfield Cinema (551 Summerfield Rd., Santa Rosa). The Animated Program is currently announced as running at 10:45 a.m., 3 p.m., and 7:15 p.m., and the Live Action program at 12:45 p.m., 5 p.m., and 9:15 p.m. SummerfieldCinemas.com. It should also be pointed out that several of these films are already viewable on YouTube.