A. O. Scott has an account of the animated and live action shorts that have been nominated for the Oscars this year. These shorts are now running in theaters in the U. S. While we ponder what is short film, here are his thoughts: Their wider availability makes sense in an era that might well turn out to be a golden age of short-form moviemaking. The newer platforms favor brevity, and there is plenty of room for real cinema amid the comedy sketches and cute-baby shenanigans that go viral in office cubicles across the land. Short films are often the work of younger filmmakers and sometimes contain the seeds of larger projects. But however modest its means or small its scale, a 10- or 15-minute movie requires as much craft and discipline as a feature. Maybe more. A short story can display infelicities of prose less forgivingly than a novel, and there is less room for error in a handful of shots and scenes.
Oscar shorts are making rounds of theaters in the U. S. Live action and animated shorts are screened separately, and judging from the trailers and publicity, they will run at least until the Awards event on Sunday. Shorts International, which has released these shorts in theaters will make them available for download in iTunes. The show is a treat, no doubt, as there is a variety in these shorts as much as narrative flexibility, ingenuity of form and a refreshing perspective on film making, especially after Slumdog, Ben Button, etc. Program for live action shorts includes: Reto Caffi’s (Auf Dee Strecke), On the Line (Switzerland); Steph Green’s New Boy (Ireland); Tivi Magnusson and Dorte Høgh’ The Pig (Denmark); Jochen Alexander and Freydank’s (Spielzeugland) Toyland (Germany); and Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont’s Manon on the Asphalt (France). When it comes to short films, Academy does not distinguish between American and “foreign” or “foreign language” films. And, there are no American productions this year. Does that affirm our assumption that the film industry in the U. S. does not value short films or that they do not produce quality short films that stand out in competition to their world/European counterparts? This is what A. O. Scott says in The New York Times; The nominees reflect the astonishing fact, barely acknowledged during the Academy’s annual ceremony of self-worship, that film is an international art form. The absurd rules and restrictions that govern the best-foreign-language film selections seem not to influence the selection of shorts, which hail from all over the globe, sometimes more than one to a country. All five films are unique and quite brilliant. Each explores a different narrative form; each has a varied visual theme and all end up achieving much. There is energy in imagination, brevity and leaps in[…..]
David Thomson profiles Danny Boyle in The Guardian this week. Like Frank Rich in The New York Times (and many others to echo elsewhere), Thomson calls it the film for the times of recession, a story of rags to riches. That is; it is a “feel good” movie that is likely to lift us up in bad times. If there is a message here, it is about how povery is “written” on the bodies of the poor. The lucky coincidence of Slumdog’s success is more about how the game shows attempt to bring out the pathologies of the masses rather than present a feel good story for the Oscars season. If you see only the narrative and not its movement, its steady stealing of emotions with principles of pleasure, you miss everythiing. More on Slumdog later.