In review: The Oscar-nominated short films

This past week, Waterloo’s Princess Cinema screened the Academy Awards short film nominees, undoubtedly an under-exposed corner of the film world. Staff Writer Sarah Murphy reviews the animated shorts and Staff Writer Mike Lakusiak reviews the live-action shorts.

Animated nominees

A Matter of Loaf and Death
Directed: Nicolas Schmerkin

Nick Park continues the saga of everybody’s favourite clay duo, Wallace and Gromit with A Matter of Loaf and Death.

The 30-minute piece sees Wallace abandon his typical infatuation with cheese for the pursuit of Piella Bakewell to the annoyance of Gromit.

Meanwhile, a serial killer with a preference for bakers is on the loose; as the two plotlines intertwine, Gromit is determined to make sure the 13th victim isn’t his beloved owner. Maybe not the best of the Wallace and Gromit catalogue, but completely enjoyable nonetheless.

French Roast
Directed by: Fabrice O. Joubert

French Roast is a simple but endearing story that provides a refreshing set of characters, with a wealthy man with a misplaced wallet, a nun with a criminal secret and a beggar who proves to have a heart of gold.

It is visually impressive, and running for a mere eight minutes, there is nothing out of pace or out of place.

Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty
Directed by: Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell

Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty is a hilarious retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty tale through the eyes of a bitter old Irish woman sharing a bedtime story with her grandchild.

The animation is gorgeous when the film switches from the child’s bedroom into the realm of the fairytale.

The Lady and the Reaper
Directed by: Javier Recio Gracia

Spanish short La Dama y la Muerte is the weakest of the nominations, documenting a – literal at times – tug of war between the Grim Reaper and modern medical science over an elderly lady who wants only to be rejoined with her deceased husband.

While it is visually stunning at times, the storyline makes the viewer fairly uncomfortable.

Directed by: Nicolas Schmerkin

Logorama is definitely the cleverest film of the bunch. The premise? Portray L.A. as a city of logos and then work in a plotline in which Ronald McDonald is a criminal on the run from the foul-mouthed Michelin Men law-enforcers.

The entire 16-minute film is intelligently crafted, and from the Lacoste alligators behind the zoo’s fences of golden arches to the AOL messenger man pedestrians crossing a bridge fashioned after the Audi logo, there is always something to catch the consumeristic viewer’s eye.

Live-action nominees

Directed by: Gregg Helvey

Kavi presents a grim portrait of child labour and raises the issue of modern slavery through the story of a young Indian boy forced to move bricks all day because his family is indebted to, and imprisoned by, a factory owner.

While there is hope in the film, there is also an overwhelming sense of uncertainty, an appropriate tone given its subject matter and the nature of the lives it depicts.

The New Tenants
Directed by: Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson

This film seems entirely too wrapped up in its initial witty dialogue, and when its writing and twists falter, depends on graphic and ironic imagery to shakily continue.

Moving into a new apartment causes a series of outrageous events that seem darkly comedic for the new tenants but progress to a point where no logic or comedy remains.

The problem is the ending, which seems completely nonsensical and unrelated to the rest of the film.

Miracle Fish
Directed by: Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey

This Australian film also relies upon a violent twist to amount to any real narrative. Presenting a day in the life of a bullied eight-year-old boy, the film shows some promise as the audience gets to know the boy and his situation. However, it stalls when the boy finds himself on his own; only with a disturbing visual resolution does it amount to a complete story.

The conclusion is a bit traumatic, but effective at engaging the viewer, who may have become bored. Creating boredom is not a good quality in a 17-minute film.

The Door
Directed by: Juanita Wilson and James Flynn

Centered on the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine, this film is sombre but uses lighting and colour well to add to its overall visual product.

The grim Soviet era is portrayed as such, and the story is moving and meaningful despite being so dismally bleak.

Nothing about the film seems unnecessarily drawn out and it progresses well; however, despite being engaging, it seems needlessly sad and isn’t terribly complex, just sort of haunting.

Instead of Abracadabra
Directed by: Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström

This predictable comedy is pretty well-assembled and consistently funny, though not to a tremendous degree. Its quirky nature and just the right amount of visual cheese-factor make it watchable, but the predictability becomes a little monotonous.

Its Scandinavian charm makes up for its story, which becomes tired and disjointed towards the end.

It is well-written and presented, but too gimmicky to leave a real impression other than a few moments of cringe-worthy goodness.