Oscar's short films are long on artistry
05:00 AM, Feb 21, 2013
This year’s Oscar-nominated film shorts are diverse and fascinating little films that make a bigger impact than their length would imply. The medium is used to explore complex ideas within economical time constraints, and these films span the globe and encompass a variety of styles and genres. USA TODAY’s Claudia Puig explores the standouts in the various fields.
* * * * out of four
Directors: Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
Story: A beautifully shot and poignant look at a Sudanese hospital that offers free cardiac surgery to African children afflicted with rheumatic heart disease. Some 13 million people in Africa suffer from the disease but there is only one hospital that performs this life-saving surgery. The film follows a small group of Rwandan children chosen for cardiac bypass surgery. Their faces are deeply moving, as are the comments of an African pediatric cardiologist who selects the lucky children, ranging in age from 5 to 17.
Mondays at Racine
* * * ½
Directors: Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
Story: An honest and tender look at how women cope with breast cancer from a very specific angle. Two women, daughters of a woman who fought depression after her breast cancer diagnosis, open their Long Island beauty salon once a month to women with breast cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. They call their salon “The Pavilion for Holistic Health Care,” and the goal is to give women back a sense of themselves. After losing her hair, one woman comments: “I don’t feel like a woman. I feel like an alien.” Some moments are uplifting, others quite sad.
* * * ½
Director: Sari Gilman
Story: Residents of the Kings Point Retirement Center share their thoughts on friendship, family, romance, loneliness and life in Florida in this touching portrait of the vagaries of old age. “Self-preservation is No. 1 always no matter what age,” says one of the retirees.
* * ½
Directors: Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill
Story: A look at “canning” in New York City. The focus is on jobless people of all ages who collect cans and bottles for redemption in order to make ends meet. They include Vietnam vets, former short-order cooks, retirees and a one-time computer technician who hopes no one she knows sees her collecting these discards. “Everybody used to have a job,” says one man. “Now, getting a job is like hitting the lotto.”
* * *
Director: Sean and Andrea Nix Fine
Story: A young artist who is homeless and an undocumented immigrant won’t let her circumstances deter her from her goals.
* * * *
Director: John Kahrs
Story: A sweetly moving and wordless romance in black-and-white where sparks (and papers) fly when a man and woman meet on a train platform en route to their office jobs.
Head Over Heels
* * * *
Directors: Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly
Story: The life of a long-married but now-disconnected couple is cleverly depicted through gravity-defying stop-motion animation.
Adam and Dog
* * *
Director: Minkyu Lee
Story: A lovely parable in a lush setting positing how a dog became man’s best friend.
Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare’
* * *
Director: David Silverman
Story: Marge Simpson drops off her youngest child, Maggie, at the Ayn Rand School for Tots. After going through an elaborate security system, she is carried by a guard past the “Room for Gifted Babies” to one marked “Nothing Special.” Despite a dispiriting and comical series of events, Maggie’s sense of wonder is not squelched.
Director: PES (Adam Pesapane)
Story: A bowl of guacamole is prepared with unlikely ingredients including baseballs, light bulbs and hand grenades and scooped onto poker chips.
Directors: Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
Story: A coming-of-age tale of a Somali boy choosing between becoming a fisherman or falling into the dangerous life of a pirate, as so many others have in his war-torn village.
Directors: Sam French and Ariel Nasr
Story: A pair of young best friends in Afghanistan a charming street urchin and a dutiful blacksmith’s apprentice dream of playing the national sport of buzkashi, a violent version of polo involving horseback riders and a dead goat. As they ponder manhood, they face the realities of life in an impoverished, war-plagued nation.
Director: Shawn Christensen
Story: Just as he is facing his deepest moment of despair, a man gets a call from his estranged sister asking him to look after his precocious 9-year-old niece for the evening.
Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)
Directors: Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
Story: An odd collector who has captured 10,000 shadows of dead people gives a soldier a second chance at life and love.
* * * ½
Director: Yan England
Story: An elderly concert pianist faces the mysterious loss of the love of his life.