They don't have the glitz and glamour of categories like Best Costume Design or Best Sound Mixing (and if you're an Oscar predictions junkie, one of them is bound to screw up your stats during the evening), but the 15 Academy Award-nominated short films that make up this year's three short film categories (Documentary, Animated, and Live-Action) are an interesting bunch to say the least. Let's take a closer look…
Directed by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, Inocente follows a 15-year-old homeless girl and aspiring artist living in San Diego as she maneuvers her way through a dark and troubled life. The story is powerful and heartbreaking as we watch the imaginative title character fight for something better. In Kings Point, director Sari Gilman focuses on a small group of senior citizens living in a retirement community in Florida and shows how they connect with each other during their twilight years; Two sisters in Long Island open their beauty salon free of charge once a month to cancer patients in Mondays at Racine (dir. Cynthia Wade); In Open Heart (dir. Kief Davidson), eight children in Rwanda are chosen to undergo life-saving heart surgery at the one hospital in Africa that performs the operation free of charge. In Redemption, the only film on this list that doesn't necessarily require a box of tissue, director Jon Alpert shadows NYC canners, individuals who collect cans and bottles around the city for cash.
The frontrunner in this category has to be the enchanting 2-D animated short Paperman from director John Kahrs and Walt Disney Animation Studios. The film follows a young man who uses paper airplanes to get the attention of a girl he meets at a train station. The addition of magical realism to the narrative is a welcomed surprise in this sweet little love story. Also impressive is director Minkyu Lee's beautifully drawn Adam and Dog about the strong bond a tail-wagging canine shares with Adam in the Garden of Eden. Rounding out the nominations for Best Animated Short is Fresh Guacamole (dir. PES), a creative culinary segment where guacamole is prepared with bizarre ingredients; Head Over Heels (dir. Timothy Reckart), which tells the whimsical story of an elderly couple who live in the same house but not on the same plane; and The Longest Day Care (dir. David Silverman), featuring pacifier-sucking Simpsons baby Maggie as she faces off against her uni-browed nemesis in the Ayn Rand School for Tots.
In Buzkashi Boys (dir. Sam French), the strongest of the live-action short nominees, two young boys from Afghanistan dream of a future where they can grow up to play buzkashi, a horse-mounted sport reminiscent of polo. The exquisite landscape, cinematography, and touching coming-of-age story are not to be missed. Another must-see is Asad (dir. Bryan Buckley) about a young Somalian boy who must forgo his plans to become a pirate so he can become the greatest fisherman his village has ever seen. Rounding out the nominees is Henry (dir. Yan England), a heartstring-pulling French Canadian film that takes us through the mindset of an concert pianist as he battles Alzheimer's and remembers the life he once shared with his wife Maria; In Curfew (dir. Shawn Christensen), an estranged uncle is given the task of watching his talkative young niece who has no interest in getting to know him as a person; and Death of a Shadow (dir. Tom Van Avermaet), is an eerie, Twilight Zone-eque Dutch short about a soldier, who captures the deaths of individuals by photographing their shadows.