The best ain't all that great.
The good news is that this category no longer has to be your designated bathroom-and-smoke break during what’s sure to be another egregiously long ceremony. Once again, for one week only, the Ritz at the Bourse will be showing all the Oscar-Nominated Short Films. So it’s a good night out if you want to get a leg up on your office pool.
The bad news is that this year the films are even worse than usual. (As always with the Academy Awards, you’ll find yourself scratching your head, wondering: “Is this really the best y’all could come up with?”)
Best Live Action Short is a total washout. Joachim Beck’s The New Tenants is a flashback to the worst of ’90s indie cinema, with a bickering gay couple prone to foul-mouthed monologues falling into an absurdly stupid criminal misunderstanding involving a kilo of heroin mistaken for a bag of flour, complete with a shotgun-wielding alt-movie staple Kevin Corrigan doing his absolute worst Christopher Walken impersonation. More egregious is Kavi, Greg Helevev’s mini-Indian melodrama about a plucky slave-child sold into slavery, when all he really wants to do is go to school and play cricket. Sunset-hued and shamelessly manipulative, it makes Slumdog Millionaire look like The World of Apu.
Worst in show goes to Luke Doolan’s Miracle Fish, another too-precious child’s view of the world that sees a Columbine-type massacre through the eyes of a sensitive, bullied young tyke. Trust me, it’s gross.
The Best Animated Shorts fare better, and not just because this year our distinguished voting body stopped nominating experimental, computer-generated affairs that look more like screensavers. The clear frontrunner here is Nick Park’s Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death. This time around our bumbling inventor and his wise dog stare down a daffy serial killer, with the help of a love-struck poodle.
As always, the story’s practically almost beside the point in Park’s droll claymation, full of wacky Rube Goldberg contraptions, complicated action sequences and such a loving attention to detail you’ll need to watch the picture twice just to catch all the jokes hidden in secret corners. There’s no competition here. C