Continuing their annual tradition of the past 10 years, Shorts HD has partnered with Magnolia Pictures to bring each of the Oscar-nominated short films to theaters around the country. And once again, The Little Theatre is one of the select venues to screen the programs. It's great that these films get to be seen by a wider audience; allowing them the attention they truly deserve.
As has become the norm, the three shorts categories have been split into four programs (the documentary shorts tend to be the longest of the bunch, and thus get split into two separate screenings). Thanks to the Oscar Nominated Shorts Program, cinephiles and Oscar completists will have the opportunity to view all the nominated films before the ballots are opened on February 22.
Documentary Program A
A film of startling intimacy, the elegiac "Joanna" follows a mother diagnosed with terminal cancer, and focuses mostly on her conversations with her precocious 5-year-old son. Miraculously, the film manages to avoid feeling unbearably depressing, ending on a note of bleary-eyed optimism.
The sometimes harrowing "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1" spotlights the critical work being done by the counselors at the Veterans Crisis Line in Canandaigua, New York, as they attempt to provide support to veterans contemplating suicide.
Documentary Program B
In the heartrendingly empathetic "Our Curse," director Tomasz Sliwinski documents his and his wife's struggles caring for their infant son, who has a rare, and potentially fatal, breathing disorder.
Christian Jenson's "White Earth" has a "Days of Heaven" vibe to it, chronicling life through the eyes of three children whose fathers work in the oil fields of North Dakota.
In Gabriel Serra Arguello's"The Reaper (La Parka)," a worker at a Mexican slaughterhouse speaks about dealing with the moral and ethical anguish of his job. The artfully shot, but frequently stomach churning images make it a difficult (but at times beautiful) watch.
"Parvaneh" follows a young Afghan woman who enlists the aid of a rebellious teenager to help her send money to her ailing father back home, and the two young women strike up a quietly affecting friendship.
The most lighthearted of this program's lineup, "Boogaloo and Graham," tells the sweet story of two brothers in Northern Ireland whose father gives them each a baby chick to care for.
In "Aya," a young woman assumes the identity of an airport driver and finds herself driving a professor of music to a recital in Jerusalem. Excellent performances from the two leads make the film utterly captivating.
"The Phone Call" portrays an emotionally distressing conversation between a crisis center operator (played by Sally Hawkins) and a suicidal caller (voiced by Jim Broadbent).
Documentary and fiction blur to interesting effect in "Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)," as a Tibetan photographer interacts with his various subjects in front of an ever-changing photo backdrop.
Through delightful hand-drawn animation, "Me and My Moulton" details the semi-autobiographical story of writer-director TorillKove and her two sisters growing up in Norway with modernist architect parents. The film is like a children's picture book by way of IKEA.
If you caught Disney's feature "Big Hero Six" in theaters, you likely caught the adorable "Feast" which tracks several years in a dog's relationship with his owner through the food he's given.
"The Bigger Picture" utilizes a fascinating technique, marrying textured painting with stop-motion animation to tell a somber tale of two brothers who can't help but quarrel as they care for their dying mother.
In the droll "A Single Life," a woman discovers a record that gives her the ability to skip forward and backward in the timeline of her life.
Directed by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, "The Dam Keeper" is an allegorical fable about a young misfit pig who runs a dam that prevents pollution from overtaking his village. Possibly my favorite of the bunch, the film is gorgeously animated and surprisingly emotional.
As with previous years, the animation program is supplemented with extra "highly commended" shorts:
"Sweet Cocoon" weaves a silly little story about a rotund caterpillar's fraught attempts to begin her metamorphosis.
In "Footprints," from animator Bill Plympton, a man goes on the hunt for a destructive beast.
Glen Keane's lovely "Duet" depicts a romance between a boy and a girl that follows them from childhood to adulthood.
Finally, "Bus Story" tells a charming tale of the narrator's misadventures after she achieves her dream of becoming a school bus driver.