A strong pro­gram of lesser-known Os­car nom­i­nees gets the point across with style, smarts, and time to spare

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While the Fish Man dukes it out with the Lady Bird, the Vancity Theatre turns its at­ten­tion to this year’s Os­car-nom­i­nated shorts, car­toons, and doc­u­men­taries.


33 Ca­reers 11 Real Es­tate

OS­CAR-NOM­I­NATED SHORTS: AN­I­MA­TION Rat­ing un­avail­able

Themes of loss, growth, and child­hood 2

mem­ory dom­i­nate this un­usu­ally sat­is­fy­ing col­lec­tion of an­i­mated shorts, most of which clock in at seven min­utes or less, with one half-hour ex­cep­tion.

We re­viewed Kobe Bryant’s am­bi­tious “Dear Bas­ket­ball” out of a re­cent trav­el­ling ’toon fest. This ca­reer-sum­ming ex­er­cise in B-ball nos­tal­gia is marred only by an over­bear­ing John Wil­liams score (se­ri­ously), and per­haps by un­pleas­antries cir­cu­lat­ing about the ath­lete him­self.

The French-made “Neg­a­tive Space” was di­rected by Ja­pan’s Ru Kuwa­hata and Amer­i­can Max Porter, who work to­gether as Tiny In­ven­tions. They’ve crafted play­ful stop-mo­tion ads for Ben & Jerry’s and oth­ers, and here ex­pand a short poem about a fa­ther and son who say lit­tle but bond over suit­case-pack­ing tech­niques. The pup­pets are sim­ple, the mood in­tro­spec­tive, and yet this has the best punch line (in English) of the bunch.

France also backed the spec­tac­u­lar “Gar­den Party”, di­rected by a team of six stu­dents, as it hap­pens. It evolves from amaz­ingly re­al­is­tic na­ture study into a kind of frog noir, as a num­ber of de­light­fully in­di­vid­u­ated am­phib­ians make their way through a seem­ingly de­serted villa, with clues grad­u­ally re­vealed as to how the place fell into dis­re­pair. The rip­pling water alone makes this an un­for­get­table thrill.

“Re­volt­ing Rhymes”, the long one here, is a fab­u­lous BBC ren­der­ing of Roald Dahl’s twisted take on fa­mil­iar fairy tales, as fil­tered through a CGI up­date on Quentin Blake’s nutty draw­ings. (Pro tip: the seven dwarves are all ex-jock­eys.) It’s a cliffhanger, though. So, good to know that Part 2 can be found on Net­flix.

Un­like last year’s scin­til­lat­ing “Piper”, Pixar’s new “Lou” is such an on-the-nose bul­letin about bul­ly­ing, based on a play­ground ogre and his war with a lost-and-found locker, it can only re­ally work on kids. (It’s cur­rently tour­ing with Coco.) That’s the last and least of five of­fi­cial nom­i­nees, but its fo­cus on hu­man de­tri­tus car­ries over to “Lost Prop­erty Of­fice”, a beau­ti­fully sepia-toned study of lone­li­ness and rein­ven­tion fash­ioned en­tirely from card­board by ob­ses­sive sculp­tor Dan Agdag.

It’s the best of three hon­ourable men­tions, but the re­main­ders are also worth­while. One per­son’s “Weeds” is an­other’s de­light in a very brief look at what flora will do to sur­vive desert con­di­tions— and it car­ries an un­ex­pected whiff of the im­mi­grant spirit. And the tale of a dragon who sneezes fire­works, “Achoo”, is set in an­cient China. But it was made by a dif­fer­ent team of tal­ented stu­dents in France. Vive les car­toons! > KEN EISNER


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The one bit of light stuff 2

among five live-ac­tion shorts nom­i­nated for Academy Awards comes as much-needed comic re­lief from the rest.

The fun one, also the briefest, is “The Eleven O’clock”, named af­ter a psy­chi­a­trist’s first pa­tient of the day, car­ry­ing delu­sions that he’s the doc­tor in charge. One of the ver­bally bat­tling two­some is played by Josh Law­son, who also wrote the just-right Aus­tralian short, and the other is Da­mon Her­ri­man. They’re fre­quent sketch part­ners, as can be seen on­line in shorts like “Pet” and “Smith­ston”.

The oth­ers here all clock in at about 20 min­utes each, with the heav­i­est bur­den borne by “My Nephew Em­mett”, a re-cre­ation of events lead­ing up to (but not in­clud­ing) the no­to­ri­ous lynch­ing of a Chicago teen mur­dered for vaguely of­fend­ing a white woman while vis­it­ing his rel­a­tives’ town in—where else?—mis­sis­sippi. The slow-burn­ing drama is all the more re­mark­able for hav­ing been made by a film stu­dent, Kevin Wil­son Jr. He in­cludes tes­ti­mony made by the real un­cle at the time, and that part could have been just a tad longer.

The re­sult of an­other half-cen­tury’s ne­glect of ba­sic jus­tice is seen in Reed Van Dy k’ sun sen­sa­tion­al­ized re-cre­ation of a real in­ci­dent, in which a dis­turbed young man en­tered a neigh­bour­hood school with an au­to­matic weapon. “Dekalb El­e­men­tary” finds the in­truder con­fronted by a spec­tac­u­larly pa­tient book­keeper, played by The Help’s Tara Riggs, un­der­lin­ing the des­per­a­tion fac­ing a U.S. with its moral bear­ings adrift.

Ma­nia of a dif­fer­ent kind—the re­li­gious sort, ex­ac­er­bated by ex­treme poverty and ne­glect—is de­picted in “Watu Wote (All of Us)”, a like­wise fact-based tale and an­other stu­dent project, this time from Ger­many’s Katja Ben­rath, and the

only film not in English. It takes place in Swahilispeak­ing Kenya and fol­lows a young Chris­tian woman on a long, har­row­ing bus ride to­ward the bor­der with So­ma­lia, where Mus­lim ter­ror­ists have been known to at­tack “in­fi­dels”. It’s a tense jour­ney with an ul­ti­mately uplift­ing mes­sage.

The sole British en­try re­sem­bles the first in­stall­ment of a first-rate TV se­ries, although “The Silent Child” is a stand-alone drama writ­ten by ac­tor Rachel Shen­ton, known for the Yank show Switched at Birth. She plays a speech and sign­lan­guage ther­a­pist tasked with as­sess­ing a young deaf girl (un­for­get­table Maisie Sly) who seems to have been ig­nored by her ru­ral but up­scale fam­ily. Shen­ton built the tale on her own, un­re­lated fam­ily ex­pe­ri­ence, and if there were more episodes of this, you’d want to watch them.

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Un­like the other Os­car-nom­i­nated short 2

sub­jects, th­ese film­lets are long enough—at least a half-hour each—to re­quire two sep­a­rate show­ings. The first has three of­fer­ings, all touch­ing on is­sues of marginal­iza­tion.

To Mindy Alper, “Heaven Is a Traf­fic Jam on the 405”. That’s be­cause a ma­jor slow­down can give her a chance to draw peo­ple in their cars. Alper has a host of so­cial and learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties. Her cramped apart­ment is a vir­tual phar­macy of daily meds, and she speaks in odd lo­cu­tions, say­ing her pos­si­bly abu­sive fa­ther “would louder his sound” when talk­ing to her, and re­call­ing some­thing that hap­pened “when I am one-nine” years old. But th­ese bar­ri­ers haven’t stopped her from mak­ing dra­matic art, most stun­ningly in pa­pier-mâché. (She prefers the Wall Street Jour­nal to the flimsy L.A. Times.) Some child­hood draw­ings are an­i­mated for the film, and that gets a lit­tle busy, while mi­nor-key thuds

Os­car-nom­i­nated shorts from pre­vi­ous page

Kobe Bryant looks back in “Dear Bas­ket­ball”, one of the toons in this year’s batch of Academy Award–nom­i­nated an­i­mated, live ac­tion, and doc­u­men­tary shorts.

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