Predict the winners (retroactively)

Posted: Thursday, March 03, 2011

Be honest. During the Oscars last weekend when it came time for the nominees for “Short Films” (live action and animation), you took a bathroom break. Or you picked that moment to score some points with your spouse by thanking them for a lovely dinner. Whatever, you didn’t pay attention to the TV because you had not seen any of the ten films nominated. Right?

That puts you in the majority. Most of us never have a legitimate opportunity to see the Oscar shorts, so it isn’t even that we are just lazily choosing to watch “Avatar” three times instead of branching out. True, even if we did have the chance, most of us are going to opt for James Cameron’s blue aliens, Christopher Nolan’s brain-benders (“Inception”), or whatever Pixar has out. Let’s not dwell on that. I am guessing that even if you zoned out for most of the Oscar shorts portion of the show Sunday night, something else happened, too.

As clips were shown from each of the nominees, you started to pay attention. “Wow, those actually look pretty interesting,” you thought to yourself. “Yeah, they do,” replied your spouse. Never mind the fact that your spouse apparently hears what you think — you are both right!

Here’s the kicker: It’s not too late! You can even predict the winners! Who cares if it is retroactive? The Gold Town Nickelodeon is Juneau’s version of what the folks in Los Angeles have at their disposal every day: an “indie” theatre that shows things like Oscar nominated shorts. Last weekend, the animated shorts were on display. Back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to… okay, my eyes hurt trying to count to seven there. And I do mean seven, not five. The five Oscar nominees are followed by two additional animated shorts that were probably among the final cuts.

What’s great about watching a group of short films is the variety you get in the same amount of time of a standard feature film. The animated shorts range from wonderfully unique animation and style in “Madagascar, Carnet De Voyage” to a very familiar vibe in “The Gruffalo.” The former is a sort of snapshot diary of a day in Madagascar, the latter features talking animals in a forest. “Day & Night” is musically inclined, “Let’s Pollute” is a mocking-yet-serious critique on modern life, and “The Lost Thing” actually (SPOILER ALERT!) won the Oscar.

Personally, my favorite was called “Urs” (from Germany) and it was one of the two shorts not even up for the Oscar! The Gold Town is going to show the animated shorts again next weekend (starting Thursday night, March 10, at 7pm), so you can still venture outside the mainstream and treat yourself to some fantastic animated filmmaking.

Tonight? Tonight the Oscar nominated live action shorts premier at 7 p.m.. All five flicks in succession run a grand total of 110 minutes (just a shade shorter than the typical Adam Sandler flick that is always too long anyway). Fair warning, parents: the live action shorts are appropriate for ages 13 and up. Fair warning to all: “The Confession” makes Debbie Downer look freaking happy-go-lucky. Thankfully, the rest of the group is just as diverse as the animated nominees.

“The Crush” features a grade schooler’s crush on his teacher that leads the youngster to challenge said teacher’s boyfriend to a duel. To the death. The tension that premise creates is remarkable. “Na Wewe” is tense from start to finish; it takes place in Rwanda during a time when civil war is rampant. “Wish 143” gets my retroactive vote for the Oscar (think Make a Wish Foundation, except the wish is from a teenage boy involving, ahem, losing his virginity). Finally, “God of Love” won the award and it is certainly entertaining.

The variety is unbeatable. The quality is not debatable (unless you think you are more qualified than “the Academy” to make that call). And there is nowhere else in town where you get an entire bag of popcorn (made fresh) with real butter (which you do yourself) for two bucks.

Venture outside the box, in more ways than one. Why not? And yes, cast your votes! Don’t mind the fact that it is after the fact.

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