Magnolia brings back Oscar-nominated live action and animated short films


SHORT AND SWEET | In ‘Curfew,’ a suicidal man pauses mid-slash to act as a babysitter for his niece.

Here is why we still need movie arthouses: So we can see the short subjects nominated for obscure Oscars and win the office pool. As always, Landmark’s Magnolia runs the live action and animated shorts (starting this weekend), giving you a chance to see the usually unseen. (Oak Cliff’s Texas Theatre will screen the documentary short subjects one-night-only, the day before the Oscars, on Feb. 23.)

Live action shorts have become the World Cinema awards of the Oscars, predominantly touching dramas in foreign languages with piano music gingerly tinkling over sad dough-eyed  urchins. That’s true again this year, though not exclusively — and most are at least good. Here’s a preview, in descending order of likelihood of prevailing at the Oscars later this month.

Curfew (20 mins.; in English). A drug-addicted man interrupts his suicide attempt to babysit for his estranged niece at a bowling alley in this quirky and endearing comedy.

Death of a Shadow (20 mins.; in Dutch). In this X-Files-ish supernatural thriller, a photographer caught between worlds has the ability to shoot the echoes of past deaths, but his skill comes with a price.

Buzkashi Boys (30 mins.; in Dari). Two small boys eke out a meager existence on the streets of Kabul but dream of becoming competitive buzkashi riders one day.

Henry (21 mins.; in French). An elderly concert pianist is abducted, only to be given the chance to relive great moments from his past.

Asad (16 mins.; in Somali). Little Asad, working in his Somali fishing village, longs for adventure. When he confesses he “doesn’t like girls,” it nearly gets him killed. Then pirates … well, it’s not the kind of adventure he was hoping for.
As with the animated features this year, the shorts are flush with stop-motion, plus some line animation from Disney to Evergreen Terrace. And in a slightly unusual development, none of the shorts is longer than 15 minutes.

Head over Heels (10 mins.). A stop-motion parable about couplehood as a husband and wife occupy the same house — he on the floor, she the ceiling — without communicating.

Fresh Guacamole (2 mins.). A chef cuts up unusual items from board games in his quest for the ideal guac recipe in this remarkable comedy.
Paperman (6 mins.). This charming black-and-white fantasy about a bureaucrat’s awkward flirtation with a girl is classic Disney.

Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare (5 mins.). The Simpsons finally get an Oscar nod with baby Maggie becoming a butterfly’s best friend at the Ayn Rand School for Tots.

Adam and Dog (15 mins.). Old-school anime (aside from the full-frontal male nudity) about a dog frolicking in the Garden of Eden with his new master.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 1, 2013.