It's the red-carpet season for films, and despite the proliferating awards shows, the Academy Awards still carry the most weight. And it's the forum that bestows the most prestigious prize on those often overlooked gems of the art form, the short films. The golden men are handed out March 2, and the Oscar-nominated short films are making their theatrical rounds now.
Pittsburgh Filmmakers will be presenting all the short films, in three programs. From Fri., Jan. 31, through Feb. 13, Regent Square will screen the contenders for Best Live Action and Best Animated, in two programs. (On Feb. 14, both programs will move to the Harris for another week.) On the weekends of Feb. 7-9 and Feb. 14-16, the nominated Documentary shorts will play at Melwood. Below is a review of the animated program. (The live-action films are reviewed on the left.)
The lyrical, allegorical "Feral" (USA, 13 min.), from Daniel Sousa, delivers gorgeous, evocative visuals using an almost monochromatic palette, shadows and silhouettes. In it, a feral child is rescued from the woods, but his wildness cannot exist in ordered society.
The digitally animated "Mr. Hublot" (Luxembourg/France, 11 min.), from Laurent Witz, creates a beautifully realized, incredibly detailed steampunk world, in which the titular character adopts a dog-like robot (or a robot-like dog). It's sweet and filled with sly humor, and the eagle-eyed will marvel at many visual gags. (I loved the counter in Hublot's forehead that flipped over numbers as he thought.)
Shuhei Morita's "Possessions" (Japan, 14 min.) is a witty take on tsukumogami, or ordinary household objects that have become ghosts. A warrior holes up in a hut in a storm, but he is soon dealing with dancing umbrellas, with eyes peering through their torn paper, and diaphanous strips of old kimonos bemoaning their lost beauty.
Kids and the young-at-heart should take to "Room on the Broom" (U.K., 25 min.), directed by Max Lang and Jan Lachauer. This brightly colored fairy tale, narrated by Simon Pegg, tells of a big-hearted witch who shares her broom with too many stray animals. The break-out star of this short is the wonderfully expressive grumpy cat.
Everybody who saw Frozen saw the latest Disney-Pixar short, "Get a Horse!" (USA, 6 min.), directed by Lauren MacMullan. The story is pure slapstick, but the film is a clever meta-text on the animation that Disney helped popularize, with a vintage-style Mickey Mouse cartoon getting tangled up with eye-popping digital effects.
The animation program runs 102 minutes, and is rounded out with three additional shorts that were not nominated but have been otherwise commended: "A la Francaise," "The Missing Scarf" and "The Blue Umbrella."