Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Are These the Best Short Films of 2013? Reviewing the Most Offbeat Oscar Nominees

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire February 3, 2014 at 11:33AM

Of all categories worth scrutinizing during the chaos of Oscar season, none provides a more diverse overview of recent cinema than the short film categories.
2
"Mr. Hublot."
"Mr. Hublot."

Of all categories worth scrutinizing during the chaos of Oscar season, none provides a more diverse overview of recent cinema than the short film categories. While the documentary shorts tend to offer fairly conventional examples of the form (and some of them, like this year's HBO-produced "Prison Terminal" even have broadcast deals in place), the animated and live action short films are different beasts: international in scope and stretching across multiple genres, they provide a diverse contrast to the largely straightforward crop of feature-length projects in contention.

Of course, "12 Years a Slave,” “Gravity” and “Her” alone represent a range of complex narratives, and the inclusion of “The Act of Killing” in the best documentary category marks the rare occasion of truly radical cinema entering mainstream consciousness. Overall, however, Oscar hype homogenizes the conversation around the best movies of the year, turning the whole charade into a mishmash of celebrity faces and snark. By virtue of receiving less attention than the other movies in contention, the short films become the ultimate underdogs of the race, which raises the question: Do they deserve it?

With all the nominees now in theaters at New York’s IFC Center — in three separate programs, for live action, documentary and animated shorts — now’s the ideal time to dive in.

Usually, the animated shorts provide the best juxtaposition to the feature-length category, which is usually dominated by large scale productions. The latest selection of animated features nominated for the award are noticeably broader, ranging from the mainstream-friendly "Frozen," "Despicable Me" and "The Croods" to the quirky French children's tale "Ernest & Celestine" to Hayao Miyazaki's allegedly final work, the subtle "The Wind Rises." Still, the animated shorts provide a much more extensive overview of international sensibilities.

"Get A Horse!"
Disney "Get A Horse!"

The certain frontrunner, Disney's 3-D "Get on a Horse!" (which screened nationwide ahead of "Frozen," but premiered at the Telluride Film Festival before "Gravity") tussles with the studio's history using a complex blend of early twenties animation and modern CGI. Its zippy plot, directed by Lauren MacMullan, involves a fast-paced slapstick adventure involving Mickey saving Minnie from the scheming Peg-Leg Pete, who actually manages to hurl both mice through holes in the front of the movie screen framing them — allowing the action to erupt into a lively mixture of vibrant colors and black and white as Mickey, Minnie and an ensemble of Disney staples constantly shift between the two worlds. While some critics have taken issue with the short's dubious relationship to Disney history, there's no doubting the technological complexity of the its execution and the way it provides a keen statement on the progress of the medium.

However, what "Get on a Horse!" wins in impressive formalism it loses in emotional intelligence. That honor goes to the sweetest of the nominees, French directors Laurent Witz and Alexandre Epigares' steampunk tale of a lonely robot who rescues a mechanical dog from the dangerous streets outside his apartment — only to cope with the critter growing larger than the space can handle. Set in a beautifully realized science fiction universe devoid of dialogue but filled with a blur of technological details, "Mr. Hublot" magically combines its complex visuals with a small, gentle story about companionship. I'd call it the dark horse if it weren't so lighthearted.

This article is related to: Reviews, Awards, Awards Season Roundup, Shorts, Short Film, Academy Awards






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More