The Short and Long of It

How one writer learned to stop worrying and love short films

Every year as the cold chill of winter fades and the rainy spring season is upon us, I know that my beloved Oscars are not far away. I love the ceremony, but when certain categories are announced onstage, I find myself raiding the refrigerator instead of watching the television. Really, who’s seen all those animated shorts anyway?

Josh Threatt, general manager of the Brenden Theatres at the Palms, once had a similar dilemma. “I know every year when I watch the awards I wish I had some idea what the movies were about,” he says. Thanks to a dual effort by Magnolia Pictures and Shorts International, Brenden Theatres solved the problem. And in response to the enthusiasm of people who watched the shorts online last year, Brenden Theatres decided to release them theatrically, becoming the only place in Nevada to do so. Now through Feb. 27, five live action and five animated short films are showing to further promote this film genre.  

Although the short films may lack the financial cache of a major studio picture, I found that they are still capable of delivering the laughter and emotional attachments in a short amount of time. Here’s my highlight reel:

Animated Shorts

Death, birth, fairy tales and a runaway train are just a few of the oft-surprising stories told in animation. In addition to the five nominated films, three shorts were added “for our consideration.”

In Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty, Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell mix modern animation techniques to create a stylized look resembling storybook pages. The result is a hilariously terrifying version of a begrudged grandmother’s bedtime story.

The comedic duo of Wallace and Gromit make their long-awaited return in Nick Park’s A Matter of Loaf and Death. At 30 minutes, it’s the longest “short” of the day, but the amazing claymation puppetry and the high level of handcrafted detail can be seen throughout the film, which is about a dopey Englishman and his dog’s effort to survive hot-air balloons, a murderous girlfriend and exploding pants. 

I was blown away by the final animated film: Logorama, which offers a twisted perspective of our consumer-driven world. Everything—from buildings and cars to animals and people—are made of business logos. It felt like Quentin Tarentino took over a Pixar film when Ronald McDonald put a bullet in the back of the Michelin Man’s head—talk about brand loyalty. Crafty conversations, intense violence and action sequences make Logorama stand apart from the animated crowd.

Live-Action Shorts

After a brief break, the live-action films started. I wasn’t sure how the filmmakers would tell complete stories in such little time, but I marveled at the results. In Miracle Fish, a young boy spends his birthday at school being tormented by his classmates and opening last-minute gifts from his absentee father. This movie kept me guessing and left me satisfyingly stunned. All in all, Australia’s Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey provide an amazing interpretation of a simple idea that ends in a burst of violence.

My favorite film of the day was Instead of Abracadabra. The entire theater was filled with laughter at Thomas, a Swedish Napoleon Dynamite who desperately tries to impress his neighbor with amateur magic tricks. Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjällström left me cheering for the lovable loser with their phrase, Chimay!   

Although I truly enjoyed the shorts, the average moviegoer may not. The risks that filmmakers take when freed from the financial investment of a feature-length film may prove too much for casual audiences. But if nothing else, I’ll be sure to stay tuned when I hear “Best Short” on Oscar night.

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