Academy Award purists — those who insist on actually watching all of the nominees, even in the obscure categories, before submitting their ballots — should check out these programs of Oscar-nominated short films opening Friday. Among the roster of mini-movies are ones likely to make you laugh and others likely to make you cry. But either way, they’re also likely to increase your odds of winning the office pool. All programs are unrated.
If one word could describe the overall tone of the five candidates this year, it would be “poetic.”
Especially lovely are “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” — a nostalgic fantasia about the transportive joy of reading — and “Sunday,” an old-fashioned, hand-drawn entry that follows the idle activities of a small-town boy. Along with “Wild Life,” the latter is one of two films produced by the National Film Board of Canada, an animation powerhouse.
Another powerhouse, Pixar, has an entry as well. Called “La Luna,” the nearly seven-minute charmer by Italian director Enrico Casarosa is the studio’s longest theatrical short ever. Look for it at screenings of the upcoming animated feature “Brave.”
At Landmark’s E Street Cinema. Contains cartoon roadkill and other animated animal death, a bloody zombie and thematic material related to death. Unrated. 79 minutes.
Ranging from 11 minutes to a half-hour — and in star power from Ciaran Hinds to a long list of nobodies — the live-action shorts are also a mixed stylistic bag. Among the best of the bunch is surely “Raju,” a powerful and well-acted drama about a German couple who adopt, and then proceed to lose, a 4-year-old Indian boy in Kolkata.
At the other end of the spectrum is “Time Freak,” a single-punch-line comedy about a neurotic inventor of a time machine.
Hinds stars in “The Shore” as an emigre Irishman returning home to reconcile with a childhood friend. It’s one of two films from the Emerald Isle, along with “Pentecost,” which kind of requires that you be Catholic and/or obsessed with soccer to understand.
At Landmark’s E Street Cinema. Contains brief obscenity, a mild drug reference and thematic material related to death. Unrated. 107 minutes.
The opening footage of “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom,” featuring amateur video of last year’s tsunami on the east coast of Japan, could make a stone cry. But so could listening to Ethan McCord, the former soldier whose first-hand account of the 2007 shooting of Iraqi civilians and others by Apache attack helicopters — infamously released by WikiLeaks — forms the heart of “Incident in New Baghdad.”
Be forewarned: This year’s program is especially heavy and includes “Saving Face,” a doc about a plastic surgeon working to reconstruct the faces of Muslim acid-attack victims. Because of rights issues, “God Is the Bigger Elvis” — the story of a movie starlet-turned-nun — will be not be screened
At the West End Cinema. Contains brief obscenity and grisly war images. Unrated. 130 minutes.