Is the animated shorts world suddenly all about 'toons without words? Are the writers and directors working in the live-action short format obsessed with the very young and very old? Probably not. But a look at the nominees in the respective 2013 Academy Awards short films categories certainly suggests so.
All 10 of the shorts will screen together Friday and Feb. 22 at select theaters nationwide, including Cinemark Fayette Mall in Lexington.
My pick to nab the animated shorts Oscar is Paperman, a whimsical, (almost) black-and-white boy-meets-girl story from Disney. Director John Kahrs mixes traditional and CG animation techniques to tell the dialogue-free story of a guy who catches the eye of a girl on a train platform, and then sees her again from his office window, sending him in a wild pursuit that starts with a sheaf of paper airplanes. It's cute, romantic and melds old-school cartooning with new.
Fresh Guacamole, at 1 minute, 45 seconds the shortest film ever nominated for an Academy Award, is a stop- motion marvel from an artist called PES, also known as Adam Pesapane, in which a bowl of guac is readied with unusual ingredients: hand grenades, baseballs, pincushions, light bulbs — and then munched on with poker chips.
Then there's David Silverman's Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare," in which the youngest of the Simpsons clan is enrolled in the Ayn Rand School for Tots, where she's ignominiously passed over for the gifted program and has to contend with a drab gang of drooling toddlers and some grim Raggedy Ayn Rand dolls.
Although all technically accomplished, this year's batch of live-action shorts is more uneven. Henry, a French Canadian entry, shares thematic elements with Michael Haneke's Oscar-nominated Amour. It's about a retired pianist and his musician wife, about the physical and emotional challenges of growing old, about memory and loss.
Far and away the strongest of the live-action titles, and the most emotionally resonant, is Asad, about a Somali boy whose friends have joined a band of Uzi-toting pirates but whose connection to an old fisherman puts him on another path. A tale of courage, generosity and grace, Asad is nonetheless graphic in its depiction of the violence and tumult experienced by the Somali people. It's powerful. It's a winner.
Oscar-Nominated Short Films
No MPAA rating. Shorts International. 3:24 total.
When: Noon, 4 and 8 p.m. Feb. 15, 22
Where: Cinemark Fayette Mall, 3800 Mall Rd.
Learn more: Cinemark.com