Oscar-nominated shorts offer good things in small packages 

click to enlarge Get a Horse!
  • Disney’s amusing “Get a Horse!” is among the animated shorts nominated for an Academy Award.
Except for at film festivals, it’s not often that moviegoers can see short films on the big screen. But ShortsHD and Magnolia Pictures have teamed up to release all 15 of the current Oscar- nominated short films in the animated, live-action and documentary categories.

Animated and live action shorts open this week in Bay Area theaters, and documentary shorts follow next week.

A highlight among the animated shorts is the 14-minute beautiful and mystical “Possessions” from Japan. In the film, a man spends the night in a cabin filled with haunted tools and instruments, and gets lost in a dreamy tapestry of changing colors and textures.

Disney’s six-minute “Get a Horse!” is the funniest, most fluid and energetic of the group. Beginning like a classic 1930s-era Mickey Mouse short, it soon breaks the fourth wall and explodes into widescreen color (and even 3D for those who saw it as an opener to “Frozen”).

Adapted from a children’s book, the charming 25-minute “Room on the Broom” tells the story of a witch (voiced by Gillian Anderson) who invites more and more animals for a ride. Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall and Simon Pegg also provide voices.

The remaining two films — the black-and-white, hand-drawn “Feral” (13 minutes) from the U.S., and the computer-animated “Mr. Hublot” (11 minutes) from Luxembourg and France — are slightly more downbeat, but have incredible imagery.

For those making Oscar predictions, “Get a Horse!” is the ringer, though “Possessions” could be the dark horse.

Live action shorts range from Spain’s horribly brutal “That Wasn’t Me” (26 minutes), about children used as revolutionary soldiers, to France’s subtle “Just Before Losing Everything” (30 minutes), which details spousal abuse and its aftermath.

The 23-minute “Helium,” from Denmark, is a sweet tearjerker about a kindly hospital janitor who tries to help out a sick kid with a story about a magical place. It’s probably the front-runner.

The scrappy frenetic comedy “Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?” (7 minutes) from Finland is about a family running late for a wedding.

The best of the bunch is the dark English comedy “The Voorman Problem” (13 minutes), which stars Martin Freeman as a shrink assigned to prisoner Voorman (Tom Hollander), who thinks he’s God. The fate of Belgium hangs in the balance.

The Oscar Awards will be presented March 2, so right now, these shorts are equal in the eyes of the Academy. They’re all winners.


Live Action Short Film Oscar Nominees

Starring Martin Freeman, Tom Hollander

Directed by Esteban Crespo, Mark Gill, Xavier Legrand, Selma Vilhunen, Anders Walter

Not rated

Running time 1 hour, 53 minutes

Animated Short Film Oscar Nominees

Starring Voices of Gillian Anderson, Simon Pegg

Directed by Jan Lachauer, Max Lang, Lauren MacMullan, Shuhei Morita, Daniel Sousa, Laurent Witz

Not rated

Running time 1 hour, 42 minutes

About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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