Only die-hard film festival--goers, folks with Academy connections, and late-night Sundance and IFC Channel prowlers have a reliable shot at catching the short films nominated for Oscars each year. Happily, Magnolia Pictures’ exhibition of 2006’s ten nominees gives the rest of us a chance to see what we’ve been missing.
Among the five films to receive nods for Best Live Action Short this year, the natural—and deserving—shoo-in is Javier Fesser’s “Binta and the Great Idea,” a lively, daringly sincere snapshot of relations in a small Senegalese village that touches on gender issues, education reform and incipient anticapitalism without sacrificing its infectious charm. “Binta” accomplishes narrative feats most filmmakers can only dream of, and casts an impressive spell. Spain’s “ramos Pocos,” a comedy about a middle-aged father who goes to extremes when his wife leaves him, has the breadth and look of a feature, while “West Bank Story” nicely sends up Broadway musicals, fast-food restaurants and earnest Middle East--conflict political melodramas.
The Animated Short nominees include “The Little Matchgirl,” a Buena Vista release (one of two nominees) that flaunts its Disney roots, and Ice Age spin-off “No Time for Nuts.” Torill Kove’s “The Danish Poet,” a benign, autobiographical microepic in the Scandinavian vein, is notable for its old-fashioned animation and lack of big-studio sponsorship. Go, Denmark. (Opens Fri; IFC Center.) — Mark Holcomb