The annual awarding of merit in the short form (also known as “the first bathroom break”) generally represents a blind spot to most Oscar-pool competitors. That’s a shame, because it doesn’t have to. Today’s moviegoers are so inured to an endless parade of preshow commercials that putting something substantial in those slots wouldn’t hurt—and might actually spur viewership. (Fans of Martin McDonagh’s current comedy, In Bruges, would find his 2004 Oscar-winning short “Six Shooter” even sharper.)
This year’s ten nominees—half of them animated—represent the usual mixed bag. Short need not equal nauseatingly cute, but it occasionally does: Philippe Pollet-Villard’s “The Mozart of Pickpockets” is everything that a live-action comedy involving bungling robbers and a homeless deaf child suggests. And some of these animators seem sucked in by technique at the expense of story, as with an unnecessarily busy, stop-motion version of “Peter and the Wolf” that took five years to complete.
But two gems redeem the bunch: Daniel Barber and Matthew Brown’s “The Tonto Woman” is a quiet, burnished version of a short Western by Elmore Leonard, while Josh Raskin’s “I Met the Walrus” sets an amateur’s 1969 interview with John Lennon to a charming, Pythonesque collage.