Moviegoers get special treats this weekend as the year’s Oscar-nominated shorts, oft-unseen by those outside the ballot-casting Academy, are released in theaters for a brief run.
The animation bunch is particularly rich with amusing choices. The first is “Paperman,” which some viewers might remember from its debut as the opening act of “Wreck-It Ralph” earlier this year. A modest, nostalgic charmer stylistically reminiscent of last year’s “The Artist,” the black-and-white Disney production follows an office drone as he tries to woo a pretty stranger, whom he stumbles across in a meet-cute on a train platform. Paper planes serve as his Cupid’s arrows, and the short’s wordless charm, however frivolous, is largely irresistible.
There also is “Fresh Guacamole,” a very brief but nonetheless memorable concoction of offbeat creativity, with Claymation bringing to life history’s strangest dip preparation, with ingredients as diverse as lightbulbs, baseballs and hand grenades. It’s as strange-sounding as it is perfectly rendered.
Also in the mix is “Maggie Simpson: The Longest Daycare,” which indeed stars the youngest of Matt Groening’s original modern family. Subjected to an absurdly oppressive day in a kiddie center named after Ayn Rand, Maggie fights to save a helpless insect from a mallet-wielding bully, and the results, though quickly forgettable, are sweet without losing any trademark “Simpsons” subversion.
“Adam and Dog” is a surprisingly profound and comparatively lengthy entry, set in the Garden of Eden and essentially telling the first boy-and-his-dog tale. Adam encounters the unnamed pooch in the wild brush of the forest, one of many beautifully realized, traditionally animated environments. Their bond grows, gets interrupted by Eve’s arrival, then takes a surprising turn that brings faith itself into question. The art is uneven, but the material is provocative.
Finally, there’s “Head Over Heels,” an “Up”-meets-“Amour” flick about an elderly couple in a floating house who’ve grown to have gravitational pulls that are literally at odds. With the right blend of sentiment and whimsy, it’s the short to beat on the big night.
Oscar Nominated Short Films 2013: Animated
Three reels out of four
Opens Friday at the Ritz at the Bourse
Denzel Washington is at his compelling best in the ever-evolving “Flight,” a disaster flick that becomes a legal drama that settles into a character study.
Centering on an alcoholic pilot (Washington) whose astonishing act of heroism hasn’t placed him above suspicion, the film is a complex triumph as a studio-backed picture, its dramatic focus something oft-reserved for shoestring indies. One of 2012’s best.
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When the 2015 Oscar nominations were announced in January, the Academy, which just last year gave its top prize to the black-centric period drama “12 Years a Slave,” took a ton of flack for selecting a whitewashed roster of talent, snubbing “Selma” director Ava Duvernay and failing to nominate a single actor of color for the first time in two decades.