×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2013: Live Action

Wide-eyed children and dying old men once again make up the majority of the Academy's live-action short offerings, making for a solid if disappointingly familiar crop of nominees.

Wide-eyed children and dying old men once again make up the majority of the Academy’s live-action short offerings, making for a solid if disappointingly familiar crop of nominees. As a result of Shorts Intl.’s ongoing curatorial efforts, auds can download them individually or catch all five via a Magnolia-released theatrical package, with 2011 winner Luke Matheny (“God of Love”) offering pithy soundbites between the selections. Rest assured, there are more original shorts being made than this year’s crop of play-it-safe nominees suggests, but the same could be argued in most of Oscar’s live-action feature categories as well.

First up is director Tom Van Avermaet’s “Death of a Shadow,” which won the L.A. Shorts Fest and looks like a million bucks; it’s yet more evidence of the impressive young talent pool hailing from Belgium lately. This Steampunk-styled, WWI-set romance imagines a kind of Borgesian purgatory where a dead soldier (Matthias Schoenaerts, a meek shadow of his “Bullhead” self) is tasked with collecting 10,000 photographs of other people’s dying moments. A few snapshots away from his goal, the maudlin chap finally re-encounters the mysterious army nurse whose memory has motivated him this far. With its gothic flavor and intricate brass mechanics, this reverse Orpheus myth — in which a lover must repeatedly emerge from the underworld for love — echoes the early work of Guillermo del Toro (namely “Cronos”), which explains why the Mexican helmer has taken a shine to this emerging talent.

Equally sentimental in a more conventional sense, Canadian-made “Henry” offers another single-reel meditation on death and loss, this time set in a rest home where an elderly gentleman (Gerard Poirier) lapses in and out of his own memories. This second short from director Yan England, inspired by his grandfather, offers a poignant if not terribly original treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, using creative techniques to transition between Henry’s reminiscences and reality, though 21 minutes should have been time enough to establish a sense of character, of which this short ultimately falls short.

By contrast, Shawn Christensen’s “Curfew” practically explodes with personality. A throwback to the cheeky, ultra-stylized indies that took Sundance by storm in the ’90s, this dark comedy opens on a suicidal young man (played by the director) wallowing in a bathtub. An inopportune phone call interrupts his wrist slitting, offering a lifeline of sorts. On the other end, his estranged sister (Kim Allen) desperately asks him to babysit her bratty daughter (Fatima Ptacek) — a task that miraculously rouses him. There’s not an emotionally genuine moment in the short (whose understanding of depression borders on insulting), but it packs a few good laughs and demonstrates a fresh voice capable of great things.

A fest favorite, Afghani/American co-production “Buzkashi Boys” feels like a retread of similar nominees from years past, providing yet another tale of Third World urchins, but that’s not to diminish its various accomplishments. In telling the story of two kids who dream of finding a horse so they can compete in Afghanistan’s polo-like national sport, director Sam French demonstrates a great eye and gets good performances from his two young thesps (Fawad Mohammadi and Jawanmard Paiz), even if much of the film’s grit was artificially achieved by smearing the cast in soot and shooting their troubled life through blue-gray lenses. Less cynical auds will appreciate the aspirational tale at face value.

The fifth and final nominee, Somalia-set “Asad,” provides a similar glimpse of struggle through destitute young eyes. The deserving winner of at least a dozen prestigious fest prizes, the pic also includes character, political context and a stunning sense of place. Living by his wits in a beach community where honest fishermen uneasily coexist with heavily armed pirates, young Asad (Harun Mohammed, himself a displaced refugee) ventures out to sea alone. Upon encountering a raided ship, he makes a life-changing decision to reject violence, returning instead with the most unusual catch the town has ever seen. An admirably nonjudgmental take on a tricky subject, the haunting widescreen short was directed by acclaimed blurbmeister Bryan Buckley, whose resume boasts nearly 50 Super Bowl spots; in 18 minutes, the pic displays more humanism than one might expect from a helmer with an ad background.

Together, the five noms represent considerable talent operating in a range of styles without a clear frontrunner dominating the race.

The Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2013: Live Action

Production: A Shorts Intl. release presented in association with Magnolia Pictures. Produced by Carter Pilcher. Production supervisor, Leif Nelson. Reviewed at Nuart Theater, Los Angeles, Feb. 1, 2013. Running time: 114 MIN.

Crew: Death of a Shadow
Dood van een Schaduw
(Belgium-France)
A Serendipity Film presentation and production, co-produced with Perspective Films, Mollywood, Digital Graphics. (International sales: Premium Films, Pars.) Produced by Ellen De Waele. Co-producers, Isabelle Mathy, Delphine Schmit, Guy Van Baelen, Wilfried Van Baelen.
Directed, written by Tom Van Avermaet. Camera (color, widescreen), Stijn Van Der Veken; editor, Dieter Diependaele; music, Raf Keunen; production designer, Erawn Le Floc'h; costume designer, Vanessa Evrard; visual effects, Marc Ume. Running time: 20 MIN.
With: Matthias Schoenaerts, Peter Van Den Eede, Laura Verlinden, Benjamin Ramon.
(Flemish, French dialogue)

Henry
(Canada)
Directed, written by Yan England. Camera (color), Claudine Sauve; editor, Philippe Gagnon; music, Alexis Le May, Michele Motard; art director, Frederic Devost; costume designer, Odile Depratto. Running time: 21 MIN.
With: Gerard Poirier, Marie Tifo, Hubert Lemire, Ariane-Li Simard-Cote, Louise Laprade.
(French dialogue)

Curfew
A Fuzzy Logic Pictures production. Produced by Damon Russell, Mara Kassin, Andrew Napier.
Directed, written by Shawn Christensen. Camera (color, widescreen), Daniel Katz; editors, Evan Henke, Christensen; music, Darren Morze; music supervisor, Brienne Rose; production designers, Nina Isabella, Chanel Mitchell. Running time: 20 MIN.
With: Kim Allen, Dana Segal, Kirsten Holly Smith, Shawn Christensen, Fatima Ptacek.

Buzkashi Boys
(Afghanistan-U.S.)
An Afghan Film Project presentation in association with Dirty Robber. Produced by Ariel Nasr, Emily Buller. Co-producer, Martin Roe.
Directed by Sam French. Screenplay, French, Martin Roe. Camera (color, widescreen), Duraid Munajim; editor, Nels Bangerter; music, Jim Dooley; art director, Matthew Thompson. Running time: 31 MIN.
With: Fawad Mohammadi, Jawanmard Paiz, Wali Talash.
(Dari dialogue)

Asad
(South Africa-U.S.)
A Hungry Man production in association with the Asylum. Produced by Mino Jarjoura, Bryan Buckley, Rafiq Samsodien. Executive producers, Hank Perlman, Kevin Byrne.
Directed, written by Bryan Buckley. Camera (color, widescreen), Scott Hehriksen; editor, Chris Franklin; production designer, David Skinner; art director, Chris Rautenbach; costume designer, Maleen Noekel. Running time: 16 MIN.
With: Harun Mohammed, Ibrahim Moallim Hussein, Ali Mohammed, Abdiwale Mohmed Mohamed, Mariya Abdulle, Najah Abdi Abdullahi, Mustafa Olad Dirie, Mohamed Abdullahi Abdikher.
(Somali dialogue)

More Film

  • Oscars Placeholder Black and White

    ‘A Star Is Born,’ ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Mary Poppins’ Lead Oscar Music Nominations

    Songs from “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther,” “RBG,” “Mary Poppins Returns” and “The Ballad of Lester Scruggs” were nominated for Best Song for the 2019 Academy Awards, announced Tuesday morning, while “BlacKkKlansman,” “Black Panther,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Isle of Dogs” and “Mary Poppins Returns” received nods for Best Score. Specifically, the Best [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron Roma Variety Cover Story

    With 'Roma,' Alfonso Cuarón Ties Oscar Record for Most Nominations for a Single Film

    With individual Oscar nominations as producer, director, writer, and cinematographer of “Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón has tied an Academy Awards record shared by Warren Beatty, Alan Menken, and Joel and Ethan Coen. Four individual nominations for a single film remains a milestone in Oscar history. Beatty previously pulled it off on two separate occasions, for “Heaven [...]

  • Academy Voters Shut Out Women Director

    Female Directors Shut Out of Oscar Nominations

    It was an anticipated takeaway from this year’s Oscar nominations announcement, but that doesn’t make it any less unfortunate: Despite a number of worthy contenders to choose from, female filmmakers were shut out of the directing category. From Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here” (an Amazon release that received a Cannes screenplay prize) to [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    Academy Awards: 'Roma,' 'The Favourite' Dominate Oscar Nominations With 10 Each

    “Roma,” a black-and-white, Spanish language coming-of-age drama, and “The Favourite,” a comedy about life in the court of an obscure English monarch, dominated nominations for the 91st Academy Awards, picking up a leading 10 nods apiece. The competition for the top honor also includes “Black Panther,” the blockbuster comic book film; “A Star is Born,” [...]

  • Love & Hip Hop

    Spike Lee Is Finally an Oscar Nominee for Best Picture and Director

    After more than three decades of making films that have collectively established an undeniable cultural legacy, 61-year-old auteur Spike Lee is finally an Academy Award nominee for best picture and director. It’s as noteworthy a headline as Tuesday’s Oscar nominations announcement is bound to produce. In fact, Lee’s original screenplay notice for the 1989 lightning [...]

  • (L to R) Marco Graf as

    'Roma' Becomes Netflix's First Best Picture Oscar Nominee

    Netflix is finally in the hunt for Hollywood’s ultimate prize. The streaming company received its first-ever best picture Oscar nomination on Tuesday for Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” a black-and-white exploration of the “Gravity” director’s youth and the life of the nanny who helped raise him in Mexico. The drama received 10 nominations in total, making it by [...]

  • Black Panther

    Oscars: 'Black Panther' Becomes First Superhero Movie Ever Nominated for Best Picture

    Tuesday morning, 10 years after Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” forced a significant paradigm shift at the Academy Awards, a superhero movie was finally nominated for best picture: Marvel’s “Black Panther.” And it represents a fairly remarkable culmination. The move from five best picture nominees to 10 (later altered to a system that can produce [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content