With the announcement of Oscar nominations comes my favorite awards season tradition: the theatrical release, curated by ShortsTV, of all the nominated short films. Presented in three separate programs — live action, animation and documentary — the release gives audiences the opportunity to see all 15 of this year’s short films vying for Oscar gold in their respective categories.
The Manship Theatre will screen those three programs: Animation at 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, followed by live action at 4 p.m. The documentary program will be shown at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 22. Tickets are $9.50 per program or $16.50 for all three.
Get a leg up in your office Oscar pool by checking out all the nominees before the Academy Awards ceremony takes place on Sunday, Feb. 24.
Live action shorts
The most controversial entry of any short this year, Irish filmmaker Vincent Lambe’s “Detainment” dramatizes the police questioning of two 10-year-old boys under suspicion of abducting and murdering a toddler. Inspired by the notorious James Bulger case that horrified the UK in 1993, the short is well-crafted and incredibly performed — particularly by young Ely Solan as one of the accused boys. But I found myself wishing Lambe was able to add more insight to the shocking crime.
Marianne Farley’s lovely “Marguerite” is about an aging woman (Beatrice Picard) and her visiting nurse (Sandrine Bisson) who form an unexpected connection when the older woman revisits a long-held regret from her past. The short is a touching portrait of compassion and empathy.
Two young boys engage in a seemingly innocent game of power and one-upmanship that leads to tragic consequences in the haunting “Fauve,” from Quebecois director Jérémy Comte. Gorgeous cinematography and excellent performances from the two young actors make this one a stunner.
In “Madre” a mother (Marta Nieto) receives a frantic phone call from her 6-year-old son, who’s away on vacation with his father and finds himself alone on an empty beach. Unfolding almost entirely in a single shot, Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s tense drama brings vivid life to every parent’s worst nightmare.
The one outright dud in this year’s lineup is “Skin,” a bewildering look at race in America. The short follows the horrific events that unfold after a black man smiles at a young white boy in a grocery store checkout lane and ends up setting off a war between two gangs. Hamfisted and implausible, the short is woefully misguided.
Domee Shi’s beautiful “Bao” confounded audiences when it played in front of “Incredibles 2” last summer, and I couldn’t love it more. The modern fable is the story of a Chinese-Canadian woman who gets a new chance at motherhood when one of her handmade dumplings suddenly comes to life. It’s equally moving and mouthwatering.
A group-therapy session between various anthropomorphized critters descends into chaos in “Animal Behaviour,” from Canadian filmmakers David Fine and Alison Snowden. Cute, but not much more, it’s also the one animated short to buck the common theme of parent-child relationships.
The poignant “Late Afternoon” comes from Cartoon Saloon, the Ireland-based studio behind acclaimed animated features “The Breadwinner” and “The Secret of Kells.” Directed by Louise Bagnall, the film depicts the ways in which memories of past and present condense and mingle in the mind of an elderly woman.
A young girl’s dreams of becoming an astronaut are supported by her father and his modest shoe repair business in the gorgeous “One Small Step.” The short packs a wallop of emotion into its economical, 8-minute running time.
“Weekends” is an impressionistic look at a young boy’s experiences splitting his time between the homes of his recently divorced parents. With a painterly style, director Trevor Jimenez blends surreal imagery and vivid emotion to powerful effect.
The heartbreaking “Black Sheep” lets Nigerian-British youth Cornelius Walker tell the story of how, as a boy, his parents moved him out of London and into a small village where he was surrounded by racists. Rather than fight back, he explains how he chose to assimilate and become more like his tormentors. The film becomes a potent examination of identity and circumstance.
It’s hard to judge a work like “End Game,” which tackles the undeniably raw, emotional issue of palliative end of life care and the medical practitioners who seek to change their patients' relationship to death. Still, veteran filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (“The Times of Harvey Milk,” “The Celluloid Closet”) bring a sensitive touch to the difficult material.
“Lifeboat” chronicles the efforts of Sea-Watch, a German nonprofit whose volunteers rescue refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean in search of a better life. In documenting the stories of both the refugees and those who seek to help them, this powerful film puts a human face to a global crisis — but I can’t help feeling like there’s more story here than can be handled in a single short.
The 7-minute-long “A Night in the Garden” consists entirely of archival footage from a gathering of 20,000 American Nazi supporters at Madison Square Garden in February 1939. With little editorializing, the film acts as a chilling cautionary tale of hatred then and now.
The empowering and uplifting “Period. End of Sentence.” follows what happens when a rural village outside Delhi, India, installs a first-of-its-kind sanitary pad machine. The women of the village learn to manufacture and sell their own pads, finding economic and social independence, kicking off a most surprising revolution.
Follow Adam Lubitow on Twitter, @adamlubitow.
Oscar Nominated Shorts 2019
Sunday, Feb. 10, and Friday, Feb. 22
Manship Theatre, 100 Lafayette St.
(225) 344-0334; manshiptheatre.org