For most people watching the Academy Awards broadcast March 2, the short-film categories — live action and animation — will be mere steppingstones to the good stuff (best picture, actor, actress, etc.).
But for anyone who sees this year’s short-film nominees, there’s plenty of talent to behold. Seattle filmgoers can find out starting this weekend via “The Oscar Nominated Shorts Films 2014” showcase at the Harvard Exit.
Here’s an overview of the nominees, beginning with the five animated works.
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Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden’s “Feral” is a winter’s tale of a boy growing up among wolves and his “rescue” by a hunter. The film’s stark, faceless figures and a town’s bold lines and misty lighting make “Feral” dreamlike.
Veteran animation director Lauren MacMullan (“The Simpsons”) delivers the goods on Disney’s “Get a Horse!” This rustic-looking nod to vintage Mickey Mouse cartoons finds Mickey and other familiar characters in a misadventure with an unexpected ending.
“Mr. Hublot,” by Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares, is a busy, visual delight set in a half-human, half-machine world. A reclusive accountant takes a chance and adopts a lost, robotic puppy, only to find it overtaking his sanctuary.
Shuhei Morita’s gorgeous “Possessions” is set in a spooky forest, where a wanderer happens upon a haunted shack full of intricate designs, ribbons of pure spirit and a dragon made of, well, just stuff.
The stellar vocal cast of “Room on the Broom” includes Gillian Anderson, Simon Pegg and Sally Hawkins. It’s a sweetly sardonic tale of a witch who can’t say no (much to her cat’s dismay) to any critter who wants a place on her increasingly crowded broomstick. Max Lang and Jan Lachauer turn in an innocent comedy for all ages.
Esteban Crespo’s “Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)” is a brutal, horrifying work about a former child soldier who recalls an atrocity from his past. Less than a half-hour, the short has the punch of a full, devastating feature.
Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras’ “Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)”
is the best of the live-action nominees, a tense drama about a woman trying to engineer her and her children’s escape from an abusive husband. Set in the back offices and main floor of a department store, the effort involves many reluctant allies, confused shoppers and breathless scenes brilliantly directed.
“Helium,” by Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson, is a sentimental movie about a hospital custodian who forms an attachment with a dying boy, filling him with fantasies regarding a special place in the sky.
A cute comedy about a feckless family that can’t get its act together to go to a wedding, Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari’s “Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)” is a hoot.
“Sherlock’s” Martin Freeman stars in Mark Gill and Baldwin Li’s “The Voorman Problem,” a quirky nightmare about a psychiatrist (Freeman) pulled into the vortex of a madman who claims — with possible good reason — to be God.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com