“Melancholy” is the word that best describes most of the Oscar-nominated animated and live-action shorts Academy voters have to choose from this year.
Actually, that same word applied to most of last year’s nominees, too. Before we start psychoanalyzing Hollywood, however, let’s take a look at the two programs of shorts due Jan. 31 at SIFF Cinema Uptown.
“Daughter”: Czech filmmaker Daria Kashcheeva tells a mournful story about a dying man whose grown daughter, standing by his hospital bedside, recalls a minor incident from her childhood that left a legacy of estrangement between the two. It’s a lyrical and deeply sad drama.
“Hair Love”: Former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry, who switched careers upon retiring from pro football in 2007, spearheaded and co-directed this sweet piece about a little girl who turns to her hapless dad to style her mass of thick hair. Little touches of attitude on the faces of characters recall the glory days of Looney Tunes.
“Kitbull”: Ignored and left outdoors in all weather by his lunkhead owner, an affectionate pit bull finds a measure of love and closeness with an alley cat who sees the dog’s problem for what it is. This endearing Pixar production is directed by Rosana Sullivan, story artist on “Coco.”
“Memorable”: Bruno Collet made this somber musing on an elderly artist, his memories slipping away due to dementia. No longer able to recognize his long-suffering wife, he decides she would make an ideal model for a portrait.
“Sister”: The human toll of a longstanding social policy in China is explored in this deceptively comic look at a sibling rivalry from filmmaker Siqi Song. The ending is a stunner.
Note: There are three non-nominated works to lengthen the program.
“Brotherhood”: A Tunisian shepherd is rattled when the eldest of his three sons returns after a year of fighting in Syria. Writer-director Meryam Joobeur compresses dreamlike beauty and family agony within the oddly square frame of her irresistible images.
“Nefta Football Club”: Yves Piat’s slight but dark comedy concerns two young brothers who run across a lone mule carrying a huge load of heroin in the Tunisian desert. While the boneheads who lost the beast search for it, the clueless kids’ handling of the drugs comes to a comic conclusion.
“The Neighbors’ Window”: Marshall Curry, a young but seasoned documentary maker, wrote and directed this “Rear Window”-like drama about a bored married couple who get vicarious kicks — and shared tragedy — spying on their sexy, carefree neighbors.
“Saria”: Bryan Buckley (whose 2012 “Asad” was an Oscar nominee) dramatizes a real-life tragedy in 2017 at a hellish orphanage for girls in Guatemala, where rape and beatings of children are a constant occurrence.
“A Sister”: From Belgium’s Delphine Girard comes this harrowing tale of a woman who has been assaulted and kidnapped, yet who manages to convey (while sitting next to the villain) the direness of her situation to a stalwart, emergency operator.
“2020 Oscar Nominated Shorts”: animated program, 83 minutes; live-action program, 104 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (equivalent of PG-13 for animated shorts and R for live action). In various languages, with English subtitles where necessary. The separate programs open Jan. 31 at SIFF Cinema Uptown. (The Academy Awards will air at 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9, on ABC.)