"Four stars (NR)

When the Academy Awards airs a week from Sunday (Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. on ABC) and the show reaches the Short Films: Live Action and Short Films: Animated categories, most viewers will be clueless when the nominees are read and the winners announced. Not you, though, because for the first time, the nominated films are playing at Key Cinemas on the south side of town in advance of the Oscar telecast. The package is here for 4 days only, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and next Wednesday, so don’t dilly-dally. The show includes all the nominees except for the Pixar animation feature Lifted.

I had the opportunity to preview the five live action nominees and three of the animated features. My 4-star rating is based primarily on the live action offerings, all of which deserve your attention.

West Bank Story will most likely win the Live Action Oscar. The 21-minute American feature is a mini-musical about competing falafel stands (Kosher King vs. Hummus Hut) on the West Bank. The absurdist homage to West Side Story is well-written and often funny, with good songs, a spirited cast and pleasantly outrageous art direction. After I finish this article, I’m going to watch it again.

The Saviour, a 19-minute Australian feature, deals with Malcolm, a Mormon evangelist who carries his message door to door. Turns out that Malcolm is visiting one household for the wrong reason, leading to a meeting with the potential for disaster. The performers in this intimate feature are strong, and the film is subdued, but highly expressive. Nice work.

Binta and the Great Idea, a 30-minute feature from Spain, was made in collaboration with UNICEF to increase solidarity for the children of the Third World. The story, about a 7-year old girl who comes up with a plan to improve the life of her cousin, is the thinnest of the live action features, but enthusiastic performances and a rich sense of community kept me engaged.

One Too Many, a 16-minute production from Spain, deals with a slovenly father who, when his wife leaves him, travels to a rest home with his son to coax his mother-in-law into moving into the household. The story is short and bittersweet, with a dandy payoff.

Helmer and Son, a 12-minute tale from Denmark, packs a lot of drama, humor and heart into its brief running time. The story, about an adult son called to deal with his elderly father, includes one of the most charming nude scenes I’ve witnessed in a long time.

Since I didn’t get to see all of the nominees from the Animated category, I’ll focus only on the one most likely to take the Oscar. The Danish Poet is a 15-minute Norway/Canada feature that follows a poet suffering writer’s block who travels to Norway to meet a famous writer. Liv Ullmann narrates the charming study of a series of coincidences that result in the making of a person. The artwork is perfectly suited to the material.

For information about the films, including the full rosters, call Key Cinemas at (317) 784-7454 or go to www.keycinemas.com.



Recommended for you