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Opening Friday at Landmark's Keystone Art Cinema, The

Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2011: Live Action and Animation offer a wide variety of choices. Ed likes some better than others, here are a few of his thoughts on each.

Live Action

Standouts: The Crush and Na Wewe

The Confession (U.K., 26 minutes). Nine-year-old Sam is worried

that he has nothing worthy to say at his first confession at church. The plan

he and his best pal cook up to commit a little sin takes a seriously wrong

turn. Then things get even worse. The short is easy to watch because the

performances are so natural, but the second twist is a real eye-roller. So much

straining simply to be ironic!

The Crush (Ireland, 15 minutes). Not the most original

short, but certainly the most charming. Eight-year-old Ardal

Travis (Oran Creagh, son of writer/director Michael Creagh) declares his love for his teacher. When he meets

her fiancé and determines him to be a jerk, he challenges the man to a duel.

The utter sincerity of the kid is what sells the story. Reminiscent of Rushmore, only without the affectations

that some found alienating.

God of Love (U.S., 18 minutes). Raymond Goodfellow

is a crooner who literally hits the bullseye while he

sings ("he melts hearts while he throws darts"). He's a loser at love, though,

until he finds some magic darts and... oh, never mind.

The comedy is clunky, but Luke Matheny, the actor who plays Raymond, has a

great face and a winning, self-deprecating style.

Na Wewe (Belgium, 19 minutes). A tense confrontation in

1994 Burundi gets more and more complicated as the minutes tick by. The

absurdity of thinking in terms of "us vs. them" is made clear without becoming

ham-handed. Good acting all around as well, plus a compelling song by Belgium

performer JeremieHakeshimana.

Powerful stuff.

Wish 143 (U.K., 24 minutes). A

15-year-old boy's last wish is to lose his virginity. The mix of comedy and

drama works primarily because the filmmakers steer clear of sentimentality.

Animated

Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2011: Animated offers one clear winner, Madagascar, Carnet De Voyage,

plus two bonus cartoons along with the nominees.

Madagascar,

Carnet De Voyage

(France, 11 minutes). A gorgeous, exhilarating vacation in 11 minutes. Drawings made in a

sketchbook by Bastien Dubois during a trip to Madagascar

come to glorious life, including images from La Famadihana,

a celebration/ceremony which means "the turning of the dead." It has solemn

moments, but the film is full of life, with beautiful, detailed art accompanied

by festive music. What a treat.

Day & Night (U.S., 6 minutes). Pixar's

entry reminded me of the '60s-era Warner Bros. cartoons that tried to be

contemporary - it's clever and certainly held my attention, but felt less

substantial than most Pixar shorts. Still cute, however.

The Gruffalo (U.K./Germany, 27 minutes). Entertaining fairy tale

chronicling the adventures of a traveling mouse bluffing scary animals with

tales of the fierce Gruffalo... then guess what he

meets?

Let's Pollute (U.S., 6 minutes). This

satiric ode to pollution is too smug for my taste. No thank you.

The Lost Thing (Australia/U.K., 15

minutes).

A boy finds a creature that looks like a cross between a tentacled

animal and a clay pot. The story of their time together is poky, but the visual

payoff is nice. Like many of the films this year, both live action and

animated, the lighting is muted. Apparently overcast skies are more authentic

than sunny ones.

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