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Critics' Picks

Catch Oscar-nominated shorts

February 12, 2009|Betsy Sharkey

One of the beauties of short films is that they force a certain purity, if not simplicity, of an idea -- as if the limited dimensions of space and time result in sweet clarity for filmmakers whether they've gone in search of it or not. One of the tragedies is that shorts are so rarely in theaters. So a great gift of the award season is that the Academy Award-nominated shorts, both live action and animated, get a theatrical run in our Oscar-obsessed town. This year you can catch them as a group today at the Sunset 5 and at the Landmark through next week, and you should. The storytelling ranges widely and wonderfully, from Germany's poignant "Toyland," a tale of two small boys' friendship just as the Nazi relocation of Jews began, to Russia's animated "Lavatory-Lovestory," which uses the simplest of black-and-white sketches to tell a lovely story of an unlikely washroom romance. Among my favorites were two from France, the impossibly sweet and surprisingly hopeful "Manon on the Asphalt," soft images floating as a twentysomething girl remembers her life, what it was and what it will never be, as she lies on a street after being hit by a car; and the delightfully silly "Oktapodi," a beautifully animated tale of two octopuses in love. The shorts come from all over the globe, but there is a common bond -- the filmmakers all traffic in risk, and this year's nominees are filled with unexpected narratives and visual styles. So go, watch, be entertained and be grateful that there is still a place where filmmakers are free to let their imaginations run wild.

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--Betsy Sharkey

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