This year in the Live Action Short category, all nominated films were from Europe. The nominated animated shorts featured films from around the world as well. With the animation, subtitles are often not needed as there is no dialogue. The music and the imagery completes a story that can be enjoyed universally.
Alfred is a dying boy and when Enzo the new janitor at the hospital arrives to clean his room, he begins telling Alfred stories about a magical land. When the boy is moved to an isolated wing, Enzo risks all to find Alfred and finish their stories of Helium. With wonderful visual effects, this short from Denmark is heartbreaking and very sweet.
The Voorman Problem
Martin Freeman, Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit films, portrays an English psychiatrist who has been asked to evaluate a prisoner claiming to be a god. If Dr Williams certifies that he is insane, Voorman will be sent to an asylum. Sounds like an open and shut case, unless you're in Belgium. The shorts categories, particularly the live action and documentary, can be the most difficult of the Oscar winners to predict. The Voorman Problem has been and remains the frontrunner.
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)
This short is about a French woman trying to flee from her abusive husband with her two children. Most of the film occurs at her workplace as her co-workers try their best to assist her.
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me)
The bleakest of all the live action shorts, the Spanish film flashes back on the horrors experienced by a child soldier in Africa. Extremely difficult to watch, I often had to look away and at times even muted the sound.
Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)
A story of the antics and wacky obstacles a Finnish family faces as they attempt to get ready to attend a wedding.
The title character is an eccentric little man who lives in a very mechanical world and keeps to himself. His home is disrupted by the arrival of a robot pet.
A boy raised in the wild is discovered by a hunter and brought back to civilization. The boy struggles to adapt to his new environment.
A man seeking shelter from a storm stumbles upon a broken down shrine. Discarded objects that now have souls presents themselves to the man. By mending or setting the souls of the objects free he is able leave the shrine and the storm has passed.
Room on the Broom
A witch travelling through the woods encounters more and more critters that need to hitch a ride on her broom. Max Lang, one of the co-writers and directors, also co-wrote and directed The Gruffalo, a 2010 Best Animated Short nominee. The two shorts have a very similar animation style, as well as a similar narration technique. The two shorts actually seem like they could be part of a series. Simon Pegg narrates and Gillian Anderson voices the witch.
Get a Horse!
This short plays in theaters before Best Animated Feature frontrunner Frozen. The short uses archived Walt Disney voiceover work as Mickey Mouse and features Minnie, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow and Peg-Leg Pete. Get a Horse! is the anticipated winner for the animated short category. It has also been lauded as the first time Mickey will finally win an Oscar. It was not included with the other nominees that I watched. I would say that it was left out because it is Disney but animated Disney shorts have been included before. I was none too pleased. It does look like the in theater showings include Get a Horse!, perhaps that is the difference or that the feature film that it precedes is still in its initial release.
The Shorts HD channel continues to provide information about viewing the short nominees each year. This is their site, though it is not always the most helpful. I visit the site throughout Oscar season and eventually find the info I need to see the films. For instance the site listed that the films would be available on iTunes, Amazon Instant View and OnDemand February 25th. At the time of posting, the site is experiencing technical difficulties. I stumbled upon the live action and animated nominees OnDemand on the 20th. The live action and animated films are more accessible in my area and I have not seen the documentary nominees in theaters nor are they available OnDemand currently. In the previous two years I saw the live and animation shorts in one showing at Century/Cinemark theaters. This year I opted for OnDemand due to less showtimes and impatience. Home viewing made it easier to keep track of each of the nominees; writing on a Milk Duds box in the dark does not lend itself to thorough notes. At the same time, watching in theaters gives it an official feeling.