Oscar Nominated Shorts (NR)

By Nick Schager
There's scant dialogue but plenty of eloquent storytelling in the five animated short films up for a 2013 Oscar, all of which-- along with their live-action and documentary counterparts—- will get a pre-award show release. Save for a Simpsons segment, this year's nominees are mute and expressionistic. With evocative elegance, they convey both plot and emotion through sumptuous, stylized visuals, be it the black-and-white romanticism of "Paperman," the tale of an office worker using paper airplanes to connect with a potential love, or "Adam and Dog," which details with Hayao Miyazaki's grace the Garden of Eden origins of man's relationship to his canine best friend. In its blend of artistry and poignancy, though, none can quite compare with the Claymation majesty of "Head Over Heels." The dramatic category is far more uneven. Three of the nominees milk youthful distress for melodramatic pathos. Manipulative heartstring-tugging is also characteristic of "Henry," an Amour-lite saga of an old man increasingly aware of his own Alzheimer's. (It's still wrenching, though.) More entrancing is "Death of a Shadow," the story of a killed World War I soldier tasked, in the afterlife, with photographing the shadows of the dead. Leave it to the documentary field to wrestle with hardship and mortality, with the five nominees linked by their shared interest in struggles to survive, whether it's Rwandan children making an epic trip to seek heart surgery in the Sudan in "Open Heart," cancer-stricken women searching for companionship and catharsis at a local beauty shop in "Mondays at Racine," or retired Florida senior citizens coping with loss in "Kings Point." "Inocente," meanwhile, is a powerhouse, a first-person account of a 15-year-old homeless girl grappling with a mother who once tried to kill her, all while working on an art show.


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