NORMAL — Once upon a time, the Academy Award categories of best short subjects (animated) and best short subjects (live action, documentary) were Oscar's bastard children ... unwanted and unloved by the average awards ceremony viewer.
If anything, these categories were embraced as "time-out" opportunities, a chance to tend to assorted bodily needs, from hunger to nature's call.
No longer, though.
Thanks to a company called Shorts International and cinemas like B-N’s own Normal Theater, the days of obscure short films from even more obscure quarters are gone.
Instead of short subjects getting the short end of the stick, they get a big-screen showcase, just like their long-form counterparts, courtesy Shorts International, which packages the nominees and distributes them to willing theaters like the Normal.
Better yet, they'll be seen before the awards are handed out, all the better for audiences to tune in March 4 and actually get caught up in the excitement of the two categories.
Moreover, the best part of "Oscar’s Shorts" is that if you don’t like the film that’s on the screen now, in a few minutes another will take its place.
The five nominees in each of the three categories (animated, live action, documentary) are being shown in special presentations over the next three weekends at the Normal Theater.
Oscar Shorts: Live Action will screen at 7 p.m. this Thursday and March 3; Oscar Shorts: Documentary, at 7 p.m. Feb. 21 and March 1; and Oscar Shorts: Animation, at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 and March 3.
Following are brief descriptions of each of the five films in each of the three categories:
- "DeKalb Elementary" (USA, 20 min.): A drama inspired by a 911 call placed during a school shooting incident in Atlanta, Ga.
- "My Nephew Emmett" (USA, 20 min.): In 1955, a Mississippi preacher tries to protect his 14-year-old nephew, Emmett Till, from two racist killers out for blood. Based on true events.
- "The Eleven O'Clock" (Australia, 13 min.): The delusional patient of a psychiatrist believes he actually is the psychiatrist. As they attempt to treat each other, the session gets out of control.
- "The Silent Child" (United Kingdom, 20 min.): A profoundly deaf girl is born into a middle-class family and lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her the gift of communication.
- "Watu Wote (All of Us)" (Germany/Kenya, 23 min.): In December 2015, Muslim bus passengers in Kenya show that solidarity can prevail amid anxiety and mistrust between them and Christians.
- "Edith + Eddie" (USA, 29 min.): The story of Edith and Eddie, who, at ages 95 and 96, are America's oldest interracial newlywed couple. But their love story is threatened by a family feud.
- "Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405" (USA, 40 min.): A profile of L.A. artist Mindy Alper, whose lifetime of depression and mental disorder is expressed through her work.
- "Heroin(e)" (USA, 39 min.): About the hopeful war on drugs in Huntington, W.Va., the epicenter of America's modern opioid epidemic.
- "Knife Skills" (USA, 40 min.): About the hectic launch of Edwins, a fancy French restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, staffed almost entirely by men and women just out of prison ... most who've never cooked before.
- "Traffic Stop" (USA, 31 min.): Composed entirely of footage captured on a dashcam, this tells the story of a 26-year-old African-American school teacher from Austin, Texas, whose routine traffic violation escalates into a dramatic arrest at the hands of a white police officer.
- "Dear Basketball" (USA, 5 min.): An adaptation of Kobe Bryant's NBA retirement announcement after 20 years with the L.A. Lakers. Narrated by Bryant, with an original music score by John Williams.
- "Garden Party" (France, 7 min.): In a deserted rich house, a couple of amphibians explore their surroundings and follow their primal instincts.
- "Lou" (USA, 7 min.): When a toy-stealing bully ruins recess for a playground full of kids, only one thing stands in his way: the "lost and found" box.
- "Negative Space" (France, 6 min.): A rumination on how "my dad taught me to pack."
- "Revolting Rhymes" (United Kingdom, 30 min.): An interweaving of several Roald Dahl retellings of classic fairy tales with playful twists and surprise endings.