If you like your entertainment in small doses (you're a Vine video addict, you only tune into the fourth quarter of Spurs games or you can rock out to iTunes samples), chances are short films might be the perfect solution for movie watchers who chose to skip Boyhood because of its 165-minute run time. Starting February 6, all 15 Oscar-nominated short films begin screening at the Bijou in three separate programs.
Two heartbreaking Polish shorts lead the way in this non-fiction category. In Our Curse, a couple whose newborn son has been diagnosed with a rare and incurable disease attempts to understand the hand they've been dealt. Tears will continue to roll in Joanna, the story of a Polish wife and mother who only has three months to live. Although beautifully photographed, your stomach might churn in The Reaper, an inside look at a slaughterhouse in Mexico from the perspective of a longtime employee. In White Earth, families living in rural North Dakota talk about how the oil industry has become their way of life. And in Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, military veterans answer phones for a hotline that serves servicemen struggling with emotional and personal problems.
Don't be surprised if Walt Disney Animation Studios ends up with the golden statue this year for their perfect combination of hand-drawn and computer-rendered work in Feast, a romantic comedy featuring a spoiled Boston terrier who spends most of his days eating his fair share of leftovers. When a new love interest comes into his owner's life, the pup is not pleased to discover her healthy eating habits are making his meals less flavorful. Challenging Disney for the top spot is the Canadian-Norwegian autobiography Me and My Moulton, which follows three sisters who ask their hippie parents for a bicycle. Rounding out the animated shorts are The Dam Keeper, about a bullied pig whose outlook on life changes when he meets a new classmate; A Single Life, about a gourd-shaped woman who's transported through time via an enchanted record player; and The Bigger Picture, about two skirmishing brothers who don't agree on how to best look after their elderly mother.
The relationship between strangers is the underlying theme in most of the live-action shorts this year. In what's probably the frontrunner in this category, the French-Israeli film Aya stars Sarah Adler (Marie Antoinette) as the title character, an impulsive young woman who picks up a man (Ulrich Thomsen) she has never met from the airport even though she is not his assigned driver. Two more strangers meet in the heartbreaking British drama The Phone Call, which stars Oscar-nominated actress Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) as a woman working at a crisis center. Also nominated: the Swiss short Parvaneh, about an Afghan immigrant (Nissa Kashani) who relies on the kindness of a stranger (Cheryl Graf) to help wire money back home for her sick father; Boogaloo and Graham, a dramedy from the U.K. about two brothers raising pet chickens in Belfast in 1978; and Butter Lamp, a French-Chinese short featuring a photographer and his assistant taking photos of Tibetan nomads in a remote village in front of various backgrounds, including Disney World and the Polala Palace, home of the Dalai Lama until the 1959 Tibetan uprising.