Those who have never attended the annual festival of Oscar-nominated live-action and animated shorts should be advised: Dont expect all 10 entries to be mini-masterpieces. Nonetheless, theres some lovely artistry to be found. The live-action selections largely reject tight narrative to engage in meditations on guilt, cultural differences, and aging. The closest these films come to a page-turner is On the Line, a twisty drama concerning a tentative friendship between a German security guard and a pretty bookstore employee. By comparison, New Boy is a small shrug of a film, tracing the touchy-feely misadventures of an African boy enduring his first day in an Irish school. Cynical Oscar handicappers will note that the familiar Toyland is the sole short set during the Holocaust, but the film manages to find some poignancy in a Gentile mothers search for her missing child in Nazi Germany. The biggest missed opportunity is The Pig, an initially intriguing Danish deadpan comedy about an older mans odd attachment to a painting of a pig. The clear winner is Manon on the Asphalt, a moving rumination that turns a young womans serious bike accident into an existential discussion on the fragility of connection.
Starts: Feb. 6. Daily, 2009