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Oscars: The Playlist Guide To The Live-Action, Animated & Documentary Short Nominees

by Oliver Lyttelton
February 18, 2013 2:36 PM
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Best Documentary Short

The first film up is the one that we think is the best bet in the category. From Sean Fine and Andrea Nix, who were nominated for "War/Dance" in 2007, the doc follows the tital character, a 15-year-old aspiring artist who also happens to be a homeless undocumented illegal immigrant. It's got the right mix of grit and uplift, with a great "character" at the center of it, and it's very well made but Fine and Nix (though the joints show a bit sometimes). Executive produced by John Leguizamo, this feels like it has a very good chance at winning the category, and it'd be a deserving win. [B+]

"Kings Point"
Sari Gilman's "Kings Point" is a wryly funny look at the inhabitants of a retirement community in Florida. Technically rougher around the edges than some, it's nevertheless incisive, honest and sturdy in the way it builds up its subjects, and doesn't outstay its welcome. We reckon that, were the whole Academy voting on the category, it might appeal to the older demographic, but unlike the live-action and animation awards, the docs are still decided by a smaller selection, so it won't necessarily get that boost. [B]

"Mondays At Racine"
Like "Inocente," "Mondays At Racine" has, in co-director Cynthia Wade, a veteran of the category (she won with "Freeheld" in 2008). This film, directed with Robin Honan, follows a beauty salon that, once a month, opens specifically for women who are undergoing chemotherapy. I'll be honest; this one, for personal reasons, turned me into a quivering wreck, and it's certainly the most nakedly emotional film in the selection. But Wade and Honan walk a delicate line in following the patients, sticking away from mawkishness or sentimentality, and I'd argue it's the finest of the five. Certainly one to watch - my head says "Inocente" will win, my heart "Mondays At Racine." [A]
"Open Heart"

From directors Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern, this film follows eight children from Rwanda traveling to the only hospital in Africa that provides free open heart surgery, in Sudan. It's as worthy and noble in its cause as any of the films here, and the filmmaking is as technically solid as any film bar "Inocente." But it somehow feels a touch more bait-y and less sincere than the competition, even if it's undoubtedly moving in places. As the least of the five nominees, it feels to us like the least likely winner, but will surface similarities to last year's winner "Saving Face" help, or harm its case? [C+]

Nominated in 2010 for their film "China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears Of Sichuan Province," Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill are back with "Redemption," which focuses on four homeless "canners" -- people who collect recyclables from trashcans to make a living -- in New York City. Made for HBO, the film is arguably the most of-the-moment of the nominees, thanks to its ties with economic collapse, and has some interesting formal techniques (the subjects interview each other, which leads to some interesting results). It's a strong piece of work, if lacking the narrative drive of some of its competitors in the category, and has an outside shot to win. [B]

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  • Norm Schrager | February 18, 2013 6:34 PMReply

    I agree, Oliver, the voters will go for Paperman, in a year that seems dominated by the easy, unchallenging Oscar vote. I can watch Fresh Guacamole over and over but Adam and Dog really is the overall finest entry. Some pretty talented animators in on that one. If you care to check it out, I reviewed the animated entries before their theatrical run a couple weeks ago:

  • goldfarb | February 18, 2013 4:57 PMReply

    Pixar had nothing to do with Paperman

  • brandon w | February 18, 2013 3:20 PMReply

    This is the first time I've taken the time to watch the nominated shorts, so I'm not sure if my expectations were unjust, but sitting through the live action category was a truly enervating experience. The only films I sort-of-kind-of tolerated were Death of a Shadow and Asad. The former was notable primarily for its resemblance to other directors like those mentioned above and Guillermo del Toro. The latter got a lift from its comic ending. If it was pat, then that's precisely what it needed to be: consider the difference from the labored conclusions to Henry, with that prosaic quote, or the poverty infomercial appeal of the lead character's look into the camera in Buzkashi Boys. Don't even ask me about the revolting dance sequence in Curfew! The animated selections were so much more enjoyable. Perhaps animation is better suited to the shorter format.

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