Apollo Cinema is distributing this unique showcase program that gives moviegoers the rare opportunity to see the slate of live-action and animated short films nominated for the 2003 Academy Awards.
- The Chubbchubbs Official site Buy it!
This six-minute, Academy Award-winning computer animated American feature produced by Sony Pictures undoubtedly is the most famous in this group of Oscar-nominated short films, having been shown in theaters with Men in Black II last year. While Star Wars geeks will enjoy the plethora of inside jokes, sendups of the genre and unquestionably lively, colorful technical work worthy of the big studio that made it, the film’s lackluster story and older than dirt gags — it makes The Flintstones look like Shakespeare! — keep it from reaching the outer limits of enjoyment. It’s about a goofy character, Meeper, a patron of a swingin’ bar on the planet Ale-E-In, who finds himself up against creatures from yet another planet. A surprise ending does reveal some imagination. It’s strictly for kids (and the aforementioned science-fiction nuts).
- The Cathedral Official site
Tomak Baginski’s six-minute short from Poland is the most abstruse of the lineup. But never mind that it lacks dialogue and is impenetrable to the intellect. Its gorgeous, unusual animation offers an attention-getting visual feast that’s unlike the other films on this program, and in other notable animation festivals. It’s about a somewhat human-like character who wanders around a cathedral-like structure in a forest that continuously changes forms. Students of architecture will enjoy the environment and movement.
- Das Rad (Rocks) Official site
From atop a hill, two rocks watch –and sporadically comment on – the history of the world from pre-historic to modern times in this gray, dark (literally and figuratively), animated feature from Germany. Filmmakers Chris Stenner and Heidi Wittlinger are on to something with a thoughtful idea, but in the end, the film’s message doesn’t clearly come across in its eight-minute running time.
- Mt. Head (Atama Yama) Official site
A guy grows a cherry tree on top of his head in this amusing, original, beautiful animated film from Japan. By Koji Yamamura, this 10-minute short’s images are intricate line drawings complemented by splashes of subtle watercolor. The elegant pictures wonderfully belie the story, an allegory about a stingy fellow (who won’t even throw away a cherry pit) who ends up with the ultimate headache.
- Mike’s New Car
Another American short with a fancy pedigree, this four-minute film from Pixar capitalizes on the success of Monsters, Inc. It’s a one-joke bit featuring Sulley the adorable, fuzzy, poofy guy who is invited to go for a ride with Mike, the fast-talking, wise-cracking, one-eyed fella who’s thrilled to show off his new baby. Things hardly go the way Mike wants. As expected, the animation on both the characters and the car are impeccable, but the simple joke falls flatter than the tire on the vehicle before the four minutes are up.
- This Charming Man (Der er en Yndig Mand)
At 29 minutes, this Oscar-winning Danish film by Martin Strange-Hansen and Mie Andreasen provides the longest, as well as most familiar, experience among the lineup. Like the title, it’s a charming romantic comedy/mistaken identity tale about a hapless Dane who gets mixed up with a Pakistani fellow as a result of a computer glitch at the unemployment office. When the guy tries to impress an attractive old acquaintance from high school who recently re-entered his life, he finds he scores better when he impersonates the immigrant — who happens to be a student in the woman’s Danish class. Lessons about the evils of prejudice and the intensity of class consciousness go down easy in this funny, if not world-altering, tale.
- Gridlock (Fait d’Hiver)
Belgian filmmakers Dirk Belien and Anja Daelemans tell a delicious, modern-day horror story in seven speedy minutes. When a fellow gets stuck in a devil of a traffic jam, he decides to try out his cellular for the first time by phoning home. His little girl answers and tells him that mother is upstairs, behind closed doors, with uncle. Of course, that’s not what he bargained for. The movie’s stunning punch line isn’t what the audience bargained for either, and the joke goes over resoundingly.
- I’ll Wait for the Next One (J’attendraile Suivant) Official site
Director Philippe Orreindy and writer Thomas Gaudin’s pithy four-minute vignette packs more emotion in its brief running time than most Hollywood films do in 120 bloated minutes. To tell more than its basic plot – a fellow on a subway train in Lyon tries to meet a woman in an unorthodox yet highly sympathetic way — would spoil the undeniable impact. The film’s as evocative as a brilliantly written short story.
- Dog (Inja) Official site
Set in apartheid-era South Africa, this 17-minute Australian film by Steven Pasvolsky and Joe Weathersone is the most intense, dramatic offering on the bill. Simultaneously heartbreaking and thought provoking, it’s about a young black boy whose white boss, seemingly inexplicably, orders him to participate in beating a new, adorable puppy. The tables turn years later when all three are unexpectedly thrown into a life-threatening situation.
– Leslie Katz