“2016 Oscar Nominated Films — Live Action”: Keeping things short and not sweet


“2016 Oscar Nominated Films — Live Action” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. Not rated, 1:30, three stars out of four. I’ll be doing a post-show chat after the 7:15 p.m. Tuesday show.

The five nominees contending for an Oscar for Best Live-Action Short are usually a dour lot. Searing but hopeful drama about a child caught in a war zone? Check. Quietly comic tale featuring hesitant cooperation between two sides in a protracted, seemingly impossible conflict? Miserablist European drama about a family in crisis? Check.

Which is not to say the films are bad. Some of this year’s offerings, which opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas, are quite good. But when so many inventive short films are being made and distributed, it’s a little tiring to see the same familiar storylines, the same conventional narratives, repeating themselves.

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“2015 Oscar Shorts — Animated”: CGI takes a back seat for once


The “2015 Oscar Shorts — Animated” program is now playing at Sundance Cinemas. Not rated, 1:30, three stars out of four. 

Traditional hand-drawn animation may be on its last legs as far as feature films go, as the Studio Ghibli documentary “Kingdom of Dreams and Madness” seemed to suggest. But in the animated short, working with pen and paint seems to be seeing a resurgence.

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“2015 Oscar Shorts — Live Action”: Think globally, act briefly


The “2015 Oscar Shorts — Live Action” open Friday at Sundance Cinemas. Not rated, 1 hour 30 minutes. Three stars out of four. I’ll be doing a post show chat at Sundance after the 7 p.m. show on Tuesday, Feb. 3.

Of the three short-film categories at the Oscars, I always find the live action shorts hardest to predict. Do you pick the one you like best, or the one that you think Academy voters would warm to? Do you pick the one that’s most like a traditional Hollywood movie, or least like it? Funny, or serious?

From Belfast to Tibet, from London to Israel, the five short films nominated this year for an Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short are a mixed bag both geographically and dramatically. All five are now playing at Sundance (along the animation and documentary shorts), so you can decide for yourself.

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Sundance Screening Room returns with Oscar shorts, “Mr. Turner,” “Hits”


The Sundance Cinemas Screening Room calendar is revving up again at the end of the month, presenting foreign films, documentaries and indies every week start on Jan. 30.

I’ll be back doing post-show chats for a couple of the films (more of those to come), and I’ll have some details coming soon on how you can win tickets to those movies. But until then, here’s a look at what’s coming:

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2014 Oscar Nominated Shorts — Live Action: Why so serious?


“2014 Oscar Nominated Shorts — Live Action” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. Not rated, 1:35, two and a half stars out of four.

Where the animation shorts category at the Academy Awards seems to allow in sorts of candidates, the live-action shorts category always seemed like a bit of a racket. It seems like filmmakers have figured out that the Academy voters love self-serious melodramas, ideally about a child in peril or third-world strife (a third-world child in peril — cha-ching!) I know there are tons of interesting and innovative short films being made out there — I just wish I could see more of them in the Academy Final Five every year.

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2014 Oscar Nominated Shorts — Animated: Drawing together witches and robot dogs


The “2014 Oscar Nominated Shorts — Animated” collection opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. Not rated, 85 minutes, three and a half stars out of four.

Animated features in 2013 tend to look about the same — computer-animated, big stars, in 3D wherever possible. But flying below the radar, the animators of short films tend to have a little more leeway to try some different techniques — like drawing! — and the result in this year’s batch of Oscar-nominated animated shorts is a delightful collection that varies in style as much as theme.

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