The film "Inocente" is part of the 2013 Oscar Short Film Docs playing this week at the Normal Theater. (Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)
By Dawn Riordan
NORMAL - Each year the Academy Awards announce the nominees for Live Action Short Film, Documentary Short Film, and Animated Short Film. A collective ho-hum is cast over the crowd as everyone within earshot asks, "What?"
Very few people get a chance to see these short films at any time, let alone before the Oscar winner is announced to another collective crowd response of "Who?" Let’s face it, where do you get a chance to see these short films so worthy of the supreme golden statue of filmdom?
For the past 15 years or so, the Normal Theater has brought in these very short films that Oscar favors each year. Having looked under our share of sofas, behind book shelves and dark warehouses ... what began as a search-and-find mission for each short film has now blossomed into an actual compilation release of these fine abbreviated movies.
No longer do we have to meet some trenched coated, fedora clad mystery-person in a back alley to exchange video tape copies. No longer do we have to track down poverty-stricken film makers who sunk their life savings into their movie to get this one shot at greatness.
Now, the Oscar short films are available to us courtesy of Magnolia Pictures and Shorts International. We should be forever grateful!
Today’s short film makers are the feature film makers of tomorrow – maybe, literally tomorrow. So if you are interested in being a part of movie history, you would want to see these films in a real movie theater surround by like-organisms – die-hard movie fans that need to see everything nominated for Oscar. We go to the Oscar parties, eat popcorn and cast our votes. Then, we sit and watch the Oscars like the Super Bowl.
To help you out with your Oscar viewing quest, we offer them again this year. Watch all 15, preferably over several days because you really should go home a shower in between categories.
On Friday, Feb. 15, we present the Oscar live-action short films, five of the best short-story films made during 2012. We have seen many compilations, and this year’s is the best.
It will be hard to choose a winner but our money will be bet on "Death of a Shadow." This film, a Dutch entry, is an amazing short film that tells a feature-length story with rapid pacing and major production values. Briefly, it’s the story of a man who seems to capture photographs of people just at the time of their death. It seems sullen, but it is also a love story. Our photographer is smitten with a lady and he does something very selfless and special – and it is a treat.
Our second choice is "Curfew," the story of an unlikely babysitter who must watch his rather observant 12-year-old niece when all he really wants to do is feel sorry for himself. Rounding out the live-action shorts are "Henry," "Asad" and "Buzkashi Boys" – some unforgettable and thoroughly enjoyable movies.
Also showing this weekend are the five short-film documentaries that were nominated. Documentaries are difficult to do as a short film because they‘re all about information, and the more information the better the doc.
These each ring in at 40 minutes, so we’re screening three on Saturday, Feb. 16 and the remaining two on Sunday Feb. 17. Don’t fret film lovers! If you want to see all of them, your ticket for Saturday’s docs will be good again for Sunday. Just make sure to keep it in a safe place and show it at the door.
Our favorite doc is "Inocente" – the story of a 15-year-old homeless girl who uses her love of painting pictures to see beyond her hard life into a world of possibilities. If art indeed has this power (and it does), we should never be without it. "Inocente" shows with the group of docs on Saturday, along with "Mondays at Racine" and "King's Point" -- two worthy docs in their own right.
On Sunday, make sure you see "Open Heart" and "Redemption." One will make you cry, one will make you mad. Both will make you realize that film is a strong medium for change.
Next week, we’ll review the Oscar nominated short animated films. Always the favorite in the series, the animated films this year will not disappoint.
So stay tuned, visit our website at www.normaltheater.com and most importantly, see these movies in a theater, where they belong and where they will give back to you in the best way. All shows at 7 p.m.
** Live-Action shorts are rated R; Documentaries are rated PG-13, and Animated shorts (next week) are rated a friendly PG.
Dawn Riordan is manager of the Normal Theater.