2006 Academy Award Short Films Collection
Some ideas are long overdue: BarcaLounger toilets, national health care, perhaps a roller-skating rink in Missoula. A few months ago I would’ve added another idea to that list, but for the first time someone has actually gone to the trouble (acquiring rights, working out royalties, etc.) of compiling most of last year’s Academy Award-nominated short films on a single DVD. Previously, these categories—Best Animated Short, Best Live Action Short—were briefly acknowledged during the awards show with tantalizing descriptions and clips before being disappeared from the cinematic landscape quicker than Patrick Swayze’s post-Point Break career.
The newly released 2006 collection from Magnolia Pictures bucks the trend (note: a similar 2005 edition also came out a few months ago). As one may expect from a globetrotting compilation—nominees represent Denmark, Norway, Senegal, Australia, Spain and the United States—the appeal here is in the diversity as much as the quality.
For instance, the live action winner, West Bank Story, is a spoof of the famous musical. Brimming with elaborate dance numbers and ridiculous costumes (Jets and Sharks are replaced by employees of neighboring fast food joints, Hummus Hut and Kosher King), it’s a cute and breezy take on one of the oldest and most violent conflicts in the world. That 20-minute farce is followed by Peter Templeton’s taut, tension-riddled The Saviour, in which a young Bible-peddler starts sleeping with a housewife on his route. Templeton’s film is brilliantly shot and awkwardly funny, ratcheting up the squirm-inducing strain as it unfolds. I actually liked it better than the winner.
While the live action nominees are strong throughout (including Binta and the Great Idea, which screened at last year’s CINE Film Festival), the two animation offerings are underwhelming. The winner, Torrill Kove’s The Danish Poet, is flat and tediously charming, and not nearly as good as the director’s previous work, 1999’s My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts (available on iTunes).
While it’s a treat to finally watch these decorated films at home, especially the five live action nominees, the animation shorts make you appreciate touring alternative offerings like Spike & Mike and Independent Exposure available on the big screen at the Crystal Theatre.