Oscar shorts getting screen, Net exposure
By Gregg Kilday
"Cashback," a short film directed by Sean Ellis, is turning into something
of a mini-blockbuster as the animated shorts and live-action shorts
nominated for Sunday's 78th Annual Academy Awards are moving out from under
the shadows cast by their feature-length brethren.
This year, the short films distributor Shorts International teamed up with
Magnolia Pictures to distribute the shorts theatrically -- the Academy
shorts program opened last weekend in select theaters nationwide. To make
the bite-size movies even more widely available, Shorts International joined
with the iTunes Music Store this week to offer the five nominees for best
live-action film as individual downloads.
By Thursday morning, the experiment already was finding eager viewers.
"Cashback" ranked No. 4 among the most downloaded videos at the iTunes Music
Store, behind only Pink's "Stupid Girls" video and episodes of "Lost" and "Battlestar
No doubt, the movie's popularity got a boost from the "explicit" label
attached to its description. Ellis' 19-minute film from the U.K. is set in
an open-all-night supermarket. At first, it earns laughs as it documents the
strategies a goofy gang of night-shift employees use to while away the
hours, but then it shifts into a more lyrical mode as its protagonist, a
young art student, explains how he freezes time in his mind and then
imagines how the women strolling the aisles might look nude.
"Cashback" might have captured the most attention, but its competition isn't
being ignored, either. Rob Pearlstein's "Our Time Is Up," took the sixth
slot. Pearlstein, an L.A. screenwriter making his directorial debut, has
constructed a humorous bit in which a psychiatrist (Kevin Pollak) learns
that he has six weeks to live and starts telling his patients exactly what
he thinks of them.
The other nominees include "Six Shooter," a dark comedy from Ireland about a
dangerous stranger on a train directed by Martin McDonagh; "Runaway," from
Germany, in which director Ulrike Grote follows a man who suddenly discovers
the 6-year-old son he has never known; and "The Last Farm," a sad story from
Iceland from Runar Runarsson, about a lonely farmer coming to terms with the
death of his wife.
Welcoming a sold-out crowd for screenings of the shorts Tuesday night at the
Academy's Goldwyn Theater, John Bloom, executive committee chair of the
short films and feature animation branch, hailed the wider distribution the
short films are now receiving, saying, "There truly exists a demand for the
As for the animated entries, they range from Sharon Colman's hand-drawn
"Badgered," the tale of a sleepy badger whose battle with some noisy crows
is interrupted, to Shane Acker's stop-motion "9," set in a postapocalyptic
world where an odd creature must confront a soul-stealing monster. The
nominees include Anthony Lucas' ambitious "The Mysterious Geographic
Explorations of Jasper Morello," in which characters created by silhouettes
embark on a voyage inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and invoking the world of
Jules Verne, and John Canemaker's "The Moon and the Son: An Imagined
Conversation," a piece of autobiographical animation in which the filmmaker
constructs a dialogue with his Italian-American father.
Pixar Animation Studios has a film in the mix as well: Andrew Jimenez and
Mark Andrews' "One Man Band," in which two street musicians in an Italian
piazza compete for the attention of a young girl. However it fares Oscar
night, it suggests that as Pixar's John Lasseter takes over Disney
animation, one of the first orders of business should be to set the creative
minds at Pixar to animating a new version of the music-inspired "Fantasia."