The short films nominated for Academy Awards in the animated and live-action categories will be shown twice daily at the Lagoon in Minneapolis beginning Friday.
If you’re only going to pick one or the other, go with the cartoons. The live-action lineup is puzzlingly weak.
Oscar watchers also can view the entries in the documentary shorts category at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis this week, but we weren’t able to screen those for review.
In no particular order:
“The Dam Keeper” is a moodily drawn parable awash in watercolor palettes about a piglet whose life boomerangs between being bullied at school and keeping a wonderwall of pollution from burying his town by minding the dam. He makes a friend, then feels betrayed and exacts revenge, followed by a didn’t-see-that-coming twist.
“Feast” is an unabashedly adorable entry from Disney’s Pixar. A Boston terrier revels in the junk food his human shares with him, played out against the arc of the owner’s romance with an edamame-loving waitress.
In under three minutes, “A Single Life” spans a clay animation woman’s various life stages with the aid of a magic record that instantly sends her back and forth in age with each skip of the needle.
“The Bigger Picture,” a combo of life-size, 2-D-painted characters and 3-D stop-motion settings, is a dourly arty look at two brothers bickering over care for their elderly mom. The stretched-out characters look straight outta Modigliani.
“Me and My Moulton,” drawn coloring-book style with heavy outlines, bold hues and simple expressions, is narrated by a Norwegian girl who wants her parents to get a bike for her and her two sisters. It tries so hard not to be sappy, it doesn’t make much of a point at all.
In decreasing order of appeal:
“The Phone Call” features affecting performances from Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent (unseen, but his voice is unmistakable). She plays a crisis-center hot line volunteer who tries to talk a man, wracked with grief over his wife’s death, out of killing himself.
“Boogaloo and Graham” is set against a backdrop of the Irish Troubles in the 1970s. Two Belfast brothers are fiercely protective of the pet chickens they’ve raised from hatchlings when their parents decide the pets have got to go. A sweetly clever ending offsets a general mundanity.
In “La Lampe au Beurre de Yak” (“Butter Lamp”), the camera never moves, only its subjects: various Tibetans posing for family photographs using a wide variety of costumes and backdrops. While visually and culturally intriguing at first, the contrivance grows tedious.
In “Parvaneh,” an Afghan immigrant seeking asylum in Zurich befriends a Swiss girl as she tries to send money home to her father, a quest too common to make for a remarkable story without much else to spark it.
“Aya,” the longest of the nominees, is also the most boring, with an infuriating lack of payoff. A business traveler landing at the airport mistakes a young woman waiting for someone else as his driver, and she inexplicably goes along with it, taking him on an interminable journey to his hotel that you can only wish will end in a fiery crash after they put each other to sleep with monotonous conversation. No such luck.