The theatrical release of the Oscar-nominated live-action and animated short films provides a fun peek into intriguing bite-sized cinema from across the globe. This year's live-action entries are a diverse mix. The African-set drama Na Wewe is a rather obvious critique of cultural identity, while The Confession is a coming-of-age tale that examines Catholic guilt with a heavy hand. The Crush offers the latest twist on the "young student smitten with his teacher" genre, settling for a darkly comic spirit that's not quite as clever as the filmmakers think. Much better is Wish 143, a modest comedy-drama about a teen cancer patient whose dying wish is to lose his virginity. The clear winner of the pack is writer-director-star Luke Matheny's God of Love, a nicely modulated, deadpan charmer about a singing-darts champion trying to woo the girl of his dreams.
In the animated-shorts field, Pixar made the cut again. But unlike its more visually opulent entries of the past, Day & Night boasts a comparatively low-key aesthetic to dramatize the unlikely friendship that develops between Daytime and Nighttime. The Gruffalo features voice work from Helena Bonham Carter and Tom Wilkinson in a fable involving a mouse who outsmarts predators. And its solid storytelling outranks the glib satire Let's Pollute, a faux-educational film promoting the benefits of consumer excess. Inventive and playful, Madagascar, a Journey Diary is an impressionistic travelogue across the island nation incorporating pencil sketches. Which brings us to The Lost Thing, a deceptively simple remembrance of a boy's encounter with a bizarre orphaned creature. This exceptionally moving film touches on friendship, loneliness, and the tragedy of how getting older numbs us to the wonders of the small oddities around us.
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The shorts run for one week only at Chez Artiste.