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.
The shorts run for one week only at Chez Artiste.