Oscars: Keeping Things Short ... And Sweet A short film must make its point quickly, but what becomes clear watching the Oscar-nominated shorts each year is how many different ways there are for a filmmaker to make a point. A lot of heart can be put into a few minutes.
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Oscars: Keeping Things Short ... And Sweet

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Oscars: Keeping Things Short ... And Sweet

Oscars: Keeping Things Short ... And Sweet

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden. And now, it's time to take a peek at Oscar's short, no, not those shorts, but the short films that are up for Academy Awards next weekend. And if you're studying up for your office Oscar pool, you can actually get a look before the big night. Theaters in big cities across the country are showing a collection of the nominees, both the five animated shorts and the five live action nominees.

NPR's critic extraordinaire, Bob Mondello, has seen all the shorts and he's here to tell us about them. How do you do, Bob?

BOB MONDELLO: It's good to be here.

LYDEN: So, how does the process of making a short film change the storytelling?

MONDELLO: Well, I think of it kind of like making a short story as opposed to a novel. In a short story, you can only tell one narrative thread. And so, if you have, let's say, three minutes for a picture like "Oktapodi," you can basically tell the story of two octopuses who are, like I said (unintelligible), isn't it…

(Soundbite of laughter)

…who are separated. They're lovers, they're in their tank, and one of them is taken off to a seafood restaurant and the other one decides to rescue it. So, it's one chase.

(Soundbite of short film "Oktapodi")

MONDELLO: After the one is plucked, which happens in the first like, five seconds of the cartoon, the other one is chasing to try and catch up.

LYDEN: So, you have, of course, they animated pictures and then the live action films.

MONDELLO: Right. Well, I mean, you can tell a slightly more complicated story in one of these by use of flashback. There's a picture called "New Boy" that does that.

LYDEN: And this is a live action?

MONDELLO: Yes, a live action picture. This is from Ireland, I think. The new boy, though, is from Africa. He's come to a new school and he gets picked on there. And as that's happening to him, he's doing flashbacks to his plight in Africa where his father was actually taken away by soldiers. And in that way, in 10 minutes, rather than three minutes, you can tell a sort of a second story in there. But it's still basically one drive. You're going in one direction in the story.

I think it's really interesting to watch the way that narratives are told. And when you see 10 of them together like this, it can be fascinating.

LYDEN: Yeah. For the first time, there's an animation nominee that the general public probably has seen, and it's called "Presto" which was released theatrically alongside "Wall-E" which people raved about. So, will that make a difference to Oscar voters?

MONDELLO: No, it won't make a difference to Oscar voters. But when Pixar makes a movie, it is sort of the gorilla in the room. It's, their technical expertise is magnificent. And this story, which is about a magician who has a sort of recalcitrant rabbit in his act, he reaches into his hat and the hand comes out of a different hat and the rabbit keeps moving that hat around and all…

(Soundbite from movie ("Presto")

…breaks loose on the stage. It's a very, very funny little animated feature.

LYDEN: I've seen this one and I love it.

MONDELLO: It's adorable. I mean, it really is. And it's also a very smart piece of filmmaking.

LYDEN: Yes, and we also want to tell people that if they're making their notes for the pool…

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONDELLO: I suppose…

LYDEN: (Unintelligible).

MONDELLO: I suppose it's going to get a lot of…

LYDEN: Pretty good.

MONDELLO: Yes. Probably.

LYDEN: I want to ask you to predict the winners, though, that would be unfair of our critic. But are there any other film from this list that really appeal to you?

MONDELLO: Actually, yes. And the title is going to make it sound awful. It's called "Lavatory Love Story."

LYDEN: Mm-hmm. Sounds cool.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONDELLO: It's about a lavatory attendant. She is sweet and she's reading her newspaper all the time. And somebody comes in and leaves her flowers. And it's just a line drawing, but it's the sweetest little romance where she's trying to figure out who could possibly have left this. And it's very funny and the water gets splashed, and it's just kind of a wonderful little animated feature.

LYDEN: NPR's movie man Bob Mondello.

You can see the Oscar nominees for best animated and live action shorts at about 60 theaters across the country this weekend. Thanks so much, Bob.

MONDELLO: Always a pleasure.

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