Even for the most ardent of Academy Awards lovers, handicapping the race in the Live Action and Animated Short film categories is typically a sucker's game. Who's even seen these movies, much less able to predict who will win?
This year, Memphians can put away their dartboards and other, less reliable forecasting systems and actually view the nominees. Thanks to On Location: Memphis, the five live-action short films and five animated shorts up for Oscars this year will be screening at Studio on the Square on Saturday, February 21st, at 7:30 p.m. Memphis is joining 50-plus other cities who screen these nominees every year.
Lisa Bobal, president/director of On Location: Memphis, says the screening came about after talking with a director from another festival that screens the shorts. Bobal says, "Typically, it's a film-festival organization that hosts it in their city. A lot of other cities will run it for a week's time or over a weekend. We're hoping that this weekend will be very successful, and we'll be able to run more than one screening next year."
This year's crop of live-action shorts is an international affair. It includes a Swiss film about guilt, love, and voyeurism (On the Line), an adaptation of a short story by excellent Irish author Roddy Doyle (New Boy), a Nazi-era German film (Toyland) reminiscent of the 2008 feature The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and a French film about life and death (Manon on the Asphalt). The best is probably the Danish film The Pig, a quiet story that grows in profundity the more I think about it.
The animated shorts are also mostly international, though Presto has the most star power, being from American titan Pixar. The animated shorts are generally much lighter and more entertaining this year than the live-action films: mostly comedies and much more expressive in their varied use of media and artistic styles.
Bobal hopes that the screening is a way station on the way to a bigger destination for On Location: Memphis — becoming an Oscar-sanctioned festival, wherein the winning short film, documentary, or feature of the festival is automatically considered for the Oscars. "If you're able to say our festival got your film in front of the Oscar committee, that's a huge deal," Bobal says. "It would make our festival much more prestigious." The festival is working through the application process. It has a head start since it's international and non-genre-specific, two requirements for consideration.
Bobal calls shorts creators "the future feature filmmakers of the world." You can see that future for just 10 bucks this weekend. It looks bright.
2009 Oscar-nominated short-film screening
Studio on the Square
Saturday, February 21st, 7:30 p.m.