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Short medley

The acclaimed works, a mixed bag in terms of theme and overall quality, can be seen in separate packages

By Peter Hartlaub

San Francisco Chronicle

LAST UPDATED: 1:49 a.m. HST, Jan 31, 2014

EVEN WHEN short films nominated for Academy Awards are accomplished on their own, they can be a strange buffet when bunched together. Like eating sushi, veal parmigiana and a bag of Oreos in one sitting.

"The Oscar Nominated Short Films of 2014" will appear in theaters this month as four separate programs — animated, live action and two documentary. All have their soaring moments. But the documentary shorts are the most consistent in their excellence, and conveniently fall into a unifying theme of humanity prevailing through suffering and struggle. (Consolidated Theatres is showing the animated and live-action shorts, but not the documentaries).


Not rated
At Kahala 8

Not rated
(Not on view in Hawaii)

Live Action
Not rated
At Kahala 8

The animated shorts program has two clear standouts — both visually stunning and emotionally satisfying. "Possessions" from Japan is a haunting conservation parable, featuring a traveler who gets caught in a puzzle of a cabin and must escape using skill and kindness. "Mr. Hublot" from France builds a dreary but still dazzling steampunk world, focusing on the relationship between an agoraphobic man and his machine dog.

Watching the other nominees back to back feels a bit jolting. "Feral" is a cold and surreal fever dream, featuring a boy raised around wolves finding little solace among his own kind. "Room on the Broom" is a fable suitable for small children, charming but cartoonish. "Get a Horse!" is the kinetic and well-produced Mickey Mouse update that ran with the outstanding Disney feature "Frozen."

The live-action shorts include some strong filmmaking, but are the least satisfying of the programs. "The Voorman Program," where Martin Freeman plays a psychiatrist interviewing a prisoner with a God complex, is an entertaining diversion. The most memorable film is "That Wasn't Me," featuring aid workers who run into trouble on a Third World mission, then forge an unexpected alliance. The three other live-action shorts are less memorable, at their worst coming off as a bit contrived.

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