Oscar-nominated shorts, coming to a theater near you
If you’re feeling behind on watching this year’s Oscar-nominated films, here’s one way to catch up on five titles in one sitting: ShortsHD’s theatrical screenings of the short film nominees, which kick off Friday.
For the seventh year, the Oscar-nominated shorts will screen at theaters in the U.S. and Canada, presented by ShortsHD, a cable TV network that exclusively shows short films. Screenings will group the films together by category: animation (79 minutes), documentary (130 minutes) and live action (107 minutes). Among this year’s nominees are Pixar’s longest theatrical short, a live action film by “Hotel Rwanda” director Terry George and a documentary about the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011.
“This is how the films were meant to be seen,” said Carter Pilcher, chief executive of Shorts International, which owns ShortsHD.
For those who can’t make it to the theater, there will still be a chance to watch the live action and animated films on demand, via providers including Time Warner and Comcast, and on iTunes, where ShortsHD will sell the shorts packaged by category starting Feb. 21 for $6.99. (Pixar’s “La Luna” will not be available digitally, because it is screening in front of the studio’s 2012 film “Brave.”)
“Even if you can’t have the full theater experience, we want to encourage people to watch the films together,” said Pilcher, who likened viewing all of a category’s nominees in one sitting to listening to an album instead of just one song.
When Pilcher started the screenings in 2006, he was met with resistance from theater owners who didn’t like the idea of screening films weeks before a digital release. Some shorts directors were also hesitant to hand their films over to an unfamiliar distributor. But the program has grown from about 50 theaters in its first year to more than 200 venues today.
The screenings have also gotten a boost from a new rule by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Previously, members could vote for short films only if they attended an academy screening. Now, attending a ShortsHD screening will make academy members eligible to vote for the films.
“It’s a great thing that after seven years, this has made a mark big enough to be included in the [voting] process,” Pilcher said. “It’s a big step forward for short films.”
Setting this year’s live action nominees apart from past years is a trend toward comedy, including a tale of time travel mishaps in the American film “Time Freak” and a heartwarming story of a 70-year-old man’s last days in the Norwegian short “Tuba Atlantic.”
“The live action films often deal with very serious and challenging subjects,” Pilcher said. “This year, most of the films you see will make you laugh. It’s really fun to see them on the big screen, all together in a row with an audience.”
In L.A., venues participating include the Egyptian Theatre, which will screen the documentary shorts Feb. 17, and the Nuart, which will show the live action and animated nominees Friday through Feb. 23.
— Emily Rome
Photo: A scene from the Oscar-nominated short "The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement." James Armstrong is a barber, whose barbershop in Birmingham, Ala., has been a hub for haircuts and civil rights since 1955. Credit: Shorts HD.