In coordination with my Oscarwatch series, I decided to throw some recognition towards that little theater in town that is taking part in Oscar season by showing the films that not everyone typically gets to see.
Today, the subject is short films, an often overlooked style of filmmaking too often dismissed by typical audiences as not worth their time unless the Disney logo is plastered on the front of it. That is a shame, since there are many talented people out there whose livelihoods thrive on the 45 minutes and under length of storytelling. Some stories just work better in bite size form, which many of Hollywood’s star producers and directors could take some lessons from.
The Urban Institute for Contemporary Art (UICA for short), located on Fulton and Division in downtown GR, is taking the time to showcase the Oscar nominated shorts this year, three categories split into four programming blocks. The programs consist of the animated, live action, and two sets of documentary short films deemed worth of recognition by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, along with the Shorts Channel (ShortsHD). The programming shows Tuesdays thru Sundays through March 3rd, with at least 2 showings per day, sometimes more.
I personally went to see the animation selections with a small group over the weekend and was not disappointed. The program included the 5 nominees as well as 3 honorable mentions, all of which were unique in their own right. I even thought one of the honorable mentions was better than a couple of the nominees. The program lasted about 90-95 minutes, and the best thing about the UICA is that like other theaters, they pad out the first five minutes with trailers and advertisements, so if you get caught in traffic, you won’t miss the important bits.
Up for Animated Short this year are five shorts spread out across three continents and four countries, showcasing many different cultural perspectives. Bear Story, the submission from Chile, details a day in the life of a pauperish animal, who struggles to eke out living as a performer. The Russian entry, We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, is set during the glory days of the cosmonauts, exploring the relationship between two best friends who pass through Russia’s space program, hoping to make their country proud. The United Kingdom entry, Prologue, from the lauded animator behind the legendary unfinished project The Thief and the Cobbler/Arabian Knight and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, shows the anxiety and brutal chaos of a battle between two pairs of warriors in ancient Greece.
The PIXAR submission, Sanjay’s Super Team, deals in Hindu heritage and lore while giving nods, as evidenced in the title, to American superhero mythologies. The American independent darling, World of Tomorrow, narrates the inter-spatial meeting between a precocious young girl and her third-generation clone from over 200 years in the future, with a droll, goofy heart alongside morbid philosophizing on what the future holds in store for humanity.
All the shorts are certainly worth viewing, especially for the value of seeing them theatrically in downtown Grand Rapids of all places. Be warned, there is a viewer discretion break for young viewers after the fourth entry, as the fifth entry, Prologue, is a very violent and graphic depiction of an grisly battle scene. Luckily, the program does pad itself with 3 honorable mentions before that film. This goes to show that not all animation is kid-oriented, as most of the general public is due to find out.
Tickets are available at the UICA front desk, cost is $4 for UICA members, $8 for non-members. For showtime specifics, visit http://www.uica.org/movies