Getting to Know This Year’s 15 Oscar Nominated Shorts

By  · Published on February 1st, 2012

UPDATED: The shorts programs will be available in over 200 theaters across the United States and Canada. Check out theater information HERE!

Earlier today, two things happened ‐ I sat down with an iced coffee to peruse the latest offerings from Los Angeles’ American Cinematheque (which shows films and special programs at both the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood and the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica) and my inbox was hit with a press release concerning the all of the Oscar-nominated shorts and their release later this month. You can guess the connection! Every Oscar night, even hardcore cinephiles find themselves scratching their heads when the three shorts categories come up ‐ documentary, live-action, and animation. What are these films? And how could I have seen them?

Well, as of today, the full program of Oscar Nominated Short Films will be released (thanks to ShortsHD) in New York City on February 10, with Los Angeles openings for the animation and live-action programs coming on February 10 (Landmark’s Nuart Theatre and West LA locations, and Regency Theatres’ South Coast Plaza in Santa Ana), with the documentary program hitting Laemmle’s Music Hall 3 on February 17. Or, if you’re an obsessive art house calendar-reader like me, you’ll also realize that you can check out all three programs at the Egyptian on various dates: documentaries on February 17 and both live-action and animation on February 24.

For those of you in New York or Los Angeles, I encourage you to take the opportunity afforded to you by your place of residence and check out the shorts the way they were meant to be seen ‐ on the big screen. If you’re not a Gothamite or an Angeleno, I still encourage you to check out information about all the shorts after the break (with bonus video, if available!), if only to be able to speak intelligently about them come Oscar night. And, heck, maybe we’ll get lucky and some more release locations will be announced (and you know where to go to find out if they do ‐ here, you go here).

Oscar Nominated Animation Shorts

Dimanche [CANADA]

Language: English, Directors: Patrick Doyon, Producer: Marc Bertrand, Michael Fukushima
Every Sunday, it’s the same old routine! The train clatters through the village and almost shakes the pictures off the wall. In the church, Dad dreams about his toolbox. And of course later Grandma will get a visit and the animals will meet their fate.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore [USA]

Language: No Dialogue, Directors: William Joyce & Brandon Oldenburg, Producer: Lampton Enochs Jr., Trish Farnsworth-Smith, Alissa M. Kantrow
Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story. Using a variety of techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation) co-directors William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg present a hybrid style of animation that harkens back to silent films and MGM Technicolor musicals. Morris Lessmore is old fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.

La Luna [USA]

Language: English, Director: Enrico Casarosa, Producer: Kevin Reher, John Lasseter (Executive Producer)
“La Luna” is the timeless fable of a young boy who is coming of age in the most peculiar of circumstances. Tonight is the very first time his Papa and Grandpa are taking him to work. In an old wooden boat they row far out to sea, and with no land in sight, they stop and wait. A big surprise awaits the little boy as he discovers his family’s most unusual line of work. Should he follow the example of his Papa, or his Grandpa? Will he be able to find his own way in the midst of their conflicting opinions and timeworn traditions?

A Morning Stroll [UK]

Language: No Dialogue, Director: Grant Orchard, Producer: Sue Goffe
When a New Yorker walks past a chicken on his morning stroll, we are left to wonder which one is the real city slicker.

Wild Life [CANADA]

Language: English, Directors: Amanda Forbis, Wendy Tilby, Producers: Marcy Page, Bonnie Thompson
Calgary, 1909. An Englishman moves to the Canadian frontier, but is singularly unsuited to it. His letters home are much sunnier than the reality. Intertitles compare his fate to that of a comet.

Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts

Pentecost [IRELAND]

Language: English, Writer/Director: Peter McDonald, Producer: Eimear O’Kane, Cast: Andrew Bennett, Scott Graham and Eamonn Hunt
When Damian is forced to serve as an altar boy at an important mass in his local parish he faces a difficult choice: conform to the status quo or serve an extended ban from his passion in life, football.


Language: English/German, Writer: Max Zähle, Florian Kuhn, Director: Max Zähle, Producer: Stefan Gieren, Cast: Wotan Wilke Möhring, Julia Richter, Krish Gupta
A German couple adopts in Kolkata an Indian orphan. Their child suddenly disappears and they realize that they are part of the problem.


Language: English, Writer/Director: Terry George, Producer: Oorlagh George, Cast: Ciarán Hinds, Kerry Condon, Conleth Hill, Maggie Cronin
THE SHORE is the uplifting story of two boyhood best friends ‐ Joe (Ciarán Hinds) and Paddy (Conleth Hill) divided for 25 years by the tumult of “The Troubles”. When Joe returns home to Northern Ireland, his daughter Patricia brings the two men together for a reunion, with unexpected results. What happened all those years ago? Can old wounds be healed? The answer is both hilarious and moving. THE SHORE is about one of the small personal reconciliations that coincide with a national reconciliation.

Time Freak [USA]

Language: English, Writer: Andrew Bowler, Director: Andrew Bowler, Producer: Gigi Causey, Cast: John Conor Brooke, Michael Nathanson, Emilea Wilson
A neurotic inventor creates a time machine, only to get caught up traveling around yesterday.

Tuba Atlantic [NORWAY]

Language: Norwegian, Writer: Linn-Jeanethe Kyed, Director: Hallvar Witzø, Producer: Gudrun Austli, Cast: Edvard Hægstad, Terje Ranes, Ingrid Viken
When seventy-year-old Oskar is told that he has only six days left to live, he wants to put things right with his brother who lives in New Jersey. Inger, a public “death angel” is sent out to help Oscar through his remaining days. A huge horn stands at the edge of the sea, built by the brothers when they were kids. Will its sound cross the Atlantic?

Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom [JAPAN/USA]

Language: Japanese (with English subtitles), Director: Lucy Walker, Producers: Kira Karstensen, Charleen Manca
Survivors in the areas hardest hit by Japan’s recent tsunami find the courage to revive and rebuild as cherry blossom season begins.

Incident in New Baghdad [USA]

Language: English, Writer: James Spione, Director: James Spione, Producers: James Spione, Mike Altmann
One of the most notorious incidents of the Iraq War ‐ the July 2007 slayings of two Reuters journalists and a number of other unarmed civilians by US attack helicopters ‐ is recounted in the powerful testimony of an American infantryman whose life was profoundly changed by his experiences on the scene. US Army Specialist Ethan McCord bore witness to the devastating carnage, found and rescued two children caught in the crossfire, and soon turned against the war that he had enthusiastically joined only months before. Denied psychological treatment in Iraq for his PTSD, McCord returned home, struggling for years with anger, confusion, and guilt over the war. When WikiLeaks released the stunning cockpit video of the incident, McCord was finally spurred into action, and began traveling the country, speaking out for the rights of PTSD sufferers against the American wars in the Middle East.

Saving Face [PAKISTAN/USA]

(Check out the film’s trailer HERE)

Language: Urdu (with English subtitles), Director: Daniel Junge, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Producers: Daniel Junge, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Alison Greenberg, Davis Coombe, Sabiha Sumar
Every year hundreds of people ‐ mostly women ‐ are attacked with acid in Pakistan. The HBO Documentary SAVING FACE, which premiers March 8 at 8:30 PM PT, follows several of these survivors, their fight for justice, and a Pakistani plastic surgeon who has returned to his homeland to help them restore their faces and their lives.

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement [USA]

Language: English, Director: Gail Dolgin, Robin Fryday, Producers: Gail Dolgin, Robin Fryday, Judith Helfand
Mr. James Armstrong is a barber, a “foot soldier” and a dreamer whose barbershop in Birmingham, Alabama has been a hub for haircuts and civil rights since 1955. “The dream” of a promised land, where dignity and the right to vote belongs to everyone is documented in photos, headlines and clippings that cram every inch of wall space (and between the mirrors). 85-years-young, jauntily wearing a bowtie and suspenders, Mr. Armstrong will cut your hair while recounting his experiences as a “foot soldier”, citing the pictures on his wall as he does. In March 1965, civil rights activists began a march from Selma to Montgomery calling for voting rights. Mr. Armstrong, an Army Veteran, was the proud bearer of the American flag in that march, and it’s said that even as state troopers tear-gassed the crowd and beat marchers with billy clubs, he held the flag high. On the annual commemoration of Bloody Sunday he carries that flag. He used his barber chair to educate: “If you want a voice, you have to vote; you can’t complain about nothing if you don’t vote.” Despite threats to his life and home, his two sons were the first to integrate an all white elementary school. “Dying isn’t the worst thing a man can do. The worst thing a man can do is nothing.” No one can accuse Mr. Armstrong of doing nothing; and on the eve of the election of the first African-American president, THE BARBER OF BIRMINGHAM sees his unimaginable dream come true.

God Is the Bigger Elvis [USA]

Language: English, Director: Rebecca Cammisa, Julie Anderson
In 1963, actress Dolores Hart, best known for her roles opposite Elvis Presley and her performance in the teen drama WHERE THE BOYS ARE, chose to leave Hollywood behind and become a Benedictine nun.