And the award for the site's shortest short film critic goes to...Judge Kristin Munson!
They're not short; they're chronologically challenged.
The main attraction of short films is that genres you wouldn't normally touch are more palatable because they're in bite-sized morsels. Even if I'm not in the mood for a western, an art-house flick, or a foreign comedy I can put up with 10-40 minutes worth.The unimaginative but accurately titled A Collection of 2007 Academy Award Nominated Short Films is just that. Eight of the 10 nominees from the past Oscar season are here and happily awaiting viewers to declare whether the Academy was right or whether they were robbed.
Facts of the Case
"At Night"—Three girls in a cancer ward deal with their
illness and the approach of the New Year. If you've seen even one of these hanky
fests before, you'll know in the first two minutes how it all turns out.
"The Mozart of Pickpockets"—Two bumbling French con artists
take in a deaf street urchin. Unusually mainstream for an Oscar winner.
"The Substitute"—A high school class gets a substitute
teacher who gives Roberto Benigni a run for his money in the overacting
department. And the Academy Award for most obnoxious Italian goes to…
"Tanghi Argentini"—A man has just weeks to learn "the
forbidden dance" before his date with a Tango lover he met on the Internet.
This confection of a short takes a plot that Hollywood would turn into a 90
minute bore and crafts a feel-good 13 minute miniature.
"The Tonto Woman"—A cattle rustler finds a kindred spirit in
an outcast kidnapped by Indians in this adaptation of an Elmore Leonard tale.
Francesco Quinn (Platoon) is the
highlight of this slow and barren western.
"Madame Tutli-Putli"—A woman takes a bizarre journey aboard
a ghostly train. Delirious imagery and beautifully fluid stop-motion can't
completely make up for the nonexistent story, but they help.
"Even Pigeons Go to Heaven"—In a more adult version of a
Pixar short, an elderly man is shown a machine that can take him to heaven.
"Peter and the Wolf"—Stop-motion and CGI bring to life
Prokofiev's classical piece about a boy, some animals, and a hungry beast. The
Wizard of Oz moment when Peter opens the door connecting his gray world
to a sunny forest and the familiar score kicks in is pure movie magic. Hands
down it's the best short on the disc.
The heart of any good collection is its underlying subject matter, and that's where A Collection of 2007 Academy Award Nominated Short Films fails to work. The only connecting thread among the films is that they're all Academy Award nominees, and so the disc's appeal is limited to a very small section of the DVD buying audience.I can't think of many people who are going to be pleased to see Saw included in their boxed set of literary romances, and same logic applies here. For every creative or entertaining short on the disc, there are two that left me wondering how they made it on the ballot in the first place—films like "The Substitute" (predictable and annoying) and "At Night" (predictable and manipulative). The less entertaining shorts also seem to be the longest, so for every tightly managed minute of "Even Pigeons Go to Heaven," you have to endure four dragging ones in "The Tonto Woman."The reason the DVD goes by A Collection and not THE Collection is because two of the nominees in the Animated category are missing. As someone who's far more interested in the creative and artistic possibilities that animation offers, this was a total letdown, especially since Magnolia has the two MIA titles listed on their website. All the short films have a 2.0 stereo track and, even though each short varies in aspect ratio, the picture is always crisp and clean, with pitch perfect colors. There are no subtitles for the English language shorts, and the forced subtitles on the foreign nominees are white instead of the more widely-used yellow, so they melt right into the faded sagebrush landscapes of "The Tonto Woman" and antiseptic hospital setting of "At Night." There are also no bonus features, which is odd because "Peter and the Wolf" has already aired on PBS as part of their Great Performances series, complete with a 20 minute "Making Of" featurette that isn't included on this disc.
The collection's best selling point is also its biggest weakness. There's a wide variety of genres and styles at play, and nobody wants to buy a disc where they might not like a good chunk of the content, so A Collection of 2007 Academy Award Nominated Short Films boils down to matters of taste. I enjoyed about 8o minutes of the total 190 and of those, only "Peter and the Wolf" and "Tango Arghenti" are shorts I'd want to re-watch and own. All the movies are worth one look, but the disparity in content and quality definitely makes A Collection of 2007 Academy Award Nominated Short Films a disc to rent rather than own.
Magnolia's intentions are good and for that their sentence is commuted to community service.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
• IMDb: At Night
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