Every year, but every single year, the success of your Oscar predictions is severely handicapped by your inability to predict — or even root for —nominees in the categories of live-action, animated, and documentary shorts. Right? If you're like me, you often pick the title that sounds most exotic or controversial and wait for the brief clip to validate your selection. As a matter of preference, I'm drawn to succinct foreign titles: Kavi in 2009; Na Wewe in 2010; Raju in 2011; Asad in 2012. None of which won. Alas.
This year, the Capitol Theatre will screen the short film nominees Friday through next Thursday in three rotating programs. As in years past, Cleveland Cinemas will offer a discounted ticket price ($6) for a second shorts program to patrons who present a stub from one of the other shows.
The live-action roster features five films, including the Finnish comedy Do I Have to Take Care of Everything? and the French abuse drama Just Before Losing Everything. The line-up also boasts an entry from the UK, The Voorman Problem, with familiar stars. The Hobbit's Martin Freeman plays a skeptical prison psychiatrist tasked with assessing an inmate (Tom Hollander) who's convinced he is a god. Inventive script; two fine actors.
There's often more magic — and certainly more hands on deck — in the animated category, where simple, though often high-concept, stories and imaginative visuals appear in concentrate. Anyone who's seen a Pixar movie in theaters these past 20ish years can recall the pleasure of the opener, the 5 to 10 minute (almost always wordless) appetizer which in some cases remains as memorable as the entree. One notable entry this year is the French film Mr. Hublot, a lovely little movie set in a sort of Steampunk metropolis where an obsessive-compulsive robot man exists in solitude in a small apartment before befriending a mechanical dog.
The documentary program is significantly longer than the other two, and screens only on Sunday at 1 p.m. and Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre. It will include films on the subjects of war, music, hate crimes and a sandstone cave sculptor in New Mexico.