A good idea here: to bundle those titles listed off at the Oscar ceremony in the short-films categories--most of which then disappear into the ether, never to be heard of again--and put them on a DVD. The 2005 Academy Award Short Films Collection
gathers three animated and all five live-action and nominees together, thus providing over two and a half hours' worth of short-form cinema. The two winners are included, of course; the live-action winner is the 27-minute Six Shooter
, and it is indeed the head-and-shoulders choice above the other entries. Watching it after the other films will demonstrate the difference between cleverness and vision. It's written and directed by the Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, whose dark plays have made him one of the most talked-about writers to emerge in the turn-of-the-century theater. A grieving husband (Brendan Gleeson) leaves his dead wife in the hospital, only to be confronted by a crazed youth (the excellent Ruaidhri Conroy, who was one of the kids in Into the West
) on the train. What follows has its share of shockers, of which rabbit-cide and an exploding cow may be the least horrifying.
Other titles are Our Time Is Up, a cutesy thing with Kevin Pollack as a psychiatrist who radically changes his style; The Last Farm, a predictable Scandanavian tale of a man preparing for death in the countryside; Runaway, a German offering about a child and a man mysteriously drawn into each other's worlds; and Sean Ellis's Cashback, an 18-minute piece that earned the green light for feature expansion. Sean Biggerstaff stars as a daydreamer working the midnight shift at Sainsbury's supermarket, where he fantasizes about naked (and exclusively gorgeous) women. It's Guy Ritchie meets The Office, and a little too self-satisfied for its own good.
The winner for best animated short is the half-hour The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation, a very ambitious and emotionally raw work by John Canemaker, who recounts the difficult life of his Italian father. John Turturro and Eli Wallach provide the voices for son and father, as drawings illustrate the text. In another world is the Australian Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, a Jules Verne-ish half-hour fantasy about a Victorian who takes to an airship, searching for a plague cure. The characters are rendered as silhouettes, but there is rich detail--if not always sure-footed storytelling--elsewhere. Badgered is a standard cartoon with the appeal of brevity. Two nominated cartoons are not included: 9 and Pixar's One Man Band, but two bonus shorts, Imago and The Fan and the Flower, are on the disc. --Robert Horton