Schwartzman Digs Up Details on Short Film Nominees

Jason Schwartzman at 'Oscar Celebrates: Shorts' (Photo: Valerie Macon/Getty)

Last night, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebrated this year’s Oscar-nominated short films at an event entitled “Oscar Celebrates: Shorts.”

Held at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, the show featured screenings of the five animated and five live-action short film nominees, followed by a Q&A hosted by “Moonrise Kingdom” star Jason Schwartzman. “I do love short films,” Schwartzman told the sold-out crowd. “I love short stories. I love short songs. I love short phone calls. I love most things that are short.”

In welcoming the audience to “Oscar Celebrates,” Academy governor Jon Bloom praised the inclusion of short films in the Oscars’ lineup for the 80th consecutive year. To boot, the medium has seen a resurgence in recent years — more than 400,000 people have paid to watch this year’s nominated shorts — and, for the first time ever, all 6,000 voting members of the Academy were given DVD copies of the shorts to watch.

“Short films are in the midst of a genuine Renaissance,” Bloom said. “This is only the beginning. There remains room for continued, enormous growth.”

Below are my rankings of all 10 short films (separated into animated and live-action), as well as fun facts about each film as revealed during Schwartzman’s Q&A sessions. Check out the Oscars on Sunday, February 24, and join the live chat, to find out which films win.



5. “Head Over Heels”

Synopsis: A long-married husband and wife tolerate each other in an unusual living arrangement.

Fun fact: The stop-motion film took 15 months to create and, according to producer Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, the story was written backwards after director Timothy Reckart came up with the ending first.


4. “Adam and Dog”

Synopsis: A playful dog exploring the newly created world encounters the first man.

Fun fact: Director Minkyu Lee said the film took two and a half years to create, and was done with the help of his friends who volunteered their time.


3. “Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare'”

Synopsis: At the Ayn Rand Daycare Center, little Maggie Simpson finds a caterpillar and faces off against her nemesis.

Fun fact: Director David Silverman jokingly said that the film, which was shot in only two months, “was originally gonna be live action, but the jokes didn’t play.” He added that the decision to shoot in 3D was made because, “running down hallways would be great in 3D.”


2. “Paperman”

Synopsis: A desperate office worker uses his paperwork to attract the attention of a young woman across the street.

Fun fact: Director John Kahrs, who created the film for Disney, chose to combat typical computer-generated cartoons with a style that brings “the line” back into animation.


1. “Fresh Guacamole”

Synopsis: An unseen cook prepares a bowl of guacamole with unusual ingredients.

Fun fact: This two-minute stop-motion film was created by a director named PES and one co-animator. The stop-motion process is so arduous that, according to PES, he didn’t eat for days. “Sometimes you have to skip meals,” he said. “If you leave to get lunch, it’s very hard to come back to that shot.”



5. “Death of a Shadow”

Synopsis: A soldier ransoms his soul from Death to be able to return to the girl he loves.

Fun fact: The fantasy film, which was shot in Belgium, took five years to make. “It’s a good time for Belgian films,” said director Tom Van Avermaet. “There is a lot of talent there.”


4. “Henry”

Synopsis: Henry, an elderly concert pianist, endures confusing experiences as he searches for his wife.

Fun fact: This story is a personal one for director Yan England, who was inspired by his late grandfather. Unbeknownst to England, a particular piece of music he chose for the film was one of his grandfather’s favorites. “It was a beautiful coincidence,” the filmmaker said.


3. “Curfew”

Synopsis: A suicidal young man receives a call from his sister asking him to babysit his precocious niece.

Fun fact: Director and star Shawn Christensen wrote a song for the film’s dance number after a band (which remained nameless) backed out of the film. “They wouldn’t let me use [the song],” Christensen explained. “They asked for more than our entire music budget.” To make matters worse, the dance scene was already shot, so Shawn had to write his song with the same beats and tempo as the tune he couldn’t use.


2. “Buzkashi Boys”

Synopsis: In war-torn Afghanistan, a blacksmith’s son and a homeless orphan dare to dream of competing in their country’s national sport.

Fun fact: Shot in Afghanistan, the film spent a year in pre-production. According to director Sam French, the lead actor, Fawad Mohammadi, was a “street kid” before being cast.


1. “Asad”

Synopsis: A Somali boy must decide between pursuing the life of a pirate and becoming a respectable fisherman.

Fun fact: The film’s entire cast is comprised of Somali refugees. And according to director Bryan Buckley, the young stars of the film were illiterate and had to memorize the script as it was read to them. To boot, Buckley doesn’t speak their native language and couldn’t tell if they were delivering the lines correctly. “We didn’t know until we finished the edit whether they were lying to us,” Buckley said jokingly.

(All photos and film synopses courtesy of the AMPA.)


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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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