Tag Archives: Academy Awards


DIRECTED BY: Bryan Buckley (“Asad”), Shawn Christensen (“Curfew”), Yan England (“Henry”), Sam French (“Buzkashi Boys”), Tom Van Avermaet (“Death of a Shadow”)

FEATURING:Gérard Poirier, Shawn Christensen, Fatima Ptacek, Matthias Schoenaerts, Harun Mohammed, Fawad Mohammadi, Jawanmard Paiz

PLOT: Five short stories (each approximately 20 minutes long): a dead soldier works for a shadow collector in the afterlife, an elderly composer struggles with his memories, a suicidal drug addict is pressed into watching the daughter of his estranged sister, two Afghani lads hope to grow up to play Buzkashi, and a Somali boy must decide between becoming a pirate or a fisherman.

Still from "Death of a Shadow" (2012)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: While the presence of the fantastical, steampunkish “Death of a Shadow” provides an excuse for us to review 2012’s crop of Oscar nominated live action shorts, none of the nominees are of sufficient strangeness to challenge for a spot on the List of the 366 Weirdest Movies of All Time. It’s still well worth your time to check out this slate of shorts if you get the chance.

COMMENTS: You might hope the Academy Awards would rename their “Best Short Film” category to “Best Realist Narrative Short Film” to reflect the fact that experimental, abstract, and surrealist films are not eligible to compete in the category (for boundary-pushing styles, you’ll have to rely on 366 Weird Movies Weirdest Short Film awards). The truth is that Academy probably considers the concepts of “narrative” and “realist” to be inherent in the definition of “Best.” When we think back over the most memorable and influential (post-silent era) short films of all time, titles like “Meshes of the Afternoon,” (1943), “La Jetee” (1962), and “Scorpio Rising” (1964) spring to mind. Naturally, none of these classics were acknowledged by the Academy, who instead consistently nominate competent but boring shorts that disappear into the mists of time. (Even 1956’s “The Red Balloon,” the sentimental story of the friendship between a boy and his helium-inflated buddy, was too “out there” for the squares at the Academy).

That’s why this year’s inclusion of “Death of a Shadow” is an encouraging departure: “Death” is still narrative and realist, but at least it’s magically realist. None of this year’s bundle of shorts innovate much or deviate from standard filmmaking techniques in any meaningful way. And, with the possible exception of “Henry,” none of them are really tuned in to the unique possibilities of the short format—they all look like stunted feature films, or standalone television episodes with artistic ambitions. This is not to say the assembly is bad—far from it, all of the films are of exceptionally high technical quality—but merely to point out that the Academy considers the short film category the minor leagues of feature filmmaking, a place where directors can demonstrate that they have the talent to someday helm a Hollywood movie.

We’ll tackle each of this year’s nominees in the order they appear in the program; by coincidence, the movie of most interest to our readers, “Death of a Shadow,” just happens to be first in the lineup. The premise verges on weird: after his death in WWI, a soldier goes to work for a mysterious shadow collector. He is given a camera he uses to snap photographs of people at the moment of their death, capturing a negative image of their spirit at the moment it leaves the body. Once he supplies the hobbyist with 10,000 postmortem shadows, the ghostly photographer will be allowed to return to the world of the living. He select his subjects from a giant database, half microfiche reader and half primitive punchcard computer. The film’s look is described as steampunk (although it’s not, technically); the in-story explanation for the retro-technology might be that the dead Continue reading CAPSULE: OSCAR NOMINATED SHORT FILMS (LIVE ACTION) (2012)


We can easily infer that the Academy Award winner for Best Animated Short Film is not going to be our most outlandish Saturday Short. Still, “Harvie Krumpet” was certainly peculiar enough, and, without doubt, professional enough to have captured our attention. At over twenty-minutes long, it better fits the label short-film than any other Saturday Short we’ve posted.  It nearly has the plot and character development of a full-length film, and compromises almost solely on time.  Narrated by Geoffrey Rush.

CONTENT WARNING: This short contains brief animated nudity and a scene of mild sexual content.


The 2009 Academy Awards nominations are out, and they are every bit as tepid and conventional as we would have predicted.  The small sliver of hope is that, by expanding the field to 10 nominations, one mildly weird film did manage to worm it’s way into Best Picture contention: the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man, which also garnered a well-deserved “Best Original Screenplay” nomination.  The beautiful looking Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus also got mentions for “Best Art Direction” and “Best Costumes.”

A few non-weird titles we covered in the past year got noticed by the Academy.  Coraline received a nomination for “Best Animated Film”: an honor, but a win isn’t in the cards considering the competition it’s Up against.  Stanley Tucci was mentioned for his chilling performance as a child murderer in the otherwise unremarkable The Lovely Bones.  And, to our shock, the musical snoozer Nine gathered a stunning four nominations: a Best Supporting Actress for the lovely and talented (but for this performance, undeserving) Penélope Cruz; one for art direction; one for costume design (corset and fishnet stocking fetishes are obviously common among members of the Academy); and one for the original song “Take it All” (now, which one was that, again?)

With all due respect to the Academy, we’d like to offer this alternative, weirder slate of nominees:


  • Antichrist: torture-porn in the style of Tarkovsky
  • The Box: a confusing sci-fi fable about moral dilemmas
  • Cold Souls: Paul Giamatti misplaces his soul and it winds up on the black market in Russia
  • Dark Country: Noir/horror hybrid about a couple that hit a man on a lonely desert road on the way back from their honeymoon
  • The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus: An ancient mystic with the power to make dreams real in a magic mirror tries to weasel out of a deal with the devil
  • Ink: A mysterious creature kidnaps a young girl and takes her into the world of dreams
  • Ponyo: A goldfish becomes a real live girl
  • A Serious Man: An absurdist retelling of the story of Job embodied by a Jewish physics professor in 1960s suburban Minnesota
  • Thirst [Bakjwi]: A Korean Catholic priest tries and fails to suck blood ethically after he is cursed with vampirism
  • Where the Wild Things Are: A rambunctious boy travels to a storybook land to meet symbolic psychological monsters




We almost never pay attention to the Academy Awards around these parts. When the weirdest film to get a “Best Picture” nomination in 2008 is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, you know you’re dealing with one weird-hating Academy. The last film “Best Picture” winner with even smatterings of weird was Midnight Cowboy (1969). Just a pinch of weirdness, or even a mild, sub-weird flirtation with the experimental, is usually the kiss of death to Oscar.

The international and less commercial-minded Cannes Film Festival, on the other hand, has been much kinder to innovation in film. In 2000 Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark managed to win the highest prize, the Palme d’Or, despite containing musical dream sequences.  Acknowledged weird classics like Wild at Heart (1990) and Barton Fink (1991) have also managed to break realism’s stranglehold on the top awards.

On May 24, 2009, Cannes announced the recipients of its jury prizes.  Let’s see how Cannes did in recognizing cinematic weirdness this year:

PALME D’ORThe White Ribbon [Das weiße Band].  Black and white film set in Germany on the eve of World War I.  The synopsis says, “Strange accidents occur and gradually take on the character of a punishment ritual.  Who is behind it all?”  Although it appears to have a weird element in the form of an unsolvable mystery, at heart it looks like a standard allegorical art film.

GRAND PRIX (I.E., PALME D’OR RUNNER UP)The Prophet [Un Prophete]:  An illiterate young Arab man is thrown into a French prison and becomes a gang kingpin.  Sounds about a weird as a plastic couple on a wedding cake.

JURY PRIZE (I.E., THIRD PLACE):  This year was a tie.  The first film recognized was Fish Tank, an unweird drama about a British teenager, her promiscuous mom, and her mom’s lout of a boyfriend.  The second awardee shows a little more promise: Thirst [Bakjwi], Chan-wook Park‘s take on the vampire legend, although reviews suggest the oft-weird director takes a conventional approach to the subject this time out.

OTHER FILMS IN COMPETITION:  A few interesting, potentially weird films were screened Continue reading OSCAR WON’T, AND IF CANNES CAN’T, MAYBE MEXICO?