I am, I believe, optimistic to a fault sometimes. My experience in the past with short films has been less then joyous. Go to a local short film festival and you will be treated to what I mean. Shorts seem to be, for the most part, an excuse for directors with sub-par talent to get their ‘films’ seen by people other than their immediate family. But these are the Oscar nominees for short films, right? They have to be better than the usual experimental art-house dreck that gets labeled ’short film’, right? Right?

Well, here are my thoughts on who should win/who will win, although to be honest, most people make their Oscar predictions based on buzz and marketing, and since neither of those things exist for the short film nominees, I’m shooting in the dark.

At Night (Christian E. Christiansen & Louise Vesth, Denmark)
I’m not going to even slightly suggest that cancer, suicide, comas, and death aren’t subjects worth dealing with in film, but to have all of them crammed into a 40 minute span with no break is a bit much, even for my masochistic self. You need moments of humor in order to grapple with such heavy topics, and this story of 3 women in a cancer ward at Christmas has none.
Will it win? I hope not, but it is depressing enough to be a front runner.
Should it win? No. It shouldn’t.

The Mozart of Pickpockets (Philippe Pollet-Villard, France)
A sweet film about two bumbling pickpockets who luck out when they take in a homeless child with hidden talents. My second favorite of the lot.
Will it win? Not likely. The film has a certain charm to it but ends up being the most generic of the bunch.
Should it win? No. Its a competent film but not deserving of Oscar.

The Substitute (Andrea Jublin, Italy)
I will freely admit to not understanding this one in the slightest. It is a comedy, and I did laugh a few times, but I have to assume there was an Italian element to the humor that I just couldn’t grasp. An unlikely substitute teacher shows up for a class and proceeds to work them into a frenzy. Hi-jinks ensue, as well as a twist ending.
Will it win? This one is my dark horse simply because I don’t get it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it won, but I wouldn’t know why it did.
Should it win? Uh, no?

The Tonto Woman (Daniel Barber and Matthew Brown, United Kingdom)
The only short in English (and it’s actually from the U.K. – are Americans not making any good short films these days?), it’s an art house western based on a short story by Elmore Leonard. About a secluded woman scarred by her captivity among the Mojave Indians and the mysterious stranger who falls for her, I was underwhelmed. A romance needs time and chemistry, and neither of those exist here. That the only gunfight in the film is heard off screen doesn’t help matters.
Will it win? The most epic and ambitious of the bunch, this one is a likely contender.
Should it win? A romance without chemistry or logic and a western without a gunfight? Of course not.

Tanghi Argentini (Guido Thys and Anja Daelemans, Belgium)
I saved the best for last. This gem from Belgium is not only the shortest of the nominees (13 minutes) but it is also the standout. About a man who has to learn the tango in two weeks from a coworker in order to impress a woman he has met over the internet, Tanghi Argentini is charming, witty, and surprisingly touching.
Will it win? My money is on this one, and I’m betting that Oscar takes a shine to it.
Should it win? Yes, yes, yes!

So now you know a little bit more about a category that typically elicits no more than a “Huh?” from viewers on Oscar night, and if you get a chance to see Tanghi Argentini (iTunes might have it for sale next month), by all means, take it.

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