The nominees for the 2012 Live Action Short Oscar alternate between expected and slightly less, all having something to do with time, its elusiveness and its ineluctable demands. “Pentecost,” directed by Peter McDonald, follows the travails of 11-year-old Damian Lynch (Scott Graham), whose father (Michael McElhatton) restricts his access to football (no playing, no watching, no listening), unless he completes his duties as an altar boy. The boy can’t help but reveal his devotion to his primary religion, football. A second Irish entry, “The Shore,” Terry George’s drama about a man (Ciarán Hinds) returning to Ireland after 25 years in America, traces the reconciliation of two friends (the other is Paddy, played by Conleth Hill) after decades of guilt and lies. Max Zähle’s “Raju” considers the problems posed by time in an adoption process: as a well-to-do German couple travels to India, where they’re at once appalled by the poverty and pleased to be helping the child—until they find something about his past that directly affects their present.
Andrew Bowler’s “Time Freak” stars Michael Nathanson as a young inventor who’s found a way to go back in time, only to use it live out his own geeky obsession. As his tries to explain it buddy (John Conor Brooke), the film turns part Groundhog Day and part The Big Bang Theory. And in the category’s least predictable film, Linn-Jeanethe Kyed’s “Tuba Atlantic,” Oskar (Edvard Hægstad) learns he has six days to live. He makes some quick decisions, trying to reconcile with his brother (in Ireland) and hiring a “death angel” (Ingrid Viken). It’s both weird and weirdly funny, and set on an icy tundra to boot.
This year’s nominations for Best Animation Short range from heartwarming to earnest to slightly strange. Pixar’s entry, “La Luna,” directed by Enrico Casarosa, mixes nostalgia and fantasy, as a boy embarks on a night’s worth life lesson with his father and grandfather. Inspired by Italo Calvino’s story “Ladder to the Moon,” it offers a clever child, twinkling stars, and a celebration of laborers. Earnest but in an appealingly whimsical way, William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg’s “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” celebrates books, their charms and magnetisms here made literal, as they find Morris Lessmore following an apparent devastation and proceed to adore, tease, and make demands on him. In turn, he dedicates himself to their preservation in an assortment of brief comedies, playing doctor, companion, and father to the needy volumes.
“Wild Life,” directed by Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, follows the travails and misapprehensions of an Englishman in Canada, determined to become a rancher even as his new neighbors voice their doubts. As he writes letters home to his father, mostly asking for more funds, the goal looks ever beyond his reach. More antic, Patrick Doyon’s “Dimanche” (“Sunday”) features a young boy grappling with the boredoms and unexpected adventures posed by Sunday, from church to time with grandma to adventures too close to the train tracks (as he’s determined to flatten as many coins as he can). The kid is especially intrigued by a bear whose head is mounted on the living rom wall, a creature who embodies some helpful lessons for him. The strangest animated short this year is Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe’s “A Morning Stroll.” While its plot—which repeats three times—concerns a man passing a chicken on an urban sidewalk—it’s also a brief history of animation. Beginning with 1959s’ black and white stickish figures, transformed in 2009 into color and distractions by zombie video games, it culminates in 2059, when the post-apocalyptic sidewalks are inhabited by zombies—one making it his dire business to finish off the chicken once and for al. While it relies on Looney-Tunesish violence, its take on the changing subjects and styles of entertainments is entertaining in itself.