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Oscar Nominees: The Live-Action Short Films

The short film categories used to be some of the most obscure at Oscar time, but recently, I've come to appreciate these little gems. Online video has made it easier to track down the shorts before I have to fill out my Oscar balot, and now they eventually hit theaters and even iTunes.

I recently showcased this year's five animated shorts nominees, and today, I'm highlighting the five contenders in the Live Action Short Film category. They're an interesting bunch, from a satire about a substitute teacher to a somber look at life in a cancer ward. To check out clips of the five films, just


Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)
This French film has one of the most interesting premises in the category this year: Two thieves have their lives changed when they somehow wind up adopting a deaf, homeless boy. It looks like I'll have to wait till the films are in theaters to see this one with its subtitles, but if you speak French, you're in luck. Be sure to tell the rest of us what's happening in this clip:

Om Natten (At Night)
At Night is the longest film in this category, and it seems like the heaviest. The Danish film focuses on three young women spending the holidays in a cancer ward. While the clip below feels bleak and moody, the film also makes a point of showing the patients' sense of humor and love of life.

Tanghi Argentini
This Belgian film is described as a modern fairy tale set in an office, where a clerk enlists the help of his coworkers as he attempts to learn the tango for a blind date. The film, which is set at Christmastime, eventually becomes a fable about giving. At first glance, it reminds me a bit of the delightful Japanese version of Shall We Dance?

The Tonto Woman
This short is based on a short story of the same name by Elmore Leonard, who also wrote 3:10 to Yuma. The film revolves around a cattle rustler who meets and befriends a woman who is struggling to readjust to society after being held captive by the Mojave Indians for more than a decade. You can watch several clips of the film on YouTube. Here's one:

Il Supplente (The Substitute)
This Italian film was one of the shorts shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007. In it, a new substitute teacher turns up in a high school classroom, trading insults and sarcastic barbs with a room full of rowdy kids. The kids actually wind up getting excited about school — until a secret about the substitute is revealed. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any clips of this one, but you can buy the film for $1.99 on iTunes — or watch a clip there for free.

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