The 40-Word Reviews: 2014 Oscar-Nominated Shorts

By Sean Collier

February 1, 2014

Yes, for god's sake, stick your hand near the feral wolf.

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The annual packages of Oscar-nominated shorts are making their rounds through art houses and finer multiplexes nationwide this month. Here are some incredibly brief thoughts on the animated (the first set) and live-action films on this year’s ballot.

Feral — A moody sketch about a boy raised by (or at least near) wolves, introduced into society by a malicious benefactor. The black-and-white, American short is visually stimulating but thin and dark. The only short presented here that’s inappropriate for children.

Get a Horse! — Widely seen playing before Frozen, Disney’s entry in the category is a delightful experiment in alternating 2D and 3D animation in the style of a vintage Mickey Mouse cartoon. It’ll suffer greatly without the glasses, but remains entertaining and funny.

Mr. Hublot — A wordless little toon capitalizing (awfully late) on the steampunk fad, Mr. Hublot introduces a robot functionary to a rapidly-growing robot dog in a busy city. It has cute moments, but is too cloying to rise above its trendy exterior.

Possessions — In a Japanese forest, a traveler wanders into a house filled with discarded belongings that, in accordance with that country’s folklore, come to life after 100 years. Beautiful and captivating, though a good bit is probably lost in translation.

Room on the Broom — Adapted from a beloved children’s book, the easy champ among this year’s group looks like a playset come to life to tell a breezy, enchanting fairy tale. The film features the voices of Simon Pegg, Gillian Anderson and Sally Hawkins.


Do I Have To Take Care of Everything? — It’s a cute, one-joke short, refreshing and breezy at less than seven minutes long. But it’s also awfully light, and the joke — suffice to call it a domestic mixup — is a tired one. Nothing wrong with it, though.

Helium — A new hospital employee helps a terminally ill boy reconfigure his view of heaven. Saccharine and heavy, sure, but it does hit all the right notes — particularly in a series of dreamlike fantasy sequences which recall The Lovely Bones.

Just Before Losing Everything — A master class in suspense from French actor and first-time director Xavier Legrand. Revealing much about the plot would spoil it, so I’ll instead praise a fantastic lead performance by Lea Drucker. The only truly unforgettable film in the bunch.

That Wasn’t Me — It seems that each year’s batch of shorts features one truly harrowing entry. This Spanish film about aid workers captured by child soldiers in Africa is nearly impossible to watch, but worth enduring for its gripping depiction of real-world terror.

The Voorman Problem — Martin Freeman meets god in the form of Tom Hollander, who is wearing a straitjacket in a maximum-security prison. The necessity of Belgium is questioned. Quick and awfully funny. A whole series could’ve been drawn out from the rich premise.

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at



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