Documentaries are often focused on tragedies and intractable social problems, but this year’s collection of short, nonfiction, Oscar-nominated subjects gave movie connoisseur Richard Beer some unusual feelings: hope and optimism.
“Big surprise,” said Beer, the programming director at Vancouver’s Kiggins Theatre. “Though several (short documentaries) touch on heavy subjects like homelessness, bullying and disability, there is a sense of hope that has been missing from prior years’ programs.”
The so-called Oscar Shorts — small films nominated for that biggest-of-all movie award — start screening at both the Kiggins and the Liberty Theatre in Camas today. They’ll continue screening right up until the Academy Awards ceremony on March 27.
These short films, generally between 15 and 30 minutes in length, are bundled into three categories, so you can take in each group in a single screening: animated films, live-action films and documentaries.
Of this year’s Oscar-nominated documentaries, Beer said, his favorite is the 22-minute “The Queen of Basketball,” which unearths the forgotten story of champion player Luisa Harris.
“ ‘The Queen of Basketball’ was my favorite and left me feeling inspired,” Beer said.
Oscar-nominated shorts tend to come from all over the world, and this year’s crop is no exception, featuring films from or about Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Chile and beyond.
“The Live Action Program has the most international feel,” Beer said. “My favorite by far was the heartbreaking Polish drama ‘The Dress.’ ”
“The Dress” is about the fantasies and desires of a frustrated young woman working at a local motel and what happens when a handsome trucker stops in.
This year’s animated films are remarkable for their seriously adult content. After getting one sugary fantasy for kids (“Robin Robin”) out of the way, the animated program dives into outrageously extreme artists (“Affairs of the Art”), a dark meditation on the meaning of love (“The Windshield Wiper”) and, most arrestingly, a strange and disturbing tale about kidnapping and torture adapted from the horrific realities of the Pinochet regime of 1970s Chile (“Bestia”).
Parents, note: The sophisticated, challenging animation program is being distributed to cinemas with a warning that its rating should be considered “hard R.”
“These films are not intended for children. At all,” the warning says.
Big fun, big theft
What’s better for kids at our local indie cinemas? The Kiggins and Columbia Play Project continue offering their second-Saturday morning Wiggles & Giggles series, this time featuring kid-friendly rockabilly and puppetry from performer Red Yarn. That’s set for 10:30 a.m. March 12.
And grown-ups who turn back into excited kids when faced with a huge mystery will enjoy the return of Eric Ulis, the self-appointed D.B. Cooper investigator and author, for a new Kiggins true-crime lecture series called Evidence on Tap.
Ulis, who’s made a name for himself as a Discovery Channel and History Channel mystery man, will visit the Kiggins on March 16 to explore the unsolved heist of 13 art masterpieces from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. The lost artworks are estimated to be worth between $500 million and $1 billion, making this not just the biggest art theft but the biggest property theft of all time.
This event aims to inaugurate a monthly crime-investigation series by Ulis, who is the mastermind and host of the Kiggins’ annual CooperCon.