Aspen Library Cinema series showcases Oscar-nominated shorts
All 15 Oscar-nominated short films screening in Aspen
What: Library Cinema Oscar-Nominated Shorts
Where: Dunaway Room, Pitkin County Library
When: Friday, March 18 through Sunday, March 20, 7 p.m.
How much: $10 (cash only)
More info: Live Action titles will run Friday; Animation on Saturday; Documentary on Sunday; pitcolib.org
The opening minutes of Matt Ogens’ short documentary “Audible” are among the most thrilling and jarring and gorgeously shot of any movie that came out last year, feature-length or not.
The film, which is among the Academy Award-nominated shorts playing at the Library Cinema series in Aspen March 18-20, profiles football players, coaches and cheerleaders at the Maryland School for the Deaf. Its shot with lush and rich visuals of on-field action and schoolyard, an artful doc that somehow works in the visual language of “Friday Night Lights,” and it’s propelled by a throbbing score of drums and drones that magnifies the intensity of this real-life teen drama.
“I can’t hear cheering, the fans yelling,” a student named Amaree says in the film. “I feel their vibration. I feel their footsteps when they run, the boom, boom, boom of the vibration.”
We feel it, too, as this 39-minute film follows the team as it works toward a big homecoming game and as the school community is saddled with a fresh tragedy.
Student athletes and their coaches explain a bit about how they play the game without hearing, but the film is at its best when it’s showing us instead. In a halftime locker room confrontation, for instance, we see players yelling at each other in sign language – “What the hell are you doing out there?” ” Stop feeling sorry for yourselves. … Man up!” – and grab hold of the viewer.
The annual shorts screening program, canceled last year due to the pandemic, has been the most popular of the Library Cinema series in recent years. It is programmed and hosted by the great Jon Busch, Aspen’s stalwart champion of cinema for the past five decades. Short film, as a form, has an outsize presence here owing to the Aspen Shortsfest (which is also returning in-person April 5-10, and where Animated Short nominee “Affairs of the Art” screened last year).
The producers of the Academy Awards show, or ABC, or some combination of both, has opted not to show the short category winners live during this year’s broadcast. It’s a shameful decision not to honor the shorts – along with several crafts categories – on the live show, but almost surely will be a one-year experiment due to the filmmaker backlash. So for now the best we can do if we care about movies is to watch and enjoy and celebrate these short films.
“Audible” is among the standouts of these nominees, here is what else is up for the Oscars:
* “On My Mind,” a winning tale of life, death and karaoke from Denmark.
* “Please Hold,” from emerging director K.D. Davila (“Emergency”) offers a dystopic future in privatized American prisons.
* “Take and Run,” a harrowing story of a kidnapping in Kurgyzstan.
* “The Long Goodbye,” starring Oscar nominated actor and rapper Riz Ahmed in a dramatic adaptation inspired by his 2021 album.
* “The Dress,” one of the most talked-about and sexually charged shorts from the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
* “Affairs of the Art,” winner of the Best Comedy prize at the 2021 Aspen Shortsfest.
* “Bestia,” a stop-motion Chilean film inspired by a real-life secret police agent working under the Pinochet military dictatorship.
* “Robin Robin,” a bird tale from the popular animators at Aardman Productions with celebrity voices including Richard E. Grant and Gillian Anderson.
* “Boxballet,” a Russian love story about a boxer and a ballet dancer’s romance.
* “The Windshield Wiper,” from Spain, with a man in a cafe attempting to define “love.”
* “The Queen of Basketball,” a tribute to the Olympian and women’s basketball pioneer Lusia Harris, who is long overdue for a big Hollywood biopic.
* “When We Were Bullies,” a controversial first-person film in which director Jay Rosenblatt investigates his role in a childhood bullying incident five decades ago.
* “Audible,” director Matt Ogens’ immersive profile of deaf high school student athletes.
* “Lead Me Home,” a deep dive into homelessness in Los Angeles from directors Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk.
* Three Songs for Benazir,” about a young Afghan man living in a Kabul displacement camp and weighing whether to start a family or join the military.