This year’s Oscar-nominated live action shorts fall into two basic categories: the weepy, inspiring tales the Academy loves to reward, and the new, inventive shorts that might engage different audiences. Representing the first category is Henry, a beautiful melodrama about a pianist and World War II vet with dementia piecing together the last, lingering memories of his violinist wife. If the story doesn’t make you cry, the score and cinematography will push you over the edge. Also filed under weepy: Buzkashi Boys (above), a Kabul-set drama about Ahmed, the fatherless beggar, and Rafi, the would-be blacksmith, who dream of becoming cowboys. The screening’s centerpiece, Curfew, concerns young people seeking purpose in Manhattan and the impact of siblings. Yeah, it sounds like an episode of Girls, but the potentially precious hipster tropes like bowling alleys and flipbooks actually work in this case. Moving away from character-based dramas, the French nominee, Death of a Shadow, involves a soldier trapped in a sort of museum-slash-purgatory—his indentured servitude involves time-traveling and stealing shadows with a magic camera. For good measure, the Academy also tossed a nomination to South Africa’s Asad, about a boy torn between pirates, soldiers, and fishermen. None is as flashy as the Best Picture nominees but hey, they all contain less questionable singing than Les Misérables.
The films run Feb. 1 to Feb. 13 at E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW. $8–$11. (202) 452-7672. See complete schedule at landmarktheatres.com.