Don’t Sell ‘Em Short!

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They used to be called “selected short subjects” on theater marquees. Now, unless you’re a regular watcher of those vintage comedies, variety acts and travelogues that air between full-length movies on TCM – or if you seek out those new, eight-minute-or-so cartoons shown before certain first-run animated features – there aren’t many theatrical short pictures out there. But not every movie has to run an hour and a half.

On April 11-14, the Flint Institute of Arts is presenting the annual program of Academy Award-nominated short films – the finalists in the Live Action, Animated and Documentary categories. Some of these movies were made by resume-building folks on the way up – Steven Spielberg and George Lucas got started in shorts – while others were produced by specialists who like telling a story within 30 minutes or less.

Sometimes, there is a message to be imparted. The winner of the 2018 Oscar for Best Documentary Short was pointedly titled “Period. End of Sentence.” It was made expressly to help women in India fight a stigma there over menstruation, as residents of a village are shown overcoming a lack of access to feminine protection by learning to manufacture and market their own brand.

“Period. End of Sentence” was a project started by students at a Los Angeles-area high school, who raised money on Kickstarter to make their film about the Indian women and their struggle.

There are two other Oscar winners among the films to be shown at FIA. In “Skin,” the winner for Best Live Action Short, an innocent gesture in the checkout aisle at a small-town supermarket turns into something harmful within the space of 20 minutes.

The Oscar winner for Top Animated Short was “Bao,” in which a lonely Chinese-Canadian woman gets a second chance at motherhood when one of her handmade dumplings comes alive.

See FlintArts.org for a full schedule of Oscar shorts for the weekend.

Also at the FIA cinematically this month is a program of vintage short films starring the fabled comedy duo of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. On April 25, 27 and 28, the boys will be seen in their Oscar-winning 1932 film, “The Music Box,” and three other shorts: “Helpmates,” “County Hospital” and “Their First Mistake.”

Showing April 26-28, to overlap, is an affectionate new movie about Laurel and Hardy, “Stan & Ollie,” starring John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan in a fact-based episode from the beloved duo’s later career. Laurel and Hardy are shown in 1953 as they embark on their final tour, in which they hope to reconnect with their once-adoring fans.

As always, information on all screenings at the FIA is available by visiting FlintArts.org or calling 810. 234.1695.

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