Even if you haven't seen "Lincoln," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Les Miserables" and the other major Oscar-nominated feature films, you probably know something about them.
You know Ben Affleck was snubbed for a Best Director nomination for "Argo," that Spike Lee has condemned the fantasy depiction of slavery in "Django Unchained" and that the portrayal of torture in "Zero Dark Thirty" has caused controversy.
Even the most dedicated moviegoer, however, probably is unfamiliar with a certain subset of Oscar-nominated cinema: the shorts.
Unless you're a true aficionado, it's unlikely you've sought out the nominees for Best Animated Short Film (a category inaugurated for the 5th Academy Awards, in 1932), Best Live Action Film (also first awarded in 1932, though divided into the categories of "Comedy" and "Novelty") and Best Documentary Short Film (first given out in 1942).
This means you've missed what may be some of the year's wittiest and smartest cinema: films that make a virtue of brevity and visual and storytelling economy, which is something that certainly can't be said of many of the Oscar-nominated features, such as "Les Miz" (158 minutes) and "Django" (165 minutes).
You've missed out on Oscar-worthy turns from Maggie Simpson and a headless goat carcass, too.
Now, it's time to make up for this deficit in your filmic experience, as the art of the short gets its due through a series of screenings, first at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, and then at the Malco Ridgeway Four. The Malco screenings will be hosted by the On Location: International Film & Music Fest, which traditionally has brought the Oscar shorts to Memphis. All 15 of the Oscar-nominated shorts (five per category) will be shown, along with some other notable shorts.
The animated category includes new work from Disney ("Paperman") and Matt Groening ("The Longest Daycare," starring Maggie Simpson), as well as independent shorts representing a wide variety of animation techniques, from digital to traditional to stop-motion.
Hailing from South Africa, Argentina, Belgium/France, Canada and the U.S., the live-action narrative shorts include — to name just three — the "Twilight Zone"-esque "Death of a Shadow"; "Asad," about a small boy in war-torn Somalia who is recruited to be a pirate; and "Buzkashi Boys," inspired by the Afghan national sport of buzkashi, a brutal game of polo played on horseback with a headless goat carcass instead of a ball.
The documentary short category includes films about a homeless undocumented immigrant ("Inocente"); children in Rwanda traveling to Sudan for treatment ("Open Heart"); and a Long Island beauty salon for women undergoing chemotherapy ("Mondays at Racine"), among other topics.
Here's the schedule of screenings:
Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts: 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts: 2 p.m. Sunday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts: 7 p.m. Thursday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts: 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts: 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, Ridgeway Four.
Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts: 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, Ridgeway Four.
Tickets to the Brooks screenings are $8 each, or $6 for museum members. For more information or to buy advance tickets, visit brooksmuseum.org, or call 901-544-6208.
Tickets to the On Location: Memphis screenings at the Ridgeway Four are $10 each. For more information and advance tickets, visit onlocationmemphis.org.
For information about all the shorts, visit the Academy Awards website at oscars.com. Click on the link at the top of the page that says "NOMINEES."